In Easter interview, German bishops’ head calls for changing Church teaching on homosexuality
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LIMBURG, Germany, April 20, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – The president of the German Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg, has called for changing the Church’s official teaching on “practiced homosexuality” by “jumping over trenches.”
“Here the statement of the Catechism is first of all that these people are to be met with esteem and respect,” Bätzing said in an interview with German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung on Easter Sunday. “But every single sexual act is seen as evidence of a disordered sexual life. This is something that many people no longer want or can understand.”
Bätzing, who was elected as head of the German bishops only last month, claimed that in moral theology, “we have long since moved towards saying” that if “true love and faithfulness are lived,” even among same-sex partners, “we must acknowledge that.”
The bishop suggested that the Church is unable to reach and influence anyone. “People decide how they live, anyway,” Bätzing said.
He then asked, “Can we tell them that their relationship is under the blessing of God?” Bätzing expressed his hope “that we can come to a statement on this during the Synodal Path. This would be a sign that the public would see as a bridge.”
In his statements to Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, Bätzing seemed more concerned with pleasing “the public” than with presenting and explaining the teaching of the Church.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “[b]asing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’ They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.”
Admitting that the number of people “who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible,” the Catechism points out that for most of them, their inclination “constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”
Just like people with a regular sexuality, those who are attracted to members of the same sex “are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.”
In practice, the Catechism concludes, that means that “[h]omosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.”
Bishop Bätzing was responsible for a working document on sexual morality published ahead of the Synodal Path in 2019, which defended the use of contraception, masturbation, and an active homosexual lifestyle.
In preparation for the Synodal Path, which the German bishops launched in cooperation with the Central Committee of German Catholics, he was one of two people overseeing the work of the committee on sexual morality. Earlier this year, he was confirmed in that position.
The 21-page working document served as a basis for discussion at the first assembly of the Synodal Path in Frankfurt in January and February. It demands that sexual morality must develop “on the basis of insights of the human sciences, including the life experience […] of (faithful) loving people.”
The document encourages the Church to rely upon the human sciences, namely “psychology, sociology, anthropology.” That would open up the many prohibitions of sexual morality as proposed by the teaching authority of the Church, “which sees sexual activity only within marriage, and still directed strongly towards procreation.”
According to the document, “homosexual acts also realize positive meaningful values, insofar as they are an expression of friendship, reliability, loyalty and support in life.” Homosexuality, it adds, should no longer be considered as intrinsically evil. A blessing of homosexual unions is not excluded by the working document.
In his conversation with Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung on Easter Sunday, Bätzing lamented what he called “a morality of prohibition” in the context of sexual morality. According to this understanding, the Church only says no to things like sexual intercourse before or outside of marriage, practiced homosexuality, divorce.
Faithful Catholics point out that the term of “a morality of prohibition” does not accurately describe the reality. A husband who loves his wife does not cheat on her – not because the Church prohibits it, but because he does not want to hurt her, out of love.
In the same interview, the Bishop also said that married priests would not be “a damage to the Church. On the contrary.” Nevertheless, he said “it would be a great loss for the Church if there were only married priests and no longer those who have decided to become celibate.”
A move toward female ‘ordination’ because of ‘gender equality’?
Finally, Bätzing talked about the issue of women’s “ordination.”
On the one hand, Bätzing admitted that the teaching of the Church is very clear. “On the question of whether women should be able to use the sacramental can exercise the priesthood, there are clear teaching authority barriers and statements that Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict and Pope Francis. This is a limit.”
At the same time, he argued that “[t]he discussion is not off the table because of that.” He did not explain how something that has been definitively decided can still be discussed.
He only offered, “We live in a society, in which gender equality is becoming increasingly prevalent. That’s good. With pay, quotas, women in management positions, the goal has not yet been achieved, either.”
Bätzing then returned to the theme of having to discuss the question of women “priests.” He said “we need to discuss what it means for the Church to live in a society in which basically every position is realized by men and women.”
Pope John Paul II had declared in his Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis that only men could be priests. “I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful,” he wrote in 1994.
Bishop Bätzing not only wants to change Church teaching on sexual morality and, potentially, the priesthood. He is also a supporter of a study arguing in favor of having Christians of any background receive the Eucharist during a Catholic Mass.
The study, titled “Together at the Lord’s Table,” was published in the fall of 2019 by the “Ecumenical working group of Evangelical and Catholic theologians” (“Ökumenischer Arbeitskreis evangelischer und katholischer Theologen”).
The working group, Bätzing claimed at a press conference in March, based its conclusions on “recent theological and especially liturgical insights and the results of previous ecumenical dialogue.”
“It is my personal conviction that what is written there is justifiable,” he added.