German Bishops Snub Vatican Ban, Vow to Keep Blessing Gay Couples

A cross stands in front of Christ's Resurrection Church during an open-air blessing service for lovers. A rainbow flag can be seen in the background. Photo: Henning Kaiser/dpa (Photo by Henning Kaiser/picture alliance via Getty Images)
Henning Kaiser/picture alliance via Getty Images

ROME — The president of the German Bishops’ Conference said Friday that he will continue blessing gay couples and will allow his priests to do so as well.

Bishop Georg Bätzing’s public rejection of the Vatican ban on such blessings was all the more remarkable since it was issued at a press conference in Rome shortly after a meeting between Pope Francis and the German bishops.

“The Church must change,” Bätzing declared. “We cannot go on as before, it is a matter of conveying the message of the Gospel here and now, and not always looking to the past, even running the risk of a bruised Church.”

The bishop went on to insist that the German Catholic Church is not pursuing a path of schism from Rome, despite its profound differences with official Church teaching.

“This has never been an option for any of the German bishops or any of the lay Catholics. Never,” he asserted. “We are and will remain Catholic but we want to be Catholic in a different way and we feel this responsibility.”

According to Bätzing, talk of schism comes “from the outside to frighten and intimidate.”

This is not the first time that Bishop Bätzing and other German bishops have voiced their disagreement with and intention to disobey the Vatican’s prohibition of blessing homosexual unions.

Last March, Bätzing declared that the Catholic Church must change its teaching on sexual morality, insisting that gay sex does not harm a person’s relationship with God.

Same-sex relations are okay “as long as they are carried out with loyalty and responsibility,” he told the German magazine Bunte.

No one follows Church teaching on sexuality anymore, he asserted, so “we have to partially change the catechism. Sexuality is a gift from God. It’s not a sin.”

In March 2021, the Vatican’s doctrinal office (CDF) released a statement declaring that the Church has no authority to bless homosexual unions because God Himself “does not and cannot bless sin.”

Blessings require “the right intention of those who participate,” and “what is blessed [must] be objectively and positively ordered to receive and express grace, according to the designs of God inscribed in creation,” the text said.

“For this reason, it is not licit to impart a blessing on relationships, or partnerships, even stable, that involve sexual activity outside of marriage,” it read, “as is the case of the unions between persons of the same sex.”

Following this decree, Bätzing said that people in homosexual relationships want the blessing of the Church, and the Church must “address this desire.”

“We can no longer answer these questions simply with a ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ That is not possible,” he said.

“I believe that we have to assess homosexuality and lived partnerships outside of marriage differently,” Bätzing said. “We can no longer proceed solely from natural law but have to think much more in terms of care and personal responsibility for one another.”

“I understand the negative opinion of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, it reflects the state of Church teaching,” he said. “But that doesn’t help, because there has long been a pastoral development that goes beyond that.”

“And that means change is coming,” he said.


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