The chairman of the German Catholic bishops’ conference has called for changes to Church teaching on sex outside of marriage and homosexuality.

In an interview with the German magazine Bunte published on March 4, Bishop Georg Bätzing agreed with the journalist’s assertion that “no one” adhered to the Church’s teaching that sexuality should only be practiced within marriage, saying: “That’s true. And we have to somewhat change the Catechism on this matter. Sexuality is a gift from God. And not a sin.”

Asked if same-sex relationships were permissible, the German prelate replied: “Yes, it’s OK if it’s done in fidelity and responsibility. It doesn’t affect the relationship with God.”

Bätzing, the bishop of Limburg, western Germany, added: “How someone lives their personal intimacy is none of my business.”

No one employed by the Church should be afraid of losing their job because of this, he said.

The German theologian Martin Brüske sharply criticized Bätzing’s comments in an interview with CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

“Bishop Georg Bätzing’s argument here is tricky,” he said. “He is implying that the Catechism and thus the tradition of the Church are somehow saying that sexuality is sin. What I would like to know from him is this: Where does he find such a statement in the Catechism or in Church tradition?”

In fact, the theologian added, the Church had always rejected such a view as erroneous.

“By contrasting this false assertion with his second assertion — that sexuality is without restriction a gift of God, the entire area is removed from ethical reflection. According to this logic, there is no longer any need to clarify or distinguish how sexuality is practiced. There is no longer any distinction made as to which sexual behavior is self-serving or expresses mutual appropriation.”

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Brüske emphasized that the Church’s moral teaching had ordered sexuality toward the conjugal love of a man and a woman. The Catechism affirms: “Consequently, sexuality, in which man and woman give themselves to one another through the acts proper and reserved to the spouses, is by no means something purely biological, but concerns the innermost core of the human person as such.” In it, they would “make each other rich in joy and gratitude.”

Brüske said that by abandoning sacramental marriage as the exclusive place of sexuality between man and woman, the orientation toward the Gospel would also be abandoned and replaced by one directed at contemporary culture.

“The abysses of contemporary culture are completely overlooked, in particular what I would call its actual sociology of desire, in which people are often violated in the area of their sexuality,” he said.

The ethicist, who teaches in Switzerland, said that early Christianity, in its orientation toward Jesus, offered a radical contrast compared to the culture of the time.

“Precisely because of this, it was attractive, and helped wounded people to find healing," he said.

Bätzing does not appear to see that, Brüske told CNA Deutsch. “He is obviously blind both to the origins and to our present. This leaves me sad and perplexed. And also a little angry. Because such naiveté is actually not allowed,” he commented.

In the Bunte interview, Bätzing also spoke out in favor of abolishing priestly celibacy and ordaining women — positions recently endorsed by participants in the German “Synodal Way.”

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Brüske said that rather than playing the role of a moderator, “the chairman of the German bishops’ conference identifies unreservedly with demands for a total revision of the sexual morality of the Church, the abolition of celibacy, the ordination of women.”

He added that, with a view to the controversial Synodal Way, it was highly problematic for the chairman to advance such an agenda.