BERLIN – Powerful German Catholic progressives openly challenge a recent Holy See statement that priests cannot bless same-sex unions by offering such blessings during services in about 100 different churches across the country this week.
Blessings at open worship services are the latest refusal by German Catholics against a document released in March by the Vatican’s office of orthodoxy, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which said Catholic clergy cannot bless same-sex unions because God “cannot bless sin. “
The document appealed to conservatives and discouraged advocates for LGBTQ Catholics around the world. But the response has been particularly acute in Germany, where the German Church has been at the forefront of the opening discussion on hot issues such as the Church’s teaching on homosexuality in the context of ‘a formal process of debate and reform.
The dozens of church services celebrating the blessings of gay unions are the latest escalation in tensions between conservatives and progressives that have already raised alarms, mainly from the right, that part of the German church may be headed for schism.
Germany is no stranger to schism: 500 years ago Martin Luther launched the Reformation here.
Pope Francis, who has championed a more decentralized church structure, has already reminded the German hierarchy that it must remain in communion with Rome during its reform process, known as the “synodal path”.
In Berlin, Reverend Jan Korditschke, a Jesuit who works for the diocese prepares adults for baptism and helps the St. Canisius congregation, will lead blessings for queer couples at a worship service on May 16.
“I am convinced that the homosexual orientation is not bad and that homosexual love is not a sin,” Korditschke told The Associated Press in an interview on Friday. “I want to celebrate gay love with these blessings because gay love is good.”
The 44-year-old said it was important for gays and lesbians to be able to show off in the Catholic Church and gain long-term visibility. He said he was not afraid of possible repercussions from senior Church or Vatican officials.
“I support what I am doing, even though it is painful for me not to be able to do it in agreement with the church leaders,” Korditschke said, adding that “my church’s homophobia makes me angry and I’m ashamed of it. “
The head of the German Bishops’ Conference last month criticized the popular initiative for gay blessings called “Liebe Gewinnt” or “Love Wins”.
Limburg bishop Georg Baetzing said the blessings “are not suitable as an instrument for Church political demonstrations or political actions”.
However, the powerful German secular organization, the Central Committee of German Catholics, or ZdK, which has been campaigning for the benefits of homosexuals since 2015, has again positioned itself in their favor. He called the contentious Rome document “not very useful” and explicitly expressed his support for “Love Wins”.
“These are worship celebrations where people express to God what moves them,” Birgit Mock, ZdK spokesperson for family affairs, told AP.
“The fact that they ask for God’s blessing and thank him for all the good in their lives – also for relationships lived with mutual respect and love – is deeply based on the gospel,” said Mock, adding that she herself was planning to attend a church service with homosexual blessings in the western town of Hamm on Monday in which she would pray for “the success of the synodal path in which we, as a Church, recognize sexuality as a positive force ”.
The ZdK has been participating for over a year in the “synodal path” meetings with the German Bishops’ Conference. They must end in the fall. The meetings include discussions on the possibility for priests to marry, the ordination of women and a different understanding of sexuality, among other reforms. The process was initiated as part of the response to revelations of clergy sexual abuse.
“We are struggling in Germany with great seriousness and intensive theological discourse to find the right path,” Mock added. “Things can’t go on the way they did – that’s what the crimes and cover-ups of sexual abuse have shown us.”
“We need systemic changes, including a reassessment of the ecclesiastical morality of sexuality,” Mock said.
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