Thursday, February 8th, 2018
Cardinal Reinhard Marx says Catholic priests can conduct blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples. Marx is the president of the German Catholic Bishops’ Conference.
Marx says church leaders in the field of pastoral care work and pastoral care should consider the situation of the individual. This means they must “try harder to accompany them in their circumstances of life”. Gay people are included in this, so priests and pastoral workers must be encouraged to accompany people according to their individual situations.
There are no general solutions, he says. Instead, priests should be allowed to bless gay couples on a case-by-case basis. Marx says the decision should be made by “the pastor on the ground, and the individual under pastoral care”.
“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.”
While he stopped short of fully endorsing blessings for same-sex couples, his positive comments made it clear he was open to approving such benedictions in private ceremonies.
“The issue is how the church can do justice to the challenges that new living conditions and new insights bring,” Marx says.
Bishop Franz-Josef Bode, who is the vice-president of the German Catholic bishops’ conference, also asked for deeper discussion on church blessings for homosexual partnerships. He says it is unhelpful to remain silent about such taboo subjects concerning the “political reality” of same-sex marriage.
“We must therefore ask ourselves how we should encounter and respond to those who enter into such partnerships and remain committed to the Church,” Bode says. “We must ask ourselves how we should accompany them pastorally and liturgically and how we can meet their needs.”
At a time when Anglican Provincial Churches around the world are divided on whether to bless same-sex unions, our own Church in Aotearoa/New Zealand has already made a determination at its last Provincial Synod meeting: In certain circumstances – that are agreeable to both the bishop of a diocese and where the clergy and vestry of a parish are prepared to offer the Blessing of the Church on a same-sex couple who have been legally married by the State – this may take place.
In view of this, it is interesting to note that our confreres in the Roman Catholic Churches around the world are sharing the same difficulties. Pope Francis himself has already declared that gay people if they love God, should be treated with the same pastoral care as any other Christians. His comment was, on being asked what he thought about the presence of homosexuals in the Church: “Who am I to judge them?”
In keeping with that philosophy then, it should not be too surprising that Cardinal
Marx, who is the president of the German Catholic Bishops’ Conference, should suggest that the Catholic Church in Germany should be open to the possibility of offering a Blessing on gay couples on a case-by-case basis. Marx says the decision should be made by “the pastor on the ground, and the individual under pastoral care”.
This openness on the part of the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church in Germany to the pastoral accommodation of the blessing of the legal marriages of same-sex couples who are practising Catholics should help those Anglicans around the world who are suspicious of the moral value of such an undertaking to think again. We are all God’s children, created in the divine Image and Likeness, with an inbuilt capacity for faithful and loving relationship with one other person, whether that be in the more usual circumstances of a binary marriage or a loving, faithful commitment to another in a same-sex partnership.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand