German bishops reject Vatican ban, vow to continue blessing gay couples

ROME — The president of the German Bishops’ Conference said Friday that it will continue to bless gay couples and allow its priests to do so as well.

Bishop Georg Bätzing’s public rejection of the Vatican’s ban on such blessings was all the more remarkable, given at a press conference in Rome shortly after the meeting between Pope Francis and the German bishops.

“The Church must change,” said Bätzing. “We cannot continue as before, it is a matter of conveying the message of the Gospel here and now, and not always looking to the past, even running the risk of a bruised Church.”

The bishop went on to insist that the German Catholic Church is not following a path of schism from Rome, despite its deep differences with official Church teaching.

“This was never an option for any of the German bishops or any of the lay Catholics. Never,” he argued. “We are and will remain Catholic, but we want to be Catholic in a different way and we feel this responsibility.”

According to Bätzing, talk of schism comes “from outside to frighten and intimidate”.

It is not the first time that Bishop Bätzing and other German bishops have expressed their disagreement and intention to disobey the Vatican’s ban on blessing same-sex unions.

Last March, Bätzing said the Catholic Church must change its teaching on sexual morality, insisting that gay sex does not harm a person’s relationship with God.

Gay relationships are fine “as long as they are done with faith and responsibility,” he told the German magazine Bunte.

No one follows the Church’s teaching on sexuality anymore, he argued, so “we have to change the catechism in part. Sexuality is a gift from God. It is not a sin.”

In March 2021, the Vatican’s doctrinal office (CDF) released a statement stating that the Church has no authority to bless same-sex unions because God himself “does not and cannot bless sin.”

Blessings require “the right intention of those involved” and “whatever is blessed [must] to be ordered objectively and positively to receive and express grace, according to the designs of God inscribed in creation,” the text said.

“For this reason, it is not lawful to bless relationships or partnerships, even stable ones, that involve sexual activity outside of marriage,” he wrote, “as is the case with same-sex unions.”

After this decree, Bätzing said that people in homosexual relationships want the blessing of the Church and the Church must “address this desire”.

“We can no longer answer these questions with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ This is not possible,” he said.

“I think we have to evaluate homosexuality and cohabitation outside of marriage differently,” Bätzing said. “We can no longer proceed solely from natural law, but must think much more in terms of care and personal responsibility for one another.”

“I understand the Church’s negative opinion of the Creed, it reflects the state of the Church’s teaching,” he said. “But that doesn’t help, because there has long been a pastoral development that goes beyond that.”

“And that means change is coming,” he said.

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