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Vatican News on the de Kesel Case: Moral Laws Turn into Recommendations

In light of Cardinal Eijk’s recent stunning remarks about the pope’s failure to clearly teach the doctrine of the Church with regard to the intercommunion debate, it might be worthwhile to consider another example of such a failure also coming out of Rome these days. Vatican News reports on Cardinal Jozef de Kesel’s approach to homosexuality in a way that seems to replace Commandments with recommendations. The German section of Vatican News seems more and more frequently to be a source of moral confusion.

As some of our readers might have heard, de Kesel – who had been made a cardinal by Pope Francis in 2016 in spite of the fact that he had already publicly promoted homosexuality – is now considering the establishment of a special liturgical rite for homosexual couples. While he sees it as impermissible to have a kind of a blessing for them, he nevertheless envisions the possibility of a form of thanksgiving or prayer liturgy for homosexual couples.

This information can be found in an article which was published by the official organ of the Vatican, Vatican News, in its German section, an outlet which was formerly called Radio Vatikan. That section of the Vatican media had been in the headlines in the past for promoting clearly controversial views and even salacious pictures, for example when depicting two kissing women in their report on homosexuality. In that same report, in 2015, there was quoted an Italian theologian, Dr. Martin Lintner, as saying: “The Church’s sexual morality is changing,” and theology and the Magisterium “perceive sexuality more and more in its personal and integral [sic] dimension.”

The then-Radio Vatikan continued its report on Lintner by adding that the discussions during the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops last fall 2014 – as well as the recent working paper for the upcoming Synod on the Family in October 2015 –  manifoldly show, according to Lintner, a “change of mind” in the Church’s dealing with homosexual persons.

Lintner is being quoted as saying: “The Church becomes more sensible toward the experiences of suffering by the concerned persons and by families in which homosexual persons are living.” This putative development, moreover, is “significant, even if the Church stresses that a homosexual partnership has to remain different from a marriage.”

At the time, this article caused an outcry of indignation – not only for its airing heterodox views, but also because of the depiction of a female couple kissing. Yet, Father Bernd Hagenkord, S.J., then and still the head of the German section of the Vatican media, did not repent for this presentation, but, rather, thought only that the picture was ill-chosen “because it does not really fit the article.” “But [it is] not really a scandal,” he added.

That came then from the same man who only recently was caught spreading the false claim that Pope emeritus Benedict XVI had given his consent to the truncated publication of his private letter to Monsignor Dario Viganò, something that at the time caused the “Lettergate” scandal – a scandal which Hagenkord sought to downplay. Hagenkord later removed that false claim from his Vatican News blog, but without any apology; subsequently, the Vatican-based information service Il Sismografo openly accused him of manipulation.

Still, a course-correction cannot be detected in the Vatican News section under the leadership of Father Hagenkord. Now, in this new blunder, Vatican News Germany reports on this de Kesel push for a sort of liturgy honoring homosexual couples which stands in utter opposition to the Church’s teaching, and this 5 May report only adds one sentence: “The official [sic] Church’s doctrine recommends continence to homosexuals.” (“Die offizielle katholische Kirchenlehre empfiehlt Homosexuellen Enthaltsamkeit.”)


Has the Catholic Church effectively become an organization that issues official “recommendations for a good and healthy life,”? And, what about the expression “official doctrine”? Is there then to be found in the Church also an “unofficial” doctrine concerning homosexuality? In addition, one wonders whether the Church really teaches that two homosexuals may live together like a couple, so long as they merely abstain from sexual acts.

Should not the Church, as Cardinal Eijk has just said, present “the clear doctrine and practice of the Church”? That is, the teaching that homosexual acts are gravely sinful, and that they endanger, not only the bodily health, but most importantly also the salvation of the souls involved in such acts?

It is time that Father Bernd Hagenkord – who is now even the managing director of the entire Vatican News outlet and has thus an even more prominent place within the Vatican media than he had in 2015 – be asked to leave his position and to stop this further confusing of the faithful.

But, then again, this might only take place when Pope Francis himself has a change of mind, or resigns, or is otherwise justly removed from office.

Here it is worth repeating what Cardinal Eijk so candidly said in his own commentary concerning Pope Francis’ own omission to teach the “clear doctrine and practice of the Church” with regard to intercommunion:

Observing that the bishops and, above all, the Successor of Peter fail to maintain and transmit faithfully and in unity the deposit of faith contained in Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, I cannot help but think of Article 675 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

“The Church’s ultimate trial

Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the ‘mystery of iniquity’ in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth.”

This post has been updated.


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