Church wrestles with law on “marriage for all”

Church wrestles with law on 'marriage for all'

The secular state cannot cast the moral ideas of the Catholic Church one-to-one into laws, Cardinal Marx concedes. In the debate about marriage for all, he generally advises more serenity.

Rejoicing and confetti on the one hand, concern and doomsday mood on the other: the introduction of "marriage for all" has been seen by supporters as a milestone in the fight for a liberal society. Opponents, on the other hand, fear the dissolution of the traditional family.

Final farewell to Christian social form?

Two weeks after the Bundestag's decision, the Catholic Church in particular is struggling with the new legal situation and its consequences. Is this the final farewell to a Christian social order?? The conservative Forum of German Catholics, in any case, sees "marriage for all" as a "breach of the dam that opens all the floodgates for further forms of cohabitation". Regensburg Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer fears that Catholics could become politically homeless.

The family bishop of the Bishops' Conference, Archbishop Heiner Koch, put it more soberly: he had to "take note of the fact that our Christian position has not been understood," the head pastor of Berlin concluded. He receives piles of letters "saying that the only party today that still represents Christian content is the AfD.". An impression he clearly contradicts.

"In order to open up marriage, you have to change the Basic Law"

Conservative and more liberal bishops, but also the Central Committee of German Catholics, agree that the Basic Law defines marriage exclusively as a community of man and woman.

They are supported by the former president of the Federal Constitutional Court, Hans-Jurgen Papier: "If you want to open up marriage, you have to change the Basic Law," he told the news magazine "Der Spiegel," contradicting other experts. The Federal Constitutional Court had emphasized in several decisions that a marriage in the sense of the Basic Law is only the "union of a man and a woman in a permanent cohabitation.".

Marx urged for more serenity

The chairman of the Bishops' Conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, is also counting on Karlsruhe and on the Bavarian state government appealing to the court. "I would already like to know what the Federal Constitutional Court thinks about "marriage for all"," the Munich archbishop told the "Augsburger Allgemeine" on Friday. A ruling would be good to maintain legal peace in Germany.

It is striking how soberly Marx analyzes the situation. The church holds on to its concept of marriage, he emphasized. But: "One should not immediately conjure up a bursting of the dam," he also warned to remain calm. The new law is about opening marriage to same-sex couples – and not, as some critics have painted on the wall as a portent, to relatives or three and foursomes as well.

"We don't want to pour our moral concepts into laws"

Nor does Marx want to know anything about a defeat of the church and a political homelessness of Catholics. "We don't want to simply cast our moral concepts into laws and measure the influence of the church against them," he said. He said there is no party that represents all the opinions of the church. This would not be desirable in a secular state. "We live in an open society in which there are Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, non-believers," the cardinal said. "In a secular society, the state must create laws that apply to everyone" )."

"Church was not a pioneer in gay rights"

The cardinal's self-critical tone regarding the church's attitude toward homosexuality is striking: the church "has not necessarily been a pioneer when it comes to the rights of homosexuals," he conceded. "After all, I did nothing against the fact that homosexuals were prosecuted (…). We have not actually dealt with it as a church." He regrets that.

He was criticized for this by the Green politician Volker Beck, who played a significant role in the Bundestag's decision on "marriage for all". The church-political speaker of the Greens praised on the one hand that the cardinal recognizes a separate sphere of the secular state in legislation. "Simply the untruth," however, is the statement that the church did not deal with the criminal prosecution of homosexuals. "The Catholic Church has always and everywhere opposed an end to criminalization or discrimination against homosexuals."

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Christina Cherry
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