The Tablet Blog
Cardinal Woelki's refusal of a pro-gay award sends out sad messageAbigail Frymann
19 October 2012, 9:00
Any church leader will be torn between reaching out to his flock pastorally and teaching holiness, either by word or example. Obviously in some ideal world we don't yet live in, those two ideals are fused, but in the less than perfect here and now they often feel quite distinct.
On Monday we learned that the Cardinal Archbishop of Berlin had been nominated for a Respect Award by the Alliance Against Homophobia. Rainer Maria Woelki, at 55 the world's youngest cardinal, was praised by the group for speaking out in favour of a 'new cooperation with homosexuals in society' and officially meeting the Association for Gays and Lesbians for talks. This, the alliance said, had 'broken the tension between his Church and gays and lesbians and had laid the foundations for further exchange and for a constructive dialogue'.
It was all going so well. So many 'gay issues' have become major battlefields with the Churches - gay marriage, gay adoption, still, fundamentally, any kind of 'active' gay relationship. Here was a man leading the Catholic Church in Berlin, the third best gay-friendly destination in Europe according to the Lonely Planet website (after Brighton and Amsterdam). The city's mayor, Klaus Wowereit, is openly gay. There is a Gay-Lesbian Street Fair every June. And in May this year at the big church festival Katholikentag the cardinal acknowledged that the Church saw the relationship between a man and a woman as the basis for creation, but added that it was time to think further about the Church's attitude toward same-sex relationships.
'When two homosexuals take responsibility for one another, if they deal with each other in a faithful and long-term way, then you have to see it in the same way as heterosexual relationships'. His press spokesman, Stefan Förner, stressed the cardinal was not alluding to marriage.
Accepting the spokesman's caveat, the cardinal nevertheless gave the impression of being matter-of-fact rather than finger-wagging. And he was articulating the attitude many believers find themselves showing quite naturally towards their gay and lesbian friends.
And diplomatic bridge-building does not go amiss after the missile-throwing by various outspoken Scots hierarchy (and some confreres in the US and France) desperately trying to fend off initiatives to legalise gay marriage.
But as The Tablet was about to go to press on Wednesday, news came through that Woelki had declined the nomination. A colleague instantly said: 'I wondered who has rung him up?'
Indeed, the cardinal said that as a Catholic Christian, respect for all human beings was a matter of course and he did not want to be rewarded for something that was a matter of course.
But clearly it's not the case, otherwise the cardinal's actions wouldn't have got the anti-homophobia group so excited. The 'gay issue' is not going to go away and only time will tell how the Churches' fights over issues to do with homosexuality will look in hindsight. Yes it's complicated, yes the pro-gay lobby can be aggressive (forcing the Christian B&B owners who turned away a gay couple to pay out £3,600 in damages this week is harsh), but the Church trying to disassociate itself from gays serves no one. The dialogue the cardinal plays down as a matter of course is urgently needed.
Abigail Frymann is The Tablet's Online and acting Foreign Editor
10 November 2012 5:32 (11 of 11)
Dean, even if we assume (and we will never know in this life) that Saville is guilty of all the (conveniently post-mortem) accusations which have now been made against him, the damage done by them would be minor compared to thw world-scale damage which would have been done by the gay lobby if the Cardinal had accepted this farcical award, which has nothing to do with 'speaking out for Chrisitan understand [sic] and love towards ALL people regardless of sexual orientation [sic]' which all Catholic bishops do reepeatedly, and everything to do with attempting to destroy the Catholic Church.
9 November 2012 12:34 (10 of 11)
So it is wrong to accept an award for speaking out for Chrisitan understand and love towards ALL people regardless of sexual orientation, but it is OK to given a man who appears to become one of the world's worse ever Pedophile a Catholic Knighthood and not remove it despite the revelations?? (Using the excuse that as he has died it has expired - The award will still be against his name when his history is studied). I could be mistaken but there seems to be a duplicity of attitudes here somewhere
8 November 2012 11:25 (9 of 11)
It's plain as daylight that the gay lobby is offering this award as a 'divide and conquer' tactic. If the cardinal had accepted it they would have paraded his photo receiving it saying 'look, some Catholic leaders are pro-gay!' The Cardinal is obviously far too intelligent to fall for that one.
31 October 2012 9:00 (8 of 11)
Kudos to the Cardinal for not wanting to accept the award. Doing so would send a wrong message that the Church condones such immoral behavior. Seems the European moral compass is lost for good in the name of equality and social justice. As an institution of Christ on earth, the Church must stand up to the very basic teachings entrusted to her by the Lord and bravely say that such behavior is a disorder and contrary to what the Divine Almighty wants.
27 October 2012 0:51 (7 of 11)
Asher Lev: what part of the modified 'may' don't you understand?
26 October 2012 14:01 (6 of 11)
How sad that some Christians cannot take the words of other Christians for what they are without needing to see conspiracies everywhere. The archbishop of Berlin is simply restating Catholic teaching as is the archbishop of Edinburgh.
24 October 2012 19:28 (5 of 11)
@Jim McCrea The fact that you have no justification for making such an assertion says more about your attitude to the Church than it does about the 'the current state of organizational Catholicism'.
24 October 2012 10:49 (4 of 11)
As an English Catholic who has been living in Berlin for 34 years now I would like to assure readers that Cardinal WÃ¶lki is very much his own - extremely clever - man. Apart from the fact that what he said about not being rewarded for something that is an inherent part of his Christian belief rings true, he did not want to be used by this group and presented as a champion of same-sex marriage.
24 October 2012 1:58 (3 of 11)
Does this mean that members of the Catholic hierarchy should only accept awards if the organisation giving the award operates in complete accord with the teachings of the Catholic Church? If such is to be the case then it is difficult to see that any awards from organisations other than the Catholic Church itself can be accepted.
20 October 2012 23:55 (2 of 11)
The fact that this cardinal may have been intimidated by 'powers that be' says more about the current state of organizational Catholicism than any pious pronouncements from popes or any other ecclesiastics.
20 October 2012 19:11 (1 of 11)
At a guess, he probably realised that accepting the award was some kind of a trap and wisely avoided it.