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Cardinal Marx: Issues of Celibacy & “Sexual Orientation” Will Receive “Synodal” Clarification

LIGEN, Germany, March 14, 2019—Issues of celibacy and “sexual orientation” will receive clarification within a “binding synodal path” in Germany, says Cardinal Reinhard Marx in remarks to katholisch.de after the conclusion of the spring conference of German Bishops, Thursday.

Emphasizing the need for more “theological discoveries while integrating modern humanities”, he added that the intimate personal significance of sexuality in modern day culture had yet to be fully understood by the Church.

“We feel how often we are unable to speak in questions about today’s sexual behavior,” he said while commenting on whether the sex abuse catastrophe in the Church was connected to the rigors and sacrifice needed for priestly celibacy. While for the Cardinal, it seems, the notion of celibacy is a valued “expression of religious commitment to God,” the issue of “sexual freedom” is intrinsic to the “inner freedom of faith and orientation to the example of Jesus Christ”. In other words, the issue of whether or not clerical celibacy is “realistic” to answer to modern challenges in the German church is now one open to debate in the spirit of synodality.

The German Cardinal further proposed that through such “synodal paths”, the “clericalism” that has been proposed by the Vatican (including Pope Francis) as the catalyst of the catastrophic sex abuse scandal rocking the Church, would be rectified. “What needs to be done is to achieve the necessary power reduction—in order to build a more just and legally binding order to clear the synodal path” for special ecclesial courts to address cases of sexual abuse, Cardinal Marx surmised. The spirit of “synodality”, however, did not mean that such measures would involve the canonical application for an assembly of actual synods. To do so would mean an application to Rome, and as Cardinal Marx explained, “We have not yet started that process, but we do not want to wait anymore (to enact solutions).” Considering the strong influence of the German Bishops Council, in the Vatican and beyond, such “synodal paths” as proposed by them will surely find reflection in other Bishops conferences in the months ahead.

According to Cardinal Marx, more on what these “synodal paths” and solutions will look like will be addressed in further conferences for the German Bishops, this year, but three “forums” have already been confirmed. Bishop Karl-Heinz Wiesemann of Speyer will be responsible for the forum “Power, Participation, Separation of Powers”; Bishop Franz-Josef Bode of Osnabrück will head the forum for “Sexual Morals” and Bishop Felix Genn of Münster will head a forum for “Formation of Priestly Life”.

Commenting on how many Catholics are deeply disturbed by the little actionable solutions following the recent Vatican Summit on Sex Abuse, the German Cardinal seemed to echo the theme declared by many of his brother Cardinals, including Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich— that of “radical listening”. ”We see and hear you, your criticisms, worries, needs, doubts and your demands.” I sincerely tell you: We understand.”

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