German catholics struggle over pope's statement on homosexuals

German catholics struggle over pope's statement on homosexuals

The German bishops and Catholics are waiting to hear the Pope's latest statements on homosexual unions. The majority of them did not want to comment on this, reported the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung".

The Pope's recent statements on homosexual unions continue to cause debate in Germany about possible consequences. The majority of German bishops have so far held back, as the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung" (FAS) reported. Many would have stated that they did not know exactly the context of the quotes published in a documentary film.

The film, released Wednesday, shows statements by Pope Francis in which he endorses registered civil partnerships for same-sex couples: "Homosexuals have the right to live in a family," the church leader says. They, too, are children of God: "What we need is a law that makes civil partnership possible."

"In the light of the teaching of the Church"

The Regensburg Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer told the "FAS" that the remarks should be interpreted "in the light of the Church's teaching as summarized in the Catechism and which the Pope himself apparently does not question but affirms". A film, he said, is not a medium for magisterial proclamation.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the textbook of basic beliefs for family, school and church, homosexual acts are "not in themselves okay". The Roman Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith held in 2003 that "respect for homosexual persons can in no way lead to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions".

ZdK for re-evaluation of homosexual partnerships

The bishop of Rottenburg-Stuttgart, Gebhard Furst, told the "FAS" that he tolerates that in a pluralistic and secular society there can be the life form of a registered partnership guaranteed by the state and that this must grant protection and rights.

The president of the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), Thomas Sternberg, recalled that in 2015 the ZdK had advocated for a reassessment of homosexual partnerships and their blessing. At the time, he said, this was still considered an outrageous statement. Francis' statement shows how quickly that is changing.

"The church is lagging behind"

Catholic Mainz moral theologian Stephan Goertz on the other hand, told the "Suddeutsche Zeitung" (Saturday) that Francis' statements could "perhaps turn out to be an important step on the way to changing doctrine". This is overdue, he said. "The Church lags decades behind cultural development and moral standards."

From the point of view of the Brixen moral theologian Martin M. Lintner can refuse the Catholic church a blessing of homosexual partnerships now only with difficulty. "I expect an intense, albeit controversial, debate within the Church on this question," the religious priest told the Internet portal katholisch.de. "The condemnation without exception of a homosexual relationship as sinful is obviously not the last word of the Church on this question."

"It is a matter of respect for people's life plans"

The Forum of German Catholics on the other hand, stressed that Francis had not justified homosexuality. Rather, the pope had referred "to the treatment of homosexuals as human beings and members of civil society," explained chairman Hubert Gindert.

The Protestant theologian Margot Kabmann wrote in the "Bild am Sonntag," it is not a matter of "pandering to the zeitgeist, but of respect for people's life plans". It was, after all, faithful parishioners who wanted church blessing for their civil partnership. The question, he said, is "whether gays and lesbians are shown love, feel warmly welcomed with open arms". This is something the pope could and should take care of, according to the former chairwoman of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany.

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Christina Cherry
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