Tag Archives: Germany

German Synod Father Supports Same – Sex Blessings

One intriguing feature of the Synod on Marriage and Family next month, is that at least two bishops have gone on record as stating that they support the principle of church blessings for same – sex couples. Bishop Bonny of Belgium is one. Bishop Bode of Germany is another.

In an interview with the German Catholic News Agency KNA, Bishop Bode of Osterbruck discussed his expectations from the synod, in general terms, for those who are divorced and remarried – and for homosexuals, and especially those in stable same – sex relationships.
What I find particularly interesting about this interview, is that he does more than simply express support for the principle of church blessings for gay couples, he points to a way in which this might actually become feasible.
First, he points to the well- established but often ignored feature of Catholic teaching, that there should be no discrimination against homosexuals. Like many others, he repeats an insistence that gay unions cannot be treated as marriage, which can only be between a man and a woman, and open to procreation. That is differentiation, not discrimination.  However, he notes that there are other Catholics in sexual relationships that do not conform to Church teaching, such as those who are cohabiting without marriage. To treat same – sex couples differently to those, in pastoral practice he says, is discrimination, and therefore unacceptable. So, in responding to same – sex couples, pastors should look to the good in their relationships, not merely at what is out of step with teaching – just as they do with other Catholics in irregular situations.
Next, he notes that while any form of recognition comparable to marriage is impossible for the Catholic Church, it is possible to offer some form of prayer and informal blessing, where the pastor is able to judge the quality of the relationship to be suitable. Note the qualification though – these should be “private” blessings, which presumably means in a household setting, not actually in Church.
Third, he notes that although the strength of the Catholic Church is its universality, a community cutting across cultural boundaries, nevertheless we need to take account of geographic differences in social and political contexts. (Interestingly, some African bishops have made exactly the same point, from a different perspective).  That being so, he speculates that it is possible, for pastors in some areas to be granted a degree of autonomy in these decisions, so that where same – sex couples are socially commonplace and legally provided for, perhaps in these countries (including his own Germany), such blessings could be authorized – but not elsewhere.
Now recall that when Germany’s largest lay organization called for the introduction of church blessings for gay and lesbian couples, the response by Cardinal Marx was that their request could not be accepted “unreservedly” – implying a possible acceptance, with reservations. Perhaps Bishop Bode’s qualifications, are just such reservations. I also speculated along exactly these lines myself, when Cardinal Marx’s response became public.
I have published the full interview, covering divorce and general expectations, at The Queer Church Repository, in the original German, and in an English translation from the Duolingo community.
Below, I reproduce the relevant sections with specific reference to homosexuals, and their relationships:
d460f-gay-marriage
KNA: A big issue will be the dealings with homosexuals and a religious recognition of their stable partnerships.   Is there any indication of a solution for that?  

Continue reading German Synod Father Supports Same – Sex Blessings

A formal research investigation by a Münster University research group in 42 countries worldwide, has shown that an overwhelming majority of German Catholics disagree fundamentally with Vatican doctrines on sexuality. This will not surprise anyone: the German bishops are far ahead of their international colleagues on many of these issues, professional German theologians have taken the lead in calling for a fundamental rethink on all issues of sexual teaching, and the culture of clericalism in the Church, and the largest lay organisation recently called for the Church to begin offering formal church blessings for same – sex couples in committed, permanent relationships (such as civil unions). Continue reading

Germany Leads the Way, on Catholic Church LGBT Inclusion and Welcome.

For years now, some Catholic bishops’ obsession with opposing same – sex marriage has led to a vicious crackdown on Church employees who marry same – sex spouses, allegedly because they are in conflict with “Church teaching”. In the USA, there is little evidence of any progress being made, but in Germany, there’s been an important reversal. The German church used to have a firm policy in place which prevented people in same – sex relationships from being offered any Church employment. In Germany there is no legal provision for gay marriage, so this applied to any same – sex relationship, and in effect, was more stringent than most US practice: gay people in Church employment needed to stay carefully in the closet.

No more: in May, the German bishops formally, and overwhelmingly, approved the overturning of the regulation, which went into effect on August 1st, just weeks ago. Already, one lesbian who had been previously fired from her job, has been reinstated.

Bob Shine reports at Bondings 2.0 Continue reading Germany Leads the Way, on Catholic Church LGBT Inclusion and Welcome.

Germany’s Largest Lay Group’s Call for Same – Sex Blessings

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, President of the German Bishops’ Conference, has “rebuked” the country’s largest lay group, the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), for its call for a change in Church teaching.

Stefan Vesper, General Secretary of ZdK
Stefan Vesper, General Secretary of ZdK

It will be no surprise that the call has been criticized by the German bishops.   In addition to greater acceptance of divorced and remarried Catholics, the position paper calls for Church blessings for same – sex couples. What is notable, is that the call was made in the first place, that Cardinal Marx’s rebuke includes the conciliatory statement that ““necessary theological debate” and dialogue on both subjects would be helpful”, and that Marx praised the ZdK’s position paper for its many “theological and socially significant statements on the family”.

When the Family Synod was first announced and ever since, the Vatican and others have insisted that the intention was to debate and refine pastoral practice – not to change or even discuss doctrine. It’s becoming clearer than ever though, that there is a growing awareness that the need for doctrinal change will have to be seriously addresses, whether at the synod, or later. Cardinal Marx’s acknowledgement that theological dialogue with lay people is an impressive example of that.

For a report on Cardinal Marx’s response, see The Tablet News, (25th May), or for the full German text of the position paper, see the ZdK website

German Gay Clergy Win Right to Live with Partners

News from Germany:

Protestant churches in northern Germany have voted to allow gay pastors to live in church residences with their same-sex partners for the first time.

The rule change from the two-year-old Northern Church – a union of Protestant churches –  was voted in almost unanimously by a summit in Lübeck on Friday by 156 votes to two.

  It states that as long as a prospective pastor and his or her same-sex partner are in a “recognized life partnership” (the equivalent of a UK civil partnership), the pair are to be treated the same as heterosexual couples when being considered for entering a parish residence.

  The right to live in the clergy’s residence is a “symbol” according to Pastor Mathias Benckert, a spokesman for the Northern Church.

  Benckert told The Local: “The principles of trust, care, reliability and commitment, all the things that would need to be part of a pastor’s marriage – these things also go for a registered life partnership,” he said.

  The rules guaranteed that clergy, whether gay or straight, would only be chosen if the parish council and the regional supervisor, whose job it is to nominate them, agreed.

  The model allows conservative and liberal elements of the church to form a consensus, Benckert said, as if the congregation is not happy with a prospective clergyman or woman, they will not be selected.

– full report at The Local

Germans Support Marriage Equality – Poll

Nearly three quarters of Germans support same-sex marriage, according to a poll published on Wednesday, as Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives weigh up extending more rights to homosexual couples ahead of a September election.

Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit (first row 2nd R), U.S. Ambassador to Germany
Philip Murphy (first row 3rd R), Britain’s ambassador to Germany Simon
McDonald (first row L) and the Green Party parliamentary faction co-leader
Renate Kuenast (first row 2nd L) open the Christopher Street Day (CSD)
parade in Berlin, June 23, 2012. The annual street parade parade is a celebration of
lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender lifestyles and
denounces discrimination and exclusion.
Nearly three quarters of Germans support same-sex marriage, according to a poll published on Wednesday, as Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives weigh up extending more rights to homosexual couples ahead of a September election.
The survey for RTL television and Stern magazine suggested 74 percent of Germans were in favour of allowing homosexuals to marry and 23 percent against.
Support is strongest among people voting for the opposition Greens and centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) but even among those backing Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), almost two-thirds were in favour, the poll showed.
The CDU wants to boost its appeal among urban voters as it gears up for this year’s vote.
Merkel’s government is preparing to amend the law to grant same-sex couples greater adoption rights after Germany‘s constitutional court ruled last week that gay people should be allowed to adopt a child already adopted by their partner. Heterosexual couples already have the right.
The court has given the government until July 2014 to amend the law.
Last weekend, a close Merkel ally hinted that the party may also be ready to abandon its opposition to giving gay couples the same preferential tax treatment as married heterosexuals.
Homosexuals in Germany can form civil partnerships but cannot marry. Opposition parties accuse the CDU, staunch advocates of traditional family values, of dragging their feet on gay rights.
The CDU’s more conservative Bavaria-based sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), has warned against rushing to change the law.
Earlier this month, the lower houses of parliament in both France and Britain voted in favour of gay marriage.
(Reporting by Gareth Jones; Editing by Tom Pfeiffer)

Germany: Gay adoption laws strengthened for civil partners

Germany’s highest court ruled today that one member of a civil partnership should be able to adopt their partner’s stepchild or adopted child.

Until now, same-sex couples could only adopt their partner’s biological child.
The new gay adoption laws are now in line with rules that apply to heterosexual couples and judges ruled that this was discriminatory.
Government legislation is to be drawn up by June 2014.
The historic ruling has been hailed as “a breakthrough in equal treatment” by Volker Beck, an openly gay senior lawmaker with Germany’s opposition Green Party.
However, the ruling only means that same-sex couples can adopt the same child on an individual basis and not as a couple and they still cannot adopt unrelated children.
“Today’s decision marks a historic step finally to put rainbow families in Germany on a comprehensive, secure legal footing,” Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said. “Full adoption must be the next step.”
Same-sex civil partnerships have been legal in Germany since 2001.
In August, German Chancellor Angela Merkel rejected calls to give to LGBT�couples�the tax breaks�enjoyed�by heterosexual married�couples.