January 23, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – A high-ranking priest of the Diocese of Limburg now proposes to establish a special blessing for couples who are either “remarried” or homosexual. The diocese has been working on this project for some years, but the initiative has now gained new energy.
As the official website of the German bishops, Katholisch.de, reported, the Dean of the Catholic Church in Frankfurt, Johannes zu Eltz, on January 20 made the proposal of having a “theologically justified blessing” for those couples who are either homosexual, “remarried,” or who for other reasons do not feel “sufficiently worthy” for the Sacrament of Matrimony.
At the Second Parish Forum in Frankfurt, a gathering of 170 members of the Catholic Church of Frankfurt who discuss possible reforms of their local Church, zu Eltz spoke even more specifically about a professed blessing that has been discussed since 2015.
Zu Eltz has been influential in the Diocese of Limburg for quite some time. He had been the head of the diocesan tribunal until 2010 and thus the fourth highest clergyman in the diocesan hierarchy. Additionally, zu Eltz – who comes from a prestigious family – is also a canon of the Diocese of Limburg. As the Dean of the Catholic Church in Frankfurt, he is responsible for about 150,000 Catholics.
According to the Diocese of Limburg's own report, zu Eltz said the idea is to bless those couples that are excluded from a “Catholic wedding” and, thus, to “approve of and to bless the moral good that exists in these partnerships; that is to say: 'loyalty, mutual care, responsibility, duty.'”
As the report further stated, there is no danger of considering such a blessing to be a Sacrament of Marriage – but only if there is a set of several conditions first met. For example, there has to be a marriage license issued by the state – which is now also possible in Germany for same-sex couples.
As mentioned in another report of zu Eltz's words on the official website of the diocese – such a marriage license would be a “reliable public declaration of the partners that this partnership is meant to be for lifetime.”
Additionally, zu Eltz proposes a “liturgical celebration” that “omits the exchange of rings or the utterance of a marital vow.” Rather, one could, “with respect for a reliable partnership,” ask for God's blessing “for a successful future of something that already exists.” Thus, says zu Eltz, the human need for “salvation, protection, happiness and fulfillment in life” is being connected with a request for God's blessing.
In zu Eltz's eyes, such a blessing ceremony could be conducted not only by priests or deacons, but also by (lay-) men and women who have been appointed to be the conductor of that ceremony. Nobody should be duty-bound to perform such a blessing who rejects it, according to zu Eltz.
The speaker also explained that Frankfurt itself could not alone establish such a blessing, but that this could only be done in cooperation with the Diocese of Limburg. According to the diocese's own report, zu Eltz has hopes in this regard: “However, on Saturday, he (zu Eltz) expressed his hope that, based on his proposal, there will be 'responsible blessing ceremonies in the town church.'”
That the diocese might seriously consider such proposals is indicated by one of its other reports on the January 20 event. It states that, while one did not want to spend time with some “utopian claims such as female priests or the abolishment of celibacy,” one, rather, “wanted to see what kind of reform steps can be undertaken locally,” with approval of the local authority, as zu Eltz explicitly said.
The report continues, saying: “That he (zu Eltz) now has made such a proposal gives hope that there will soon in the town church of Frankfurt – as zu Eltz put it – 'responsible blessing ceremonies.'”
So far, this idea has not yet been formally implemented by the Diocese of Limburg. LifeSiteNews contacted the Diocese of Limburg and requested a statement from Bishop Georg Bätzing who was made the bishop of that diocese in 2016. Stephan Schnelle, the press speaker of the Diocese of Limburg, responded as follows:
The Bishop, Auxiliary Bishop, General Vicar, and the Dean of the Catholic Church in Frankfurt have dealt in two conversations with the topic of the blessing ceremonies [for homosexual and “remarried” couples]. The bishop [Georg Bätzing] has taken notice of this text [written by zu Eltz]. He considers it to be a consistent basis for discussion and approves that it is being introduced into the discussions. With this, the consultations in Frankfurt are connected with the current discussion in the Catholic Church in Germany.
This new initiative from the Diocese of Limburg comes in the wake of statements of several high-ranking prelates in Germany in favor of homosexual unions. As LifeSiteNews reported on January 10, both Cardinal Reinhard Marx – the president of the German Bishops' Conference – and Bishop Franz-Josef Bode – the vice president of the German Bishops' Conference – have recently taken steps to promote homosexual unions. Bishop Bode himself has proposed to bless homosexual unions, stressing that there is “much good” in such unions.
Additionally, there have been several other influential voices expressing their support in this matter. The German bishops' official website, Katholisch.de, has recently published an interview that justified the idea of giving an official blessing to such unions.
A prominent progressive theologian and book author, Professor Stephan Goertz, also published an article in which he welcomed the current change of attitude of the Catholic Church toward homosexuals. According to Goertz, the Catholic Church in former times had had a “rigoristic” attitude, but “now, under Pope Francis, there has been a change.”