The recent statements made by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the president of the German Bishops’ Conference and papal counselor, concerning the possibility, even if only in some parishes, of blessing same-sex couples has caused quite a stir in the Catholic world. Since we ourselves reported on this specific interview, we have been following this discussion closely.
First, Catholic News Agency (CNA) ran an article about this 3 February Marx interview, entitled “Cardinal Marx endorses blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples,” which was then retitled to “Cardinal Marx discusses blessings for same-sex couples.” The change of title was due to an intervention by the German Bishops’ Conference, asking CNA to publish the bishops’ own English translation of a part of that particular 3 February interview with Marx. (The bishops’ conference’s intervention then led to some additional articles, one of them written under the somewhat misleading title “German cardinal urges pastoral care but not blessing of gay couples.”) But even one of the official websites of the Vatican, Radio Vatikan, entitled its own report on the matter with these words: “Marx: Blessing of homosexual couples in individual cases possible.”
We stand by our own earlier report: while Cardinal Marx did not explicitly invite a general rule for the blessing of same-sex couples, he claimed that this question should be dealt with on the local basis, on a case-by-case level, thus opening up that possibility in general. Nowhere in his interview did he make it clear that such blessings are forbidden within the Catholic Church. Additionally, Cardinal Marx never came out with a personal denial of or correction to his previous 3 February interview, and he let it be known that he is not available for further interviews on the matter.
While this development of a story is in itself worth reporting, even more important is the reflective reaction of some fine European journalists to this Marx statement. Both the Italian journalist Marco Tosatti and the German journalist Mathias von Gersdorff have now made calls upon either the pope or the German Bishops’ Conference to respond publicly to the quite heterodox ideas of Cardinal Marx, who is also a member of the pope’s advisory Council of Nine Cardinals. Tosatti is asking now where “Rome is in all of this.” He adds: “The confusion is created by the one who ought to give directions and clarity, and who, at the highest level, having the obligation to speak, remains silent.” The pope is here called to his duty.
Mathias von Gersdorff addresses the problem in his own country, Germany. He calls upon the German bishops to dismiss Cardinal Marx from his presidency when they meet, in a few days, for their Spring Assembly. He quite forcefully says: “The only reasonable reaction by the German bishops should be the dismissal of Cardinal Reinhard Marx as the president of the German Bishops’ Conference!”
We thank these Catholic men for their intellectual forthrightness and clarity, and we are herewith publishing below a translation of Marco Tosatti’s and Mathias von Gersdorff’s own Catholic responses to Cardinal Marx’ new initiative.
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A Blessing for Gay Couples? Marx Says It’s Up to Each Pastor. Cordes Says It’s a Sacrilege. But Is Anyone in Rome Even There?
by Marco Tosatti
An attempt by the German Bishops’ Conference to clarify the declarations made by Cardinal Reinhard Marx to a Bavarian radio station, the Bayerischer Rundfunk, on the theme of blessings for homosexual couples, has had the result of, at best, leaving things just as they were, if not to actually worsen the situation. A few days ago, news agencies and blogs, in particular from overseas, headlined the news that Cardinal Marx, one of the pope’s main counselors, a member of the C9 and president of the German Bishops’ Conference, said the possibility of giving some form of a blessing to homosexual couples is open for discussion.
In the United States, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia called for clarity on the part of all bishops whenever they address this issue, and Cardinal Josef Cordes of Germany, former president of Cor Unum, was very severe in his remarks: “The proposal of Cardinal Marx, which he made to a German news agency, ignores the clear Revelation of God[.] … Neither does Marx mention the fact that homosexuality contradicts the will of God.” Cordes added that the idea of a blessing for homosexual couples is “frighteningly naïve,” because those who request it “do not desire to receive the assistance of God for themselves; rather, they aim at having their request recognized and the acceptance of their homosexual way of living, and of its validation by the Church.” He concluded: “An ecclesial blessing as a confirmation of a relationship that is against the will of God? This seems to be truly a sacrilege.”
As we said at the beginning, in an attempt to throw water on the controversy, the German Bishops’ Conference published an official translation of the interview in English. But in reality, the text of this translation does not seem to deviate much from what was published in recent days on American websites, in particular OnePeterFive, whose translator, Maike Hickson, totally mastered the German.
Marx began by recalling Pope Francis’s call to accompany people more closely in their individual lives, emphasizing the “we ought to be pastorally closer to those, like homosexuals, who need pastoral attention and also desire it.” Thus “we ought to give encouragement and priests and pastoral leaders ought to offer words of encouragement to people in their concrete situations. I do not see any problem with this. A different question is how this encouragement can be done publicly, in a liturgical form; this is where one must be reserved and also reflect on this in a good way.”
The interviewing woman then asked, in a direct manner, if there could be something like a benediction for homosexual couples. Marx responded: “There are no general solutions. Do not think that a general solution would be just, because pastoral care concerns individuals.” There are situations, he explained, in which “we do not have rules, and that does not mean that nothing is happening.” The president of the German Bishops’ Conference added, “I really ought to leave this up to the local pastor and to the one accompanying the person. One can think about this in dialogue, and right now a discussion of this kind is taking place” (a reference to the declarations of Bishop [Franz-Josef] Bode, vice president of the German Bishops’ Conference, on German public radio), “this is how we can address this theme. But I would say emphatically that I would leave this matter in the hands of local pastors, in a very concrete situation, and I would not ask for rules on the matter. There are things which cannot be regulated.”
And so, if we have understood correctly, Cardinal Marx would leave it up to each individual priest to decide whether or not to bless that which is for the Church a comportment and lifestyle, which is not only mistaken, but the source of grave and mortal sin, as Archbishop Chaput and Cardinal Cordes have emphasized.
A patch that is worse than the tear? At first glance, I would say yes. And it is no coincidence that the spokesman for the German Bishops’ Conference has announced that Cardinal Marx is not available for further interviews. But it seems reasonable to ask where Rome is in all this. And don’t tell us that the confusion is being created by journalists and those who oppose this madness that has now become the daily routine. The confusion is created by the one who ought to give directions and clarity, and who, at the highest level, having the obligation to speak, remains silent.
This article has first been published in Italian. It is published here with kind permission by Marco Tosatti and translated by Giuseppe Pellegrino.
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Spring Assembly of the German Bishops: Bishops Should Dismiss Cardinal Marx as Head of the German Bishops’ Conference
by Mathias von Gersdorff
German progressivism must have made up its mind on New Year’s Eve to drive the faithful into a constant state of dismay. First, Bishop Franz-Josef Bode proposed the blessing of homosexual partnerships. Then followed a letter by Cardinal Marx as the head of the Bishops’ Conference in which he praises the work of Donum Vitae [an organization that counsels pregnant women and then hands them the counseling certificate allowing a legal abortion in Germany]. Finally, the cardinal welcomes the idea of blessing homosexual couples “in individual cases.”
Nothing seems to be holy anymore for German progressivism. The faithful have to live in constant expectation of a new attack upon the Church’s teaching on faith and morals.
However, not only are these initiatives themselves concerning, but so is the silence of the German episcopacy.
Already on the occasion of the first statement by Bode, several bishops should have protested. Yet perhaps they considered Bode’s engagement for homosexuals merely as a new attempt to please the left-wing press. For a long time now, Bishop Bode tries to get the media’s attention with the help of his well-aimed breaches of taboos.
But the initiative of Cardinal Marx in favor of the homo agenda has broken the camel’s back!
The Catholic Church in Germany is scandalizing the faithful throughout the world with its constant attacks against the Faith and traditional teaching. These unacceptable insults finally have to stop.
The only reasonable reaction by the German bishops should be the dismissal of Cardinal Reinhard Marx as the President of the German Bishops’ Conference!
This way, the Catholic Church could finally make a mark that here, the Catholic Faith and the Catholic Magisterium still have some worth, and one may not constantly trample upon them.
Germany, once a country that sent missionaries into the whole world, has become a constant cause of attacks against the Catholic Faith.
The bishops have to show the Universal Church that, in Germany, the Catholic Faith is being appreciated and valued. By dismissing Cardinal Reinhard Marx at the upcoming Spring Assembly of the German bishops in Ingolstadt (19-22 February 2018), a good first step would take place.
This article was first published in German. It is published here in English translation, by Dr. Maike Hickson, with permission from Mathias von Gersdorff.