Maike Hickson

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New Pontifical Academy for Life member questions Church teaching on homosexuality, contraception

Maike Hickson Maike Hickson Follow Maike

December 18, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Professor Marie-Jo Thiel, a new member of the revamped Pontifical Academy for Life, recently said that the Church's teaching on sexuality and family should be thoroughly reconsidered. She pointed to Pope Francis’s exhortation Amoris Laetitia as having given Catholics more freedom.

The Church’s teachings on sexuality have been a “complete failure,” she said. Thiel rejects the Church’s teaching that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered and can never be approved. She also firmly rejects the Church’s ban on contraception.

As Katholisch.de reported: "Additionally, she rejected magisterial statements, according to which homosexual acts are [in her own words] 'pathological and always sinful.'" Katholisch.de also reported that Thiel criticized "opponents of Francis" who claimed that homosexuality was pathological and who cited Benedict XVI for evidence. 

Professor Thiel made her comments at an event at the Catholic Academy in Freiburg, Germany, according to Katholisch.de, the German bishops’ news website. She was speaking in her capacity as the President of the European Society of Catholic Theology. Thiel is a French medical doctor and theologian and currently teaches theology at the University of Strasbourg, France.

According to the report, Thiel claimed that one should comprehensively reconsider the Church’s teaching on sexuality and the family. Pope Francis, she added, has given new impulses with his document Amoris Laetitia and thus offered more freedom. These opportunities should now be used. Additionally, there is much scope for regional initiatives, she explained, without always immediately looking for a solution that is applicable for the Universal Church. It is about a “wholesome decentralization,” as Pope Francis called it.

Thus, Thiel rejects a “universalistic intransigence” and proposes an attitude that fosters much more the sense of self-determination and the individual conscience, according to Katholisch.de. The theologian added that it is time for the Church to end her “reign over body and souls.”

A Christian morality, Professor Thiel continued, has to be guided by the principle of mercy: “The forgiveness which we received in love and in the faith liberates us and thus leads us to a path of return.”

Speaking about the ongoing sex abuse crisis in the Church, Thiel claimed that it shows “the failure of the heretofore sexual morality” of the Church. The crimes of “sexual abuse of power and conscience” (in the words of the German report) have been committed by those who were meant to live out the Church's morality in an exemplary manner. Thus, she added, the clerical sexual offenders destroy “the [Church’s] entire teaching edifice of the sexual and family ethics and thereby undermine both the absolutist and authoritarian norms, as well as the centralized and obscure structures of power and their inherent possibilities of obfuscation.”

The theologian also decidedly turned against the Church’s ban on contraception. “Is there any inner connection between a sexual union and procreation in nature?” she asked. “No!”

Thiel also spoke about what she considers the “culpable naivëté” of the Church when bishops argue that the use of condoms has contributed to moral decay and the spread of HIV/AIDS.

In 2017, Pope Francis named Thiel a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life (PAV), a term that will last five years. Another newly appointed member of the PAV is Father Maurizio Chiodi who, at the end of 2017, said that there are some circumstances that “require” contraception.

At the end of 2016, Pope Francis dismissed all members of the Pontifical Academy for Life, among them the Catholic philosopher and famous critic of Amoris Laetitia Professor Josef Seifert. Seifert subsequently founded, together with other former faithful members of the PAV, a new academy in defense of traditional Catholic moral teaching, called the John Paul II Academy for Human Life and the Family (JAHLF). Seifert also publicly criticized the views of Father Chiodi, saying, “Chiodi’s position constitutes an unequivocal defense of the consequentialist and proportionalist ethics that attacked Humanae Vitae from the first day of its publication on, and not only took issue with its teaching that contraception is intrinsically wrong, but [also] claimed that there are no intrinsically evil acts at all.”

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Maike Hickson

Dr. Maike Hickson was born and raised in Germany. She holds a PhD from the University of Hannover, Germany, after having written in Switzerland her doctoral dissertation on the history of Swiss intellectuals before and during World War II. She now lives in the U.S. and is married to Dr. Robert Hickson, and they have been blessed with two beautiful children. She is a happy housewife who likes to write articles when time permits.

Dr. Hickson published in 2014 a Festschrift, a collection of some thirty essays written by thoughtful authors in honor of her husband upon his 70th birthday, which is entitled A Catholic Witness in Our Time.

Hickson has closely followed the papacy of Pope Francis and the developments in the Catholic Church in Germany, and she has been writing articles on religion and politics for U.S. and European publications and websites such as LifeSiteNews, OnePeterFive, The Wanderer, Rorate Caeli, Catholicism.org, Catholic Family News, Christian Order, Notizie Pro-Vita, Corrispondenza Romana, Katholisches.info, Der Dreizehnte,  Zeit-Fragen, and Westfalen-Blatt.