“Thinking about blessing for all couples”

The blessing of couples – homosexual and heterosexual – must be discussed if one does not want to pass by reality, according to the new commissioner for homosexual pastoral ministry in the Archdiocese of Cologne, Holger Dornemann.

Interviewer: You are the new commissioner. What plans and intentions do you bring with you for your new task?

Dr. Holger Dornemann (theologian and commissioner for homosexual pastoral ministry in the Archdiocese of Cologne): First of all, I am pleased that this central topic for the Archdiocese of Cologne has been reoccupied after a two-year vacancy and thus, in a sense, is also being hung on the big bell, where I think it also belongs. Not every diocese in Germany has its own commissioner for homosexual pastoral care. From therefore it is also something special, which we continue here in Cologne now already for 20 years accordingly and now in my person. In concrete terms, it is a matter of contacting individuals, associations. On Thursday I am invited here in the Catholic Committee on the subject, contact, but also the representation of the concern in church and society.
Interviewer: You already have a lot of experience in ecclesiastical adult education. You have led the department of marriage and family in the main department of pastoral care in the vicariate general, you are a religious educator. Why do we need a separate pastoral offering for homosexuals at all??
Dornemann: I was just saying, 20 years ago, the pastoral discussion here in the archdiocese proposed the introduction and said we need this. A working group and someone who moderates and leads this working group and also stands for the topic as a whole. This means ensuring that homosexuals have a place in the church, are recognized in their way of being in the church and in society, and in the way they live and experience their sexual orientation.
Interviewer: The recognition and protection of the sexual identity of every human being are your central concerns, it says in your introduction. How can the church support these concerns?
Dornemann: Sexual identity is about church teaching, but it's also about church credibility. With the topic of sexual identity, the highest attentiveness and sensitivity is required to approach it, so to speak. That's where everyone pays attention, how does the church deal with the ie of sexual identity, not just with minorities, because it's an ie for every individual. It is highly personal and there is the question of dealing with sexual identity, it concerns the center of conscience, my personal intimacy. There the chance of encroaching on my personality, my identity is so great that the church is asked here to approach every person sensitively, attentively and with the highest esteem, especially homosexuals.
Interviewer: If you have a heterosexual sexuality, it's not an ie at all, but if you have a homosexual one, it's suddenly an ie. Why is that?
Dornemann: Yes, that's actually almost unequal treatment, if you think about it that way (laughs). But the topic of sexual pedagogy is not only a topic of religious pedagogy, but of all pedagogy. We have here in Cologne so many places, which deal with sex education, in the context of the Caritasverband, the advice service, in the school, it is thus no special topic. A commissioner for heterosexuals in Cologne is actually also needed, but it basically also makes clear that it is about the same thing, about sexual identity. Do we respect the person with their own personal dignity and how do we welcome them, how do we support them, how do we accompany them, how are we there??
Interviewer: You may have just started, but maybe you can still give us some insight into your work already. What does your everyday life look like as a commissioner for pastoral care for homosexuals?
Dornemann: I am not only the diocesan pastoral representative for homosexual pastoral ministry. It is more a question of attitude and attentiveness. Since I have been appointed and know that I am to take on the task, I try to pay attention to how the topic feels in my daily work life. Does the press office perceive that there is, will it be published, in what way will it be published? If I am invited to speak on the subject, I am also asked to what extent the church is also present in society on the subject, does it show itself?? I think the credibility of the church is particularly in demand at this point, because this is about more than just one topic. It hits at the heart of the doctrine of the faith.
Interviewer: Let's take a look at the deputy chairman of the German Bishops' Conference, Osnabruck Bishop Franz-Josef Bode. He was the first Catholic bishop in the country to initiate a discussion about the blessing of homosexual couples: "We need to discuss this in more detail in the church. Silence and taboo do not lead further and unsettle". Do you agree with Bishop Bode?
Dornemann: Let's put it this way, the proposal is not that new. Because in the context of the family synods, that was 2014/2015 have already been brought in large surveys of the dioceses. From a diocese of the Cologne church province, exactly this proposal was already introduced, that there should be blessings, it was formulated indicatively. Bishop Bode encourages reflection on blessings. The youth bishop Oster also spoke of blessings of couples. He was thinking of heterosexual couples last year in March. This is another thing we haven't had in the Catholic Church, the reflection on blessing couples who are not married or don't want to be married. This is absolutely announced, a topic that I think must be discussed, if one does not go past the reality.
Interviewer: This would not be a sacrament but nevertheless a blessing.
Dornemann: In the Benedictionale, in the liturgical book of blessings, we have no blessings for couples. And this stimulates Bishop Bode, whether there could not be, also with regard to homosexuals.
Interviewer: So he says, let's start the discussion now. Hope that this statement by Bishop Bode now spurs the ie again?
Dornemann: I know that the topic is present not only in Osnabruck, in the pastoral commission, but throughout Germany. This is what the discussions of the last few years have shown. There he is voicing what is actually there and being discussed in every diocese.

The interview was conducted by Uta Vorbrodt.

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