Cardinal Marx: ‘The Catechism is not set in stone. One is also allowed to doubt what it says’.
Hamburg, Germany, Mar 31, 2022 / 08:10 am (CNA).
According to CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, the cardinal made the remarks in a seven-page spread in the weekly current affairs magazine Stern on March 31.
Marx, the archbishop of Munich and Freising, is a member of Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinal Advisers and president of the Vatican’s Council for the Economy, and is one of Europe’s most powerful Catholic leaders.
In response to a query about “how homosexual, queer, or trans people are to be accommodated in Catholic teaching,” he mentioned the Catechism.
“An inclusive ethic, as we perceive it, is not about being lax — as some suggest,” he said. It’s about something else: a face-to-face interaction and mutual respect. The worth of love is demonstrated in the relationship; in not treating the other person as an object, in not exploiting or demeaning the other, and in being loyal and dependable to one another. The Catechism is not infallible. It’s also possible to have doubts about what it says..”
“We discussed these questions during the family synod,” he said, “but there was reluctance to write anything down.” Even back then, I said, “There are people who are in a sexually expressed intimate love relationship.” Are we really going to claim this isn’t worth anything? Sure, some people want sexuality to be restricted to procreation, but what do they say to people who are unable to have children?”
Marx’s remarks are part of a rising movement within the German Church to modify the Catechism’s homosexuality stance.
Bishop Georg Bätzing, who succeeded Marx as leader of the German bishops’ conference earlier this month, agreed with a journalist’s allegation that “no one” followed the Church’s teaching that sexuality should only be exercised within marriage.
“That’s true,” Bätzing said. “And we have to somewhat change the Catechism on this matter. Sexuality is a gift from God. And not a sin.”
He was speaking after participants in the German “Synodal Way” voted in favor of draft documents calling for same-sex blessings and the revision of Catholic teaching on homosexuality.
Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, S.J., another senior European Church official, was asked by the German Catholic news agency KNA in February how he dealt with “the Church teaching that homosexuality is a sin.”
“I believe this is incorrect,” he responded. However, I feel we are thinking ahead in terms of doctrine here. This could lead to a change in doctrine, based on how the pope has expressed himself in the past. Because I believe this teaching’s sociological-scientific underpinning is no longer valid.”
Hollerich, the archbishop of Luxembourg, will play a central role in the upcoming Synod on Synodality in Rome, serving as relator general. He is also president of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE).
The Catechism, which Pope John Paul II described as “a sure norm for teaching the faith,” says: “Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’ They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.”
“The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.”
It continues: “Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.”
“I speak of the primacy of love, especially in sexual encounters. But I must admit that 10 or 15 years ago I myself could not have imagined that one day I would celebrate this service in this way. Now I was very much looking forward to it.”
Cardinal Marx’s interviewer noted that there was a rainbow flag before the altar at the Mass. He was asked whether Rome had contacted him about it.
“In the past few years, I have received several letters on the subject, but I think I am doing the right thing,” he said.
“I’ve felt freer to say what I think in recent years, and I want to move Church teaching forward. The Church is also changing, moving with the times: LGBTQ+ people are part of creation and loved by God, and we are challenged to stand against discrimination.”
“The Church may be slower in some things, but that is a development that is happening everywhere. Most companies just a few years ago would not have accepted openly homosexual board members.”
When the interviewer said that no company defined homosexuality as a sin in its statutes, Marx said: “What is it with you and sin all the time? It has to be about the quality of relationships. This issue has not been adequately discussed by some in the Church, you are right.”
“But sin means turning away from God, from the Gospel, and you can’t impute that to all people who people who live same-sex love and, on top of that, say: away with them.”
Marx was also asked if he had ever blessed a same-sex couple.
He replied: “A few years ago in Los Angeles, after a service where I preached on unity and diversity, two people came to meet me and asked for my blessing. I did it. This was not a wedding ceremony, after all. We cannot offer the sacrament of marriage.”
The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reaffirmed in March 2021 that the Catholic Church does not have the power to bless unions of people of the same sex.
The Vatican statement, issued with the approval of Pope Francis, sparked protests in the German-speaking Catholic world.
A group of more than 200 theology professors signed a petition denouncing the Vatican, and other bishops indicated support for blessings of same-sex couples. Churches also exhibited LGBT pride flags.
Last May, priests and pastoral workers across Germany launched a protest day in which they held blessing rituals for same-sex couples.
At one point, Marx’s interviewer implied that the cardinal had “no sexuality.”
“Of course I am — like everyone else — a sexual person,” said the 68-year-old Church leader. “I also have a sexuality, even though I am not in a relationship.”