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Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Archbishop of Munich

February 9, 2015 ( – One of Pope Francis’ closest advisors, and the leader of one of the most “liberal” Catholic hierarchies in the world, has denounced “traditional” young people for wanting “to be clear in their positions,” warning that it is a path to “terrorism.” In a related interview with the Jesuit magazine America, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the head of the German Bishops’ conference, applauded people in homosexual partnerships who want a “lifelong” relationship.

“I am astonished that most of our young people, and also Catholic homosexuals who are practicing, want a relationship that lasts forever,” Marx told America. “We must begin with the main points of the doctrine, to see the dream: the dream is to have a person say, a man and woman say, ‘You and you, forever. You and you, forever.’ And we as church say, ‘Yes, that’s absolutely OK. Your vision is right!’

“So we find the way. Then perhaps there is failure. They find the person, and it is not a great success. But life-long fidelity is right and good.”

He added, “The church says that a gay relationship is not on the same level as a relationship between a man and a woman. That is clear. But when they are faithful, when they are engaged for the poor, when they are working, it is not possible to say, ‘Everything you do, because you are a homosexual, is negative.’”

In his Stanford lecture, Cardinal Marx said, “I had a discussion with some of the students,” before the lecture, who asked him, “‘Cardinal is it true that the younger people are more traditional?’ And that’s true.”

“But that is not dangerous,” he said. “I have no problem with tradition. But we have also the tendencies that the people want to be clear in their positions. Black and white populism is growing in Europe. And that is the beginning, perhaps, of populism, of terrorism, that’s clear.”

“The atmosphere of reducing the complexity of the world, to give simple answers, to give black and white answers, is growing, and I think that is very dangerous,” the cardinal said.

Asked a question about what is in store in the Church for “transgender” or “other individuals that are not formally considered within the ethical frameworks that are currently in place” in the Catholic Church, Marx responded, “I think the main point in the Gospel is not the ethical point.”

“The centre of the message is, ‘Heaven is open. Look, heaven is open. You have free entrance. Come. That is the first sermon of Jesus…Convert yourself and be confident to the Gospel. To the good news. And from this, we are celebrating. That’s the main topic. We are celebrating this in our Eucharists, and in our gatherings.”

“But the very special point in the New Testament is that Jesus is not saying, ‘When you are good to God, God is good to you.’ No!” Marx said, “God is giving his love to you. Come. Be embraced by the Lord, and then you will live in a different way.”

He expanded on this theme to America, saying, “When speaking about sexual ethics, perhaps we must not begin with sleeping together, but with love, fidelity and the search for a life-long relationship.”

Asked whether he would agree with some bishops who have called for the Church to “bless” same-sex partnerings, Cardinal Marx said that the purpose of marriage is the procreation of children, as Pope Paul VI said in his encyclical, Humanae Vitae.

“We cannot exclude this great model of sexuality, and say, ‘We have diversity,’ or ‘Everybody has the right to….’ The great meaning of sexuality is the relationship between a man and a woman and the openness to give life.”

But he added, “I have also previously mentioned the question of accompanying people, to see what people are doing in their lives and in their personal situation.”

On the subject of the divorced and civilly remarried Catholics receiving Communion, Marx said, “I am astonished that some can say, ‘Everything is clear’ on this topic. Things are not clear. It is not about church doctrine being determined by modern times.”

“It is a question of aggiornamento, to say it in a way that the people can understand, and to always adapt our doctrine to the Gospel, to theology, in order to find in a new way the sense of what Jesus said, the meaning of the tradition of the church and of theology and so on. There is a lot to do.”

He said he has consulted with “many experts,” including canon lawyers and theologians, on the subject of the indissolubility of marriage. “What can we do when a person marries, divorces and later finds a new partner? There are different positions,” the cardinal said.

“Some bishops at the synod said, ‘They are living in sin.’ But others said, ‘You cannot say that somebody is in sin every day. That is not possible.’ You see, there are questions we must speak about.” He said it is important the Synod does not have “the spirit of ‘all or nothing.’ It is not a good way.”

The Church’s teaching, based on the words of Christ himself in the Gospels, is that marriage cannot be broken, that there is no such thing as divorce in God’s eyes. Therefore a person who has left his or her marriage, acquired a civil divorce and entered into a civil marriage with another person is in a continuous and unrepentant state of mortal sin, and is therefore barred from reception of Communion. Critics of Cardinal Kasper’s proposal pointed out that the Church would have to ignore or dismiss the plain words of Christ if the practice were changed to accept divorce and second marriages.

But, together with Kasper, Marx simply denied this, saying, “We say to some people, ‘You will never be reconciled until your death.’ That is impossible to believe when you see the situations.”

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“We must find ways to welcome them. We have to use our imagination in asking, ‘Can we do something?’ Perhaps it is not possible in some situations. That is not the question. The focus must be on how to welcome people.”

As head of the German Bishops’ Conference, Marx said, “We opened a discussion on this topic” and produced “a very good text.” The German bishops’ have repeatedly stated, in the face of opposition in the past from Pope Benedict XVI and now from the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, that they will simply defy the teaching of the Church and her norms of practice and start offering divorced and civilly remarried Catholics Communion.

Responding to the opposition from Cardinal Müller, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, Marx’s predecessor as head of the German bishops, told Die Welt,  “A Prefect is not the Pope,” and added that the statement was a “responsible decision [made] in conscience.” 

Marx added that with Pope Francis, “new opportunities” are opening up in the Church, calling it “a new movement.”

“This whole pontificate has opened new paths. You can feel it. Here in the United States everybody is speaking about Francis, even people not belonging to the Catholic Church. I have to say: The pope is not the church. The church is more than the pope. But there is a new atmosphere,” the cardinal said.