German diocesan magazine floats idea of official blessing for same-sex couples
February 27, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – The Diocese of Essen just published a magazine with statements from three men – a homosexual diocesan employee, a priest, and a therapist – calling for the acceptance of homosexuality in the Church. Professor Ansgar Wucherpfennig, the head of the Jesuit Graduate School in Frankfurt, claims, “I believe that the Bible as source is not sufficient for statements of the Church on this topic [of homosexuality].” He, as well as another interviewee, call for a liturgical blessing of homosexual couples.
Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck – regarded as one of the leading candidates for the upcoming election of a new president of the German Bishops’ Conference – has repeatedly made statements which show that he is in favor of the Church re-assessing its teaching on homosexuality. In an October 2019 statement, he regretted his previous rejection of homosexuality and proposed the discussion of female “ordination.” In an essay for the German journal Herder Korrespondez, he had called for a “de-pathologization” of homosexuality. Overbeck is also the bishop who claimed that, after the Amazon Synod, “nothing will be the same as before.”
Wucherpfennig himself had been involved in a conflict with the Vatican in 2018 when he was being blocked from remaining the rector of the Sankt Georgen Graduate School of Philosophy and Theology in Frankfurt. Rome had objections since he was promoting the idea of blessing homosexual couples and had questioned the all-male priesthood. But finally, with the moral support of the Jesuit order, the Vatican accepted his remaining in office.
In his interview with the diocesan magazine Bene (March/April issue), Wucherpfennig explains that he believes that next to the Bible – and “Christian tradition” – “the insights of modern human sciences,” as well as the “often painful experiences of the faithful” should be taken into account.
The German Jesuit also proposes that “several dioceses” could establish a liturgical blessing for homosexual couples with an “official Church recognition.” In his view, this would “certainly” be possible and “in line with the Church's doctrine” since he claims there is in such relationships “much that is capable of receiving a blessing,” such as “loyalty,” “equality,” and “mutual respect of freedom.” Additionally, Wucherpfennig states that the Church should re-evaluate her term “fecundity,” or fruitfulness, with regard to marriage. Fruitfulness could not only mean having children, he suggests, but also “other signs of fruitfulness,” such as “taking care of the elderly or being active in the social field.”
If the Church does not make such adaptations, the priest concludes, she will turn into a sort of “space shuttle” that is “removed from all earthly realities.”
The diocesan magazine Bene published the interviews with Wucherpfenning, as well as as a therapist and a homosexual diocesan employee, with the explicit reference that Bishop Overbeck wishes a questioning of the Church's teaching on sexuality.
“The Diocese of Essen,” states the magazine which is sent into 500,000 Catholic households, “wishes to examine and change the system [of the] Church. For this, it is also necessary to take a look at the Catholic sexual morality.” The goal is, the magazine continues, “to develop an understanding of sexuality which is just toward a variety of ways of life.”
A diocesan working group is now preparing “proposals for concrete measures.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (no. 2357) says about homosexuality: “Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’” It also states that “homosexual persons are called to chastity” (no. 2359).
Bishop Overbeck is not the only German bishop who now promotes the acceptance of homosexuality. In 2018, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the head of the German Bishop's Conference, revealed that there existed an episcopal commission in Germany that was discussing the matter of a blessing of homosexual couples.
This topic is now also part of the German “Synodal Path” that is already underway, with the official discussions having started on January 30. One of the four discussion forums aims at questioning the Church's teaching on homosexuality, and the main architect of this forum – Professor Eberhard Schockenhoff – explicitly proposes the Church approve of such relationships.
The Diocese of Limburg has already developed proposals for a blessing that could be bestowed also on couples who are divorced and “remarried,” and, as Wucherpfennig proposes, the same blessing could be given to those couples “who are not willing to enter into a marriage but who nevertheless wish to have their relationship blessed.” That would be effectively the blessing of cohabiting couples.
Moreover, not long ago, the Vice President of the German Bishops' Conference, Bishop Franz-Josef Bode, wrote a foreword to a book promoting the idea of blessing homosexual couples in the Catholic Church. He proposed discussing publicly a possible blessing for homosexual couples. He first did so in January 2018 and then again at the end of December 2019.