In a controversial new statement, progressive German Cardinal Reinhard Marx said he could envision blessing homosexual couples in the Catholic Church, but added that it would have to be up to the “pastor on the ground” rather than made into a universal rule.
In an interview with the Bavarian State Broadcasting’s radio service, the cardinal—who is president of the German bishops’ conference as well as a member of Pope Francis’ nine-man advisory board—said there are “no general solutions” to the question of blessings for same-sex couples.
In reporting on the interview, the German edition of Vatican News acknowledged that the cardinal had said that the blessing of homosexual couples is possible in individual cases.
“It’s about pastoral care for individual cases, and that applies in other areas as well, which cannot be regulated, where there is no sets of rules,” he said.
“I really have to leave that to the pastor on the ground, and the individual under pastoral care,” the cardinal told interviewer, Karin Wendlinger. “There you can discuss things, as is currently being debated, and consider: How can a pastoral worker deal with it? However, I really would emphatically leave that to the particular, individual case at hand, and not and not demand any sets of rules again – there are things that cannot be regulated.”
Challenged as to why the Catholic Church does not keep up with modern society on issues such as the ordination of female deacons, the blessing of homosexual couples, and the abolition of mandatory priestly celibacy, Marx said that solutions lie at the pastoral level rather than with universal regulations.
“We have to consider the situation of the individual, his life history, his biography, the disruptions he goes through, the hopes that arise, the relationships he or she lives in. We have to take this more seriously and have to try harder to accompany them in their circumstances of life,” he said.
Regarding the pastoral care of homosexuals, Marx said that pastors must be close to those who are in need of pastoral care and also want it. “And one must also encourage priests and pastoral workers to give people in concrete situations encouragement. I do not really see any problems there,” he said. “An entirely different question is how this is to be done publicly and liturgically. These are things you have to be careful about, and reflect on them in a good way.”
Asked directly whether he could imagine a way to bless homosexual couples in the Catholic Church, Marx responded: “Yes, however there are no general solutions. That would not be right, I think. It’s about pastoral care for individual cases, and that applies in other areas as well, which we cannot regulate, where we have no sets of rules.”
Pope Francis has been an outspoken critic of attempts to legalize same-sex marriage, a position that goes back to his tenure as archbishop of Buenos Aires, when he called gay marriage “the envy of the devil.”
In his battle against a 2010 bill proposing gay marriage in Argentina, then-cardinal Bergoglio wrote that the proposed law would “gravely wound the family.” He went on to say that “what is at stake here is the identity and the survival of the family: father, mother and children. What is at stake is the life of so many children who will be discriminated against from the get-go, by depriving them of the human development that God intended through a mother and a father.”
“Let’s not be naïve,” Bergoglio wrote, “this is not just a political struggle; it is an attempt to destroy God’s plan. It is not merely a bill–this is only the instrument–but a move by the father of lies who seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”
In 2016, Francis published a lengthy teaching letter on marriage and the family called The Joy of Love (Amoris Laetitia), in which he sharply criticized the “legal deconstruction of the family” taking place in many countries. It is unacceptable that “international bodies should make financial aid to poor countries dependent on the introduction of laws to establish ‘marriage’ between persons of the same sex,” he said.
In that same letter, Francis slammed gender theory for its denial of “the difference and reciprocity in nature of a man and a woman,” and for its dream of “a society without sexual differences.”
The Catholic Church teaches that there are “absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family. Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts go against the natural moral law.”
“Those who would move from tolerance to the legitimization of specific rights for cohabiting homosexual persons need to be reminded that the approval or legalization of evil is something far different from the toleration of evil,” the Vatican’s doctrinal office declared in a 2003 document.
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