New head of German bishops was behind document defending contraception, masturbation, homosexuality
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MAINZ, Germany, March 3, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – The new president of the German Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg, was responsible for a working document on sexual morality published ahead of the Synodal Path in 2019 defending use of contraception, masturbation, and an active homosexual lifestyle.
Last year, Bätzing had asked Catholics to discuss the question of blessing homosexual unions. A diocesan official wrote in a letter, “Bishop Georg Bätzing asks that this important question [of a blessing for couples who cannot marry in the Catholic Church] be discussed in the diocese of Limburg in an open and uncontroversial manner. He has established a process group in order to accompany and structure this discourse.”
Bätzing, who was made a bishop only in 2016, also supported making celibacy optional. “I believe that it does not harm the Church if priests are free to choose whether they want to live in marriage or remain celibate,” he said in an interview.
“Celibacy is worth a lot to me, for that is how Jesus lived,” Bätzing admitted. “As a priest, I don’t want to be just a functionary and a civil servant, but I want to follow in [his] footsteps.”
His expectation was that most priests would be married, though. “Celibacy is not substantially connected to the priesthood. And if it becomes more and more of an obstacle, then we must reconsider it,” Bätzing said in 2019.
In that context, the bishop showed his openness for making celibacy optional in Germany, as long as the Pope allows for that option.
“I’m very much in favor of doing this,” he emphasized.
Earlier today, Bätzing was elected at the spring meeting of the German bishops in Mainz. He succeeded Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who announced in January that he would not be available for a second term as president of the German Bishops’ Conference.
While Marx was bishop of Trier from 2002 until 2008, Bätzing headed the diocesan seminary (from 1996 until 2010).
In preparation for the Synodal Path, which the German bishops launched in cooperation with the Central Committee of German Catholics, Bätzing was one of two people overseeing the work of the committee on sexual morality. He was recently 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 earlier this year. 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.”
Consequently, the document justifies the use of contraception, the practice of masturbation, and an active homosexual lifestyle.
Regarding contraception, the working document states, “Not every sexual act must remain open to procreation: the principle of responsible parenthood is extended to include the element of family planning through the free choice of a means of contraception appropriate to the respective life situation. Family planning, even by means of artificial contraception, is not a hostile act, but supports the right of a couple to make a responsible joint decision on the number of children, the intervals between births and the concrete means of family planning.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, on the other hand, refers to the encyclical Humanae Vitae by Pope Paul VI, teaching “that ‘each and every marriage act must remain open ‘per se’ to the transmission of life.’” The Catechism adds, “This particular doctrine, expounded on numerous occasions by the Magisterium, is based on the inseparable connection, established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act” (CCC 2366).
Pope John Paul II wrote in Familiaris Consortio, “When couples, by means of recourse to contraception, separate these two meanings that God the Creator has inscribed in the being of man and woman and in the dynamism of their sexual communion, they act as ‘arbiters’ of the divine plan and they ‘manipulate’ and degrade human sexuality – and with it themselves and their married partner – by altering its value of ‘total’ self-giving.”
Without using the term “masturbation,” the working document in preparation of the Synodal Path in Germany states, “The joyful experience of one’s own body (self sex) can also mean a responsible approach to one’s own sexuality.”
Again, the Catechism teaches on this, quoting from a document of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “‘Both the Magisterium of the Church, in the course of a constant tradition, and the moral sense of the faithful have been in no doubt and have firmly maintained that masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action.’ ‘The deliberate use of the sexual faculty, for whatever reason, outside of marriage is essentially contrary to its purpose.’ For here sexual pleasure is sought outside of ‘the sexual relationship which is demanded by the moral order and in which the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love is achieved’” (CCC 2352).
Finally, according to the working 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.
These statements also contradict the teaching of the Church as expressed in the Catechism. There, it says, “Basing 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” (CCC 2357).
While not endorsing women’s “ordination,” Bätzing has said he recognizes the issue.
“But as a bishop I must take seriously that the exclusion of women from ordained ministries is perceived as fundamentally unjust and inappropriate in a social environment that has long since placed women and men on an equal footing in their right,” he said in a sermon on New Year’s Eve 2019.
“The arguments, which are presented in an honest way, for a sacramental ministry in the Church only for men have long been subject to critical consideration in theology, and are simply no longer accepted by many of the faithful.”
At the press conference following his election as president of the German Bishops’ Conference, Bätzing voiced his support for the Synodal Path.
“I stand for this completely and utterly,” he affirmed, adding, “I am very convinced that this is a way of practicing a new togetherness of laity and bishops in the German church.”
Asked about the post-synodal apostolic exhortation Querida Amazonia, Bätzing only said, “He may not have taken a position on some issues, but that does not mean that we cannot do so.”
Cardinal Marx took a similar approach after the document was published in February.
He stressed that the apostolic exhortation “neither wants to replace nor to repeat” the final document of the synod, which had called married priests.
“By no means is it off the table with the publication of the exhortation! Rather, Pope Francis speaks of his desire ‘to officially present the final document’ together with the Apostolic Letter, and invites us ‘to read it in full,’” Marx said.