Churches in Germany are flying LGBT pride flags in response to the Vatican’s ‘no’ to same-sex blessings./ Rudolf Gehrig/CNA Deutsch.
A German Catholic diocese has hosted an online event declaring that same-sex blessings are a matter of “not if, but how.”
The Diocese of Essen, in Germany’s industrial Ruhr area, held the conference, entitled “Blessings for all. Blessing celebrations for same-sex couples,” ahead of a nationwide event on May 10 in defiance of the Vatican’s “no” to same-sex blessings.
The diocese said in a May 3 post on its website that around 100 people took part in the conference. Among them were theologians who, it said, argued that “the Church must move out of the premodern era and embrace the current state of knowledge of science and society.”
The report noted that “currently some dioceses are jointly developing a handout on the topic [of same-sex blessings], which will also include a proposal on how to conduct a blessing celebration.”
One participating professor suggested that blessings of homosexual unions should take the form of comprehensive and festive liturgies, including the proclamation of the word, a prayer of blessing, intercessions, and the exchange of rings.
“Blessing celebrations are high forms of Christian liturgy, comparable to baptism,” Benedikt Kranemann said.
CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, reported that Essen’s Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck said in an interview last month that he would “not suspend a priest in his diocese or impose other Church penalties on him” if the cleric blesses same-sex couples.
Essen diocese noted that its vicar general, Fr. Klaus Pfeffer, addressed the virtual conference.
It said: “Deeply hurtful, wounding, overshadowing entire life stories: according to the impression of Essen’s vicar general Klaus Pfeffer, this is how the Church acts when it judges the lives of homosexual couples, refuses to bless them and dares to declare the binding, faithful love of two people a sin.”
“This finally needs to end: Not if, but how blessing celebrations for homosexual couples can be conducted in the church was the focus of the digital symposium ‘Blessing for all. Blessing celebrations for same-sex couples’ on Friday, April 30, in the Diocese of Essen.”
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) published a “Responsum ad dubium” March 15 replying to the question, “does the Church have the power to give the blessing to unions of persons of the same sex?” The CDF answered, “Negative,” outlining its reasoning in an explanatory note and accompanying commentary.
The Vatican statement, issued with the approval of Pope Francis, sparked protests in the German-speaking Catholic world. A number of bishops expressed support for blessings of same-sex couples, while churches displayed LGBT pride flags, and a group of more than 200 theology professors signed a statement criticizing the Vatican.
Catholic pastoral workers are organizing a day of protest on May 10. The event is known as “Segnungsgottesdiensten für Liebende,” or “blessing services for lovers.” The organizers, who are using the hashtag “#liebegewinnt” (“love wins”), hope that same-sex couples across Germany will take part in the event.
Several German bishops have previously spoken in favor of blessings for same-sex couples, including Overbeck, bishops’ conference chairman Georg Bätzing (Limburg), Helmut Dieser (Aachen), Reinhard Marx (Munich and Freising), Franz-Josef Bode (Osnabrück), Peter Kohlgraf (Mainz), and Heinrich Timmerevers (Dresden-Meissen).
But other bishops have welcomed the CDF’s intervention. Among them are Rainer Maria Woelki (Cologne), Stephan Burger (Freiburg), Ulrich Neymeyr (Erfurt), Gregor Maria Hanke (Eichstätt), Wolfgang Ipolt (Görlitz), Stefan Oster (Passau), and Rudolf Voderholzer (Regensburg).
Bätzing said last week that the day of protest was not a “helpful sign.”
The bishops’ conference chairman said that blessing services were “not suitable as an instrument for Church-political demonstrations or protest actions.”