At 55, Rainer Maria Woelki is the youngest Cardinal in the Catholic Church, appointed by Pope Benedict XVI and serving as the Archbishop of Berlin. He recently sat down with the German newspaper Die Zeit. The full interview is worth a read, including his thoughts on gay relationships, sentiments that are surprising coming from such a high ranking prelate:
ZEIT: From the Catholic Congress a statement is quoted that has given you a lot of trouble. You said about homosexual relationships: "I think it is conceivable that, where people take responsibility for each other, where they live in a stable homosexual relationship, that is to be regarded in a similar manner to heterosexual relationships," Do you stand by this?
Woelki: "You must be careful not to mark down someone in an unfair way (literal translation of German- official English translation Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided) says the Catechism about people who have homosexual tendencies. If I take that seriously, I do not view in homosexual relationships "a violation of natural law" view, as expressed in the Catechism. I try to also perceive that as people they always assume responsibility for one another, loyalty to each other and have promised to provide, even though I cannot share such a life plan. The life plan for which we stand as the Catholic Church is a sacramental marriage between a man and a woman who is open to the transmission of life. This is what I said at the Catholic Congress in Mannheim immediately before the statement you quoted.
[Ed: Final section soon but that is the end of the passage on homosexuality- next is about the call to disobedience in the German and Austrian churches.]
ZEIT: Why is the Church so hard about this?
Woelki: Maybe it's a problem that today in the church everything must be almost over-correct. It must also be possible to be Catholic without every last detail being always checked.
ZEIT: The Church cannot discipline unruly flock on a regular basis, the believer must be converted so that his church does not issue him a free pass for everything?
Woelki: Yes, it is about willingness as a believer to be able to stand in a tension of closeness and distance to the church. Today we suffer from the ecclesiastical side sometimes a false perfectionism.
Cardinal Woelki is 30 years younger than Pope Benedict. He is reportedly not timid when it comes to promoting the church's teaching on homosexuality, but does his approach to the topic suggest a softened tone that comes with his younger age? Might a softer touch to this sensitive issue win more hearts than the battle-like language we're so used to here in the US?