May 19, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) — A controversial document from the most prominent Catholic lay organization in Germany calling for changes in the Church’s teaching on divorce and homosexuality has garnered the public opposition of six German bishops. The resistance is noteworthy since it comes in the wake of similar suggestions by the German Bishops Conference and is being seen as a more general opposition.
The suggestions are only slightly more direct than those of Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the President of the Bishops conference and one of Pope Francis’ Council of nine, who has advocated for altering the practice of the Church regarding Communion for divorced and remarried couples and questioned Church teaching on homosexuality. They also echo the German Bishops Conference approval earlier this month of allowing persons living in homosexual and other non-married sexual relationships to work as Church employees.
The recommendations of the Zentralkomitee der deutschen Katholiken (ZdK) – Central Committee of German Catholics – called on the Catholic Church to alter teachings on marriage and the family claiming to do so in adherence to Pope Francis. The ZdK, an organization funded by the Bishops Conference and claiming to speak for all Catholic laymen in Germany, in their official paper released on May 9, called for the admittance of “remarried” divorcees to the sacraments, for an acceptance of all forms of cohabitation, for the blessing of homosexual couples, and for a “reconsidering of the question of contraception.”
The first bishop to denounce the ZdK’s “very troubling” document was the 49-year-old Bishop of Passau in Southern Germany, Stefan Oster who posted his opposition to his FaceBook page. “The approval of the requests of the ZdK would mean a dramatic change of much that has been held to be valid concerning marriage and sexuality,” he said. “The Church believes… that lived sexual practice has its only legitimate place within a marriage between a man and a woman, both of whom are open to the procreation of life and both of whom have made a bond that lasts until the death of one of the spouses.” He noted that God binds the relationship and makes it “indissoluble.”
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Bishop Oster warned that “sexual practice outside of marriage is either fornication or adultery” noting that there are “very dramatic consequences to come for those who partake in it.”
Bishop Oster’s criticism garnered a strong rebuke from the ZdK, however it was followed with a public show of support from five German bishops, the majority 60 and under.
Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg and Bishop Gregor Maria Hanke of Eichstätt are among the supporting bishops who state in their published letter the fact that Germany has become thoroughly secularized, should “let us not seek to adapt to the mainstream, but, rather to see it as a chance to discover the uniqueness of the Christian vocation in the world of today.” They conclude: “We are convinced that also many faithful are extraordinarily grateful to you [Bishop Oster] for your clear words.”
The ZdK document denounced by the six bishops wants to extend the notion of “family” that should be “honored” to include “enduring partnerships [cohabitation], civil marriages, as well as civilly registered partnerships [i.e., homosexual unions].” The document also calls for a “reevaluation of the methods of artificial contraception, since in no other area is there to be found such a great discrepancy between the papal Magisterium and the personal conscientious decisions in the daily life of most faithful Catholics.” It calls for “blessings of same-sex partnerships, new partnerships of divorcees, and for important life-changing decisions within families.”
It asks the Church “to perceive the pastoral change that Pope Francis has called for, both as an encouragement and as a chance for the Bishops' Conferences to develop pastoral walking paths concerning marriage and the family that are appropriate and theologically responsible.”