CNA Deutsch reported that Bätzing has repeatedly suggested that the upcoming assembly in Rome of the Synod of Bishops on the subject of synodality could help implement the changes proposed by the German bishops and the country’s “Synodal Way” – not only in Germany, but everywhere the Catholic Church.
The “Synodal Way” is a process bringing together German laity and bishops around four major themes: how power is exercised in the Church; sexual morality; the priesthood; and the role of women.
Those demanding a change in Church teaching and practice argue that it is necessary in light of “new scientific evidence” on human sexuality. Discussions of the synodal path are informed by the “MHG” study on sexual abuse. CNA Deutsch reported on criticism of the study by Catholic experts.
In December 2019, a select group of medical specialists, theologians and canonical lawyers were invited to an event in Berlin, organized by the Archbishop of Berlin Heiner Koch. Among those present were Bishop Franz-Josef Bode of Osnabrück, Bishop Wolfgang Ipolt of Görlitz, Kohlgraf, and several auxiliary bishops from the faith and family commission of the episcopal conference.
Following the meeting, the episcopal conference announced that it was committed to “reassessing” Church teaching on homosexuality, sexual morality in general, and the sacraments of ordination and marriage.
All participants, according to Koch, 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 his apostolic exhortation of 2016″Amoris Laetitia.”
Calling for a “robust discussion supported by the humanities and theology”, Koch and Bode also stated that “Amoris Laetitia“already foresaw notable “developments” in both Church doctrine and practice in this area.
Kohlgraf wrote on Feb. 3 that the 2019 reunion still resonated with him. He suggested that since God had clearly permitted homosexuality in the created order, perhaps one should also allow it to be expressed.
“I find it hard to accept the idea of an error in the order of creation,” he writes. “Or does it show variation in the diversity of creation that is right there?”
The Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), a powerful secular organization that leads the Synodal Way together with the German bishops’ conference, issued a statement in 2015 calling for new “liturgical forms, especially the blessings of same-sex partnerships” and ” unconditional acceptance” of same-sex 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 Osnabrücker Zeitung in September 2018.
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Responding to calls for change in Germany, Fr. Matthew Schneider, LC, told CNA via email Feb. 17 that “the Church has historically been concerned with a wider range of sexual sins than mere homosexuality”.
He said: “Two teachings lead to the logical consequence that no sexual act between two persons of the same sex is moral. First, marriage is only between man and woman. Second, all sexual intercourse outside marriage is a sin.”
Schneider, who is writing a doctoral dissertation on moral theology and has already responded to requests from German bishops, added: “Some things in the teaching of the Church are solid and immutable while other practices are prudent but not must not go against the principles of the infallible teaching.”
Writing for the National Catholic Register in 2019, Schneider reviewed the history of Church teaching on homosexual acts. He concluded that for “2,000 years the Church has not wavered in its teaching on the immorality of homosexual acts.”
He wrote: “There has been no definition in the extraordinary magisterium but the ordinary universal magisterium can be infallible if it is taught universally as regards time and place. The immorality of homosexual acts is an infallible teaching of the Church in the ordinary universal magisterium. Thus, the Church cannot change this teaching, even if some priests wish it to change.”
Schneider told CNA on Feb. 17, “How we serve those with same-sex attraction to help them live chastity and other aspects of growing in holiness—whether by following a pattern of courage or spiritual friendship – is prudent. However, prudential enforcement cannot go so far as to endorse sinful acts of individuals, such as sexual acts outside lawful marriage.”