German bishop urges church debate on blessing same-sex unions

Two same-sex partners exchange wedding bands during a 2017 ceremony at the civil registry office in Munich. (CNS photo/Marc Mueller, EPA)Two same-sex partners exchange wedding bands during a 2017 ceremony at the civil registry office in Munich. (CNS photo/Marc Mueller, EPA)

OSNABRUCK, Germany (CNS) -- The vice president of the German bishops' conference has urged a debate on whether Catholic clergy should bless same-sex unions.

"I'm concerned with fundamental questions of how we deal with each other; although 'marriage for all' differs clearly from the church's concept of marriage, it's now a political reality," said Bishop Franz-Josef Bode of Osnabruck.

Advertisement

"We have to ask ourselves how we're encountering those who form such relationships and are also involved in the church, how we're accompanying them pastorally and liturgically."

In the fall, the first gay weddings were conducted in Germany, following a June 30 vote by the parliament to allow full same-sex marriage.

"Same-sex relationships are generally classified as a grave sin in the church, but we need to think how we can differentiate," Bishop Bode said in a Jan. 10 interview with the Neue Osnabrucker Zeitung daily.

In the fall, the first gay weddings were conducted in Germany, following a June 30 vote by the parliament to allow full same-sex marriage.

"Shouldn't we be fairer, given that there is much that's positive, good and right in this? Should we not, for example, consider a blessing -- something not to be confused with a wedding ceremony?"

He said the church should discuss same-sex unions in more detail and recognize "silence and taboo" settled nothing.

Canons 1055-1057 of the church's Code of Canon Law define marriage as an indissoluble union between a man and woman.

The June vote to allow same-sex marriage was condemned by German church leaders, including Archbishop Heiner Koch of Berlin, chairman of the church's Marriage and Family Commission, who said in a statement same-sex cohabitation could be "valued through other institutional arrangements."

However, it was approved by the country's Protestant church. Some lay Catholic groups, including the We Are Church organization, have called for same-sex couples to be offered church blessings.

Some lay Catholic groups, including the We Are Church organization, have called for same-sex couples to be offered church blessings.

In May 2015, the German church amended its employment rules to permit lay staffers to keep their jobs after they were divorced and remarried without an annulment or if they formed a gay union.

In his interview, Bishop Bode also said he believed fuller use should be made of lay "pastoral coordinators" to make up for a shortage of ordained clergy.

He added that women should be taking on "leadership roles in the churches," and called for a Vatican commission currently considering women deacons to expand its work.

"This commission is very much exploring tradition, but I think we shouldn't just start there," the bishops' conference vice president said. 

"We must face the fact that women are doing much responsible work in the church today. I'd like to see a conversation between experts and competent bishops -- and as much contact as possible with the group dealing with these issues in Rome. This question will ultimately have to be decided by a council or synod."

Twenty-six countries have legalized same-sex marriage.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement
More: LGBT / Europe

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testifies at a House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Tuesday, May 22, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
The Secretary of Education stirred up controversy when she said it was up to schools to decide if an undocumented student should be reported to authorities.
J.D. Long-GarcíaMay 25, 2018
Thousands gathered in Dublin May 12 to say "Love Both" and "Vote No" to abortion on demand. They were protesting abortion on demand in the forthcoming referendum May 25. (CNS photo/John McElroy)
“Priests and bishops get verbal abuse by being told, ‘How can you speak for women? You don’t know what it’s like!’”
America StaffMay 25, 2018
The coffin containing the body of St. John XXIII is seen during a ceremony in Vittorio Veneto Square after its arrival in Bergamo, Italy, May 24. The body of the late pope left the Vatican on May 24 to be displayed in his home region until June 10. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

BERGAMO, Italy (CNS) — Accompanied by Bishop Francesco Beschi of Bergamo and escorted by both Italian and Vatican police officers, the glass coffin containing the body of St. John XXIII left the Vatican early on May 24 for a 370-mile drive to Bergamo.

On this week's episode, we talk with Lieutenant Governor of Washington State, Cyrus Habib.
Olga SeguraMay 25, 2018