MAINZ, Germany – A German Catholic bishop has publicly defended his support for a book of blessings and rites for same-sex unions.
Bishop Peter Kohlgraf of Mainz also suggested that Catholics with homosexual inclinations cannot be expected to live chastely and that the Church should take a pastoral approach that recognizes this.
“A lot of people who have homosexual attractions belong to the Church and are really pious in the best sense of the word,” Bishop Peter Kohlgraf of Mainz wrote in a column for his diocesan journal which was also published on the diocese’s website, with the headline âDon’t Ignore Scienceâ on February 3.
âAs for the request for chastity: what does this mean from the point of view of people who experience same-sex attraction? I think that few of them would consider this request full of tact and respect, because – as the Catechism also knows – this inclination is not self-selected.
The Book of Blessings, titled Paare. Riten. Kirche. (Couples, Rites, Ãglise), is published by Bonifatiusverlag, a publishing house affiliated with the Archdiocese of Paderborn. The book also contains a preface by Mgr Ludger Schepers, auxiliary bishop of the diocese of Essen.
Bishop Kohlgraf confirmed on February 3 that members of his diocesan team had participated in the production of the book and affirmed his support for its publication. He also said he was soon “made aware” that many different forms of blessings for same-sex couples already “and will continue to exist” after being appointed bishop of Mainz in 2017.
The bishop is the latest in a series of German prelates publicly calling for changes in the Church’s stance on homosexuality. Similar appeals have also been made in neighboring Austria. In May 2020, a book examining how same-sex couples could receive a formal liturgical blessing from their union in the Catholic Church was published, with an author calling it a response to a request from the Liturgical Committee of the Austrian Bishops’ Conference.
German bishops who have so far publicly expressed their support for the blessing of same-sex unions include Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, Bishop Franz-Josef Bode of OsnabrÃ¼ck and Bishop Heinrich Timmerervers of Dresden-Meissen.
Bishop Georg BÃ¤tzing, president of the German Bishops’ Conference, called in December 2020 for changes to the section on homosexuality in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which was promulgated by Pope John Paul II in 1992 as an authoritative guide to the teachings of the Catholic Church.
According to CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language information partner, Bishop BÃ¤tzing noted that he believed a change in the catechism was necessary, expressing his openness to the blessings of same-sex unions, saying “we need solutions for this”.
The Catechism states: âBased on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always stated that ‘homosexual acts are inherently disorderly.’ They are contrary to natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a true affective and sexual complementarity. In no case can they be approved.
He continues: âThe number of men and women who have deep-rooted homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a test. They should be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Any sign of unfair discrimination against them should be avoided. These people are called to accomplish the will of God in their life and, if they are Christians, to unite with the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter because of their condition.
He concludes: âHomosexual people are called to chastity. Through the virtues of self-control which teach them interior freedom, sometimes through the support of a disinterested friendship, through prayer and sacramental grace, they can and must gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.
German CNA reported that Bishop BÃ¤tzing has repeatedly suggested that the upcoming assembly in Rome of the Synod of Bishops on the theme of synodality could help implement the changes proposed by the German bishops and the country’s âSynodal Wayâ – not just in Germany , but throughout the Catholic Church.
The âSynodal Wayâ is a process bringing together lay people and German bishops to discuss four major themes: how power is exercised in the Church; sexual morality; the priesthood; and the role of women.
Those calling for a change in Church teaching and practice argue that this is necessary in light of the ânew scientific evidenceâ on human sexuality. Synodal Way discussions build on the âMHGâ study on sexual abuse. CNA Deutsch has reported on reviews of the study by Catholic experts.
In December 2019, a select group of medical specialists, theologians and leading lawyers were invited to an event in Berlin, hosted by Berlin Archbishop Heiner Koch. Among the participants were Bishop Franz-Josef Bode of OsnabrÃ¼ck, Bishop Wolfgang Ipolt of GÃ¶rlitz, Bishop Kohlgraf and several auxiliary bishops of the Faith and Family Commission of the Episcopal Conference.
After the meeting, the bishops’ conference announcement that he was committed to âreassessingâ the teaching of the Church on homosexuality, sexual morality in general and the sacraments of ordination and marriage.
All participants, Cardinal Koch said, agreed that since sexual orientation should be considered immutable, “any form of discrimination against people with a homosexual orientation” should be rejected, as was “explicitly emphasized by Pope Francis “in its 2016 report apostolic exhortation “Amoris laetitia. ”
Calling for a “solid discussion supported by the humanities and theology,” Cardinal Koch and Bishop Bode also said that “Amoris laetitia“Already foresaw notable” developments “in both Church doctrine and practice in this area.
Bishop Kohlgraf wrote on February 3 that the 2019 meeting still resonated with him. He suggested that since God had clearly permitted homosexuality in the created order, perhaps one should also accept that it be expressed.
âI have trouble with the idea of ââan error in the order of creation,â he wrote. “Or does it show a variation in the diversity of creation that’s right there?” ”
The Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), a powerful lay organization that runs the Synodal Way with the German Bishops’ Conference, released a declaration in 2015 calling for new âliturgical forms, in particular the blessing of homosexual partnershipsâ and the âunconditional acceptanceâ of homosexual unions.
Thomas Sternberg, Co-President of the Synodal Way and the ZdK, reiterated his call for the blessing of same-sex relationships in an interview with the Neue OsnabrÃ¼cker Zeitung in September 2018.
Responding to calls for change in Germany, Fr. Matthew Schneider told CNA by email on February 17 that âthe Church has historically been concerned with more sexual sins than just homosexuality. “.
He said: âTwo lessons lead to the logical consequence that no sexual act between two people of the same sex is moral. First, marriage is only a man and a woman. Second, all sex outside of marriage is a sin.
Bro. Schneider, who is writing a doctoral thesis in moral theology and has previously answered to the demands of the German bishops, added: âSome things in the teaching of the Church are solid and immutable, while other practices are prudent but must not go against the principles of infallible teaching.
Write for the Catholic National Register in 2019, fr. Schneider reviewed the history of Church teaching on homosexual acts. He concluded that for â2000 years, the Church has not wavered in its teaching on the immorality of homosexual actsâ.
He wrote: âThere has been no definition in the extraordinary magisterium, but the ordinary universal magisterium can be infallible if it is taught universally with regard to time and place. The immorality of homosexual acts is an infallible teaching of the Church in the ordinary universal magisterium. So the Church cannot change this teaching no matter how badly some priests would like it to change.
Bro. Schneider told CNA on February 17: âHow we serve those who are attracted to the same sex to help them live chastity and other aspects of growth in holiness – whether as a result of ‘a Courage Where Spiritual friendship model – is prudential. However, prudential enforcement cannot go so far as to endorse guilty acts by individuals, such as sexual acts outside of legitimate marriage.
Likewise, prudence allows the blessings of friendships but does not require them. However, blessing friendships should be a friendship that leads people to holiness, not a blessing of âsame-sex friendshipsâ as a kind substitute for marriage, endorsing – at least implicitly – the immoral sexual acts of âfriendsâ.