“The work of the forums is still in progress, so I cannot predict today what suggestions and results they will lead to,” he said, adding that the forums are the setting for theological debates that will lead to resolutions to be voted on by the full Synodal Assembly, consisting of the bishops and members of the lay Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK).
The bishop was speaking ahead of a day of protest on May 10 against the Vatican’s recent “no” to blessings for same-sex couples.
The event, organized by Catholic pastoral workers, is known as “Segnungsgottesdiensten für Liebende,” or “blessing services for lovers.” Organizers hope that same-sex couples across Germany will take part in the event.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) published a “Responsum ad dubium” March 15 replying to the question, “does the Church have the power to give the blessing to unions of persons of the same sex?” The CDF answered, “Negative,” outlining its reasoning in an explanatory note and accompanying commentary.
Bätzing said last week that the day of protest was not a “helpful sign.”
The bishop told ACI Stampa that the issue of blessing same-sex couples was one of many topics to be addressed by the Synodal Way’s forum on sexual morality.
He said: “Homosexual couples, and couples who cannot and do not want to marry in the church, but who nevertheless desire the blessing of the Church, are part of our society and the Church.”
“In Germany and in other parts of the Universal Church there has long been a discussion about how to further develop the Magisterium with sound arguments -- on the basis of the fundamental truths of faith and morals, the progress of theological reflection, and in a spirit of openness to the latest results of the human sciences and the life situations of people today.”
He continued: “There are no easy answers to such questions. For this reason, the Synodal Way is striving, particularly with respect to the topic of effective relationships, to discuss in a broad context that also considers the need, possibility, and limits of developing the Church’s magisterium. The perspectives presented by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will find space in these debates.”
Asked whether he believed that the time was ripe for women deacons or priests, Bätzing said that the “Synodal Way” would address women’s role in the Church.
He expressed satisfaction at the growing number of women in leadership positions within German dioceses.
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He said: “It is important to me to honestly mention the Church’s arguments as to why only men can enter sacramental ministry. I also realize that these arguments are becoming less and less convincing and that arguments have been developed in theology in favor of opening the sacramental ministry to women as well. This is why I often mention the female diaconate, because I see possibilities there.”
“Regarding the priestly ministry, popes from John Paul II onwards have said in unison that this question has already been answered.”
The bishop also commented on the debate in Germany over whether Protestants should be invited to receive Holy Communion in Catholic churches.
The CDF wrote to Bätzing in September 2020 criticizing an appeal by German theologians for intercommunion between Catholics and Protestants.
The Limburg bishop said that the current debate was not about a general invitation to Protestants to receive Communion, but rather about the Church’s approach to individual non-Catholic Christians who wish to receive the Eucharist.
He said: “I personally respect such a decision and do not deny Communion when someone presents themselves who believes what we Catholics believe and desires to receive the Lord.”