Headlines > Chaput calls on Marx to be clear about gay blessings

08 February 2018 | by Christa Pongratz-Lippitt , James Roberts , CNS

Chaput calls on Marx to be clear about gay blessings

Chaput calls on Marx to be clear about gay blessings

The German bishops' conference has now released an English translation of Cardinal Marx's comments

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia has urged the president of the German bishops' conference to clarify remarks he made last week regarding the pastoral care and blessing of gay couples. During a radio interview on 3 February Cardinal Reinhard Marx urged priests to provide better pastoral care to Catholics who are homosexual, but he said, "general solutions …  would not be right", when asked if he could imagine the Catholic Church blessing gay couples. His remarks were interpreted as saying the blessing of gay couples should be left to the discretion of individual priests. The Tablet has translated the interview from the German, and what was said was as follows.

The interviewer asked: “So you can imagine that there is a way of blessing homosexual couples in the Roman Catholic Church?”

Cardinal Marx replied: “Yes [I can imagine that]. There are no general solutions. They would not be right in my opinion, as this is a matter for individual pastoral cases. And that also applies to other cases that we cannot regulate, as we have no regulations. But that doesn’t mean that nothing is happening. Surely one really must leave that to the individual, local priest and the accompaniment on the spot. There one can then discuss – in the course of the accompaniment – how one can handle the situation, but I would leave that strictly in the pastoral field.”

While stressing the importance of this pastoral encouragement by priests Marx said: “How that should be done publicly and liturgically is quite a different matter. Those are things where restraint is called for and which we must think about very carefully.”

In response to varying reports of Marx’s remarks in the English-speaking world, the German bishops’ conference took the unusual step on 7 February of releasing an English translation of Marx's comments. In the interview, the journalist said many people believe the Church should bless gay unions, ordain women to the diaconate and end obligatory celibacy for priests in the Latin-rite church.

According to the bishops' conference translation, Cardinal Marx said he did not believe those changes were what the Church needs most today. “Rather, the question to be asked is how the Church can meet the challenges posed by the new circumstances of life today - but also by new insights, of course. For example, in the field of pastoral work, pastoral care.”

Following the teaching and example of Pope Francis in pastoral care, he said, according to the bishops’ conference, “we have to consider the situation of the individual, his life history, his biography, the disruptions he goes through, the hopes that arise, the relationships he lives in – or she lives in. We have to take this more seriously and have to try harder to accompany people in their circumstances of life.”

The same is true in ministering to people who are homosexual, he said. In the bishops’ conference translation, he went on: “We must be pastorally close to those who are in need of pastoral care and also want it. And one must also encourage priests and pastoral workers to give people encouragement in concrete situations. I do not really see any problems there. An entirely different question is how this is to be done publicly and liturgically. These are things you have to be careful about, and reflect on them in a good way.”

While excluding “general solutions” such as a public ritual, Cardinal Marx said, again in the bishops’ conference translation: “that does not mean that nothing happens, but I really have to leave that to the pastor on the ground, accompanying an individual person with pastoral care. There you can discuss things, as is currently being debated, and consider: How can a pastoral worker deal with it? However, I really would emphatically leave that to the pastoral field and the particular, individual case at hand, and not demand any sets of rules again – there are things that cannot be regulated.”

The translation published on 7 February, in the English-speaking world only, was in response to the widespread interpretation of these remarks as suggesting that how a priest accompanied a homosexual couple pastorally and liturgically must be left to the individual priest. 

The coverage led Archbishop Chaput to write a blog encouraging bishops to be clear about what they intend or don’t intend to suggest on the subject. He wrote: “Any such ‘blessing rite’ would cooperate in a morally forbidden act, no matter how sincere the persons seeking the blessing. Such a rite would undermine the Catholic witness on the nature of marriage and the family. It would confuse and mislead the faithful. And it would wound the unity of our Church, because it could not be ignored or met with silence.”

A spokesman for the German bishops' conference said the cardinal was unavailable for further interviews.



Pic: Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich-Freising, president of the German bishops' conference, celebrates Mass in 2017 during the opening of the annual meeting of Germany's bishops at the cathedral in Cologne. (CNS photo/Sascha Steinbach, EPA) 

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