Cardinal Reinhard Marx’s and Bishop Franz-Josef Bode’s recent plea in favor of blessings for homosexual partnerships has provoked shock and dismay around the world.
However, the démarche of the two Germans is not an isolated act. On a broad front, progressivism is sounding the attack against the traditional teaching of the Church.
This was most clearly expressed by none other than the Vatican secretary of state, Pietro Parolin. He speaks about a veritable “paradigm shift in morality,” based on a liberal interpretation of the apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia. Cardinal Parolin explained in an interview with Vatican Radio concerning Amoris:
It’s a paradigm change, and the text itself insists on this, that’s what is asked of us – this new spirit, this new approach! So every change always brings difficulties, but these difficulties have to be dealt with and faced with commitment.
The cardinal secretary of state did not reveal in the interview how this paradigm shift would take shape. Others do that work for him. For example, the Italian moral theologian Maurizio Chiodi said at a lecture in mid-December 2017 at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome that artificial contraception is in certain situations not only acceptable, but even required.
Chiodi is anything but a lightweight. He teaches moral theology at the Catholic Faculty of the University of Milan. In June 2017, he was appointed to the Pontifical Academy for Life. He did not stop at the December Gregorian lecture; since then, he has been able to express his views several times in the daily newspaper Avvenire (the official organ of the Italian Episcopal Conference), as well as in L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s newspaper.
His talk was considered by many the beginning of the deconstruction of the encyclical Humanae Vitae by Pope Paul VI from the year 1968. In this encyclical, the pope affirmed Catholic sexual morality and the Church’s teaching on marriage and family. In particular, he confirmed that sexual intercourse is ethically permissible only in a validly contracted marriage – between a man and a woman (which must be added today). The sexual act must also be open to reproduction, which is why artificial contraception is prohibited. This teaching was confirmed by Pope John Paul II in 1981 in the apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio.
These two papal writings, Humanae Vitae and Familiaris Consortio, have been the biggest obstacles for progressivism in reshaping moral theology. Now, thanks to Amoris Laetitia, they may well have come to the point of breaking with traditional teachings, which would require the elimination of Humanae Vitae.
Kathpress, the Catholic Press Agency in Austria, reported about aspirations in this regard and steps in this direction:
Whether the Vatican will actually soon come up with a new interpretation of the “pill encyclical” is uncertain. The head of the Archive of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Alejandro Cifres, recently confirmed to the news agency Kathpress the fact that a commission on behalf of the pope investigates the genesis of Humanae Vitae.
The debate that followed the publication of Amoris Laetitia was unique in Church history in its dimension, sharpness, and polemics. The positions could not be more contrary: while some say nothing has changed in the teaching of the Church, others say the apostolic exhortation breaks with traditional doctrine.
No matter where one stands on Amoris Laetitia, one has to realize that the second group is currently anxious to create facts. Otherwise, one cannot understand the war cry of Cardinal Parolin toward a paradigm change in moral teaching.
As far as progressivism is concerned, one can say: “When Rome calls into the (German) forest, it echoes back out of Munich, Mainz, and Berlin.” Speaking just about Cardinal Marx, he has long been active in favor of the homo-agenda.
In his Whitsun sermon in 2015, Marx spoke out in favor of a welcoming culture for everybody and then also mentioned homosexuals:
… [t]he North Germans and the Bavarians, the middle class and the Hartz IV recipients [people with unemployment benefit], the unemployed and the directors of the banks, the Greens [members of the Green Party] and the Blacks [members of the Christian Democratic Party CDU], the homosexuals and heterosexuals, divorced and spouses, refugees and mountain shooters.
During the family synod in the fall of 2015, Cardinal Marx said the Church should even apologize to homosexuals. The demand for blessings of homosexual couples is therefore not entirely surprising.
The only person who can end the post-Amoris chaos is the pope himself. But he does not seem to be willing to clarify. Dr. Markus Büning, an author who supported the Francis-friendly initiative “Pro Pope Francis” last year, wrote:
In my view, it is now clearly up to him who holds the highest teaching office in the Universal Church – the pope. If he is silent with regard to such a demand – supposing that he knows of this bold demand of the C8 [sic] – Cardinal Marx [member of the pope’s council of nine cardinals] – one necessarily has to conclude that he approves of it. Then also the pope has a problem! … [Should] the pope do it [approve of Marx’s approach], he would not fulfill his office and mission to preserve the unity of the Universal Church in questions of Faith and Morals in a credible manner.
The pope, however, recently indirectly encouraged progressivism in his apostolic constitution Veritatis Gaudium – “On the Ecclesial Universities and Faculties” (published on January 29, 2018) to continue addressing academicians with a call for a “cultural revolution” (footnotes omitted):
This vast and pressing task requires, on the cultural level of academic training and scientific study, a broad and generous effort at a radical paradigm shift, or rather – dare I say – at “a bold cultural revolution.” In this effort, the worldwide network of ecclesiastical universities and faculties is called to offer the decisive contribution of leaven, salt and light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the living Tradition of the Church, which is ever open to new situations and ideas.
No word was there addressed to the progressivists to moderate or to stick to traditional teachings.
The “normal Catholic” is increasingly confused by this panorama. But there is no reason to be confused, because many dignitaries still spread and defend the church’s unfailing and unchangeable teaching on sexuality, marriage, and the family. Lately, the bishops of Kazakhstan did so with the “confession of immutable truths about sacramental marriage.” In this document, it is made clear:
The constant Magisterium of the Church, beginning with the teachings of the Apostles and of all the Supreme Pontiffs, has preserved and faithfully transmitted both in the doctrine (in theory) and in the sacramental discipline (in practice) in an unequivocal way, without any shadow of doubt and always in the same sense and in the same meaning (eodem sensu eademque sententia), the crystalline teaching of Christ concerning the indissolubility of marriage.
Editor’s note: The above article was first published in German, on Mathias von Gersdorff’s own blog. We print it here in English, as submitted by the author himself.
Mathias von Gersdorff was born in Santiago de Chile in 1964. He studied economics in Heidelberg and Bonn and graduated 1989. He worked several years as a banker in London and Frankfurt/Main. From 1990 he became an activist in Germany’s Pro-Life movement (Aktion SOS Leben) and in the German Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property – TFP. Since 1993 he coordinated the activities of the campaign “Kinder in Gefahr” against pornography, blasphemy, and violence in the media. During the government of Gerhard Schröder he organized many campaigns against “homosexual marriage”.
Mathias v. Gersdorff is the author of many books about family and media issues. He also writes regularly for many newsletters and is the editor of several publications. He is the president of the German Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property – TFP.