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KNA InternationalDecember 19, 2023
Father Heiner Dresen blesses a same-sex couple in in Geldern, Germany, May 6, 2021. (OSV News photo/Rudolf Wichert, KNA)

Cologne (KNA) The Vatican’s decision to authorize the blessing of homosexual and remarried couples has triggered mixed reactions.

Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich said on Tuesday that he was a little surprised. He had not expected “that such a signal would come so quickly.” Marx said it was a first step that may look small to Catholics in Germany – “but for some in the Universal Church, it is huge to hear that this should be possible.” In Africa, some would certainly be shaking their heads at the decision.

Marx said Catholic sexual doctrine must continue to develop. The German Synodal Path reform project had already attempted to change sexual morality from a morality of prohibition to a morality of relationships. Unfortunately, that text had not received a two-thirds majority of the bishops, but at least 60 percent had been in favor. Further work needed to be done on the text.

The bishop of Dresden-Meissen, Heinrich Timmerevers, said he was “very happy and very surprised” at the decision. “This has never happened before in the history of the Church, this milestone that the pope is now making possible here,” he told German public broadcaster ARD on Tuesday morning.

He admitted that the Church was “a little bit guilty” that “we have not only brought people together through our moral teaching but have also marginalized people.”

Pope Francis was initiating processes. Perhaps Germany’s Synodal Path had also contributed to the Vatican’s decision. “I believe it is not just a Christmas present, it is more than that,” said Timmerevers.

The future archbishop of Bamberg, Herwig Goessl, also welcomed the decision. “This fulfils an important wish of many believers, which was also expressed in the Synodal Path,” he said. However, it should not be overlooked that the declaration distinguished between blessing and marriage. Goessl said he saw new possibilities for pastoral care.

The Catholic German Women’s Federation (KDFB) and the German Association of Catholic Women (KDF) also welcomed the Vatican’s decision. The federal chairwoman of the kfd, Mechthild Heil, called it a “good, but also long overdue step.” KDFB President Anja Karliczek said the decision was a signal in favor of more diversity and tolerance in the Church.

The reform movement “We are the Church” called it a small step in the right direction. However, it added that the Vatican’s justification for the move showed that nothing had really changed in the church leadership’s understanding of the reality of the lives of homosexual and remarried couples.

The Maria 2.0 reform group said that although the measure showed a long-overdue opening, it in no way adequately addressed “the deeper structural problems and discrimination within the Catholic Church.” The very distinction between “irregular and regular partnerships” continued to represent a serious form of discrimination and contradicted human rights, said Maria 2.0.

The Bonn-based moral theologian Jochen Sautermeister called the decision groundbreaking. “Pastoral ministers and priests can no longer cite a church ban on blessings for same-sex couples with reference to church teaching,” he told the Catholic website domradio.de.

Sautermeister said the Vatican’s declaration reflected the pastoral style of the new head of the Vatican’s faith authority, Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernandez.

“It is not about changing doctrine, but about expanding pastoral perspectives and possibilities for action through a pastoral view and taking into account the respective biographies of people with their life circumstances,” said the moral theologian.

More: LGBT / Germany / Vatican

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