Cardinal Marx: ‘The Catechism is not set in stone. One is also allowed to doubt what it says’

Cardinal Reinhard Marx marks ‘20 years of queer worship and pastoral care’ at St. Paul parish church, Munich, southern Germany, March 13, 2022 Cardinal Reinhard Marx marks ‘20 years of queer worship and pastoral care’ at St. Paul parish church, Munich, southern Germany, March 13, 2022. | erzbistummuenchen/Facebook.

German Cardinal Reinhard Marx said in an interview published on Thursday that the Catechism of the Catholic Church is “not set in stone” and “one is also allowed to doubt what it says.”

The cardinal made the comments in a seven-page spread in the March 31 edition of the weekly current affairs magazine Stern, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

Marx, the archbishop of Munich and Freising, is one of the most influential Catholic leaders in Europe, serving as a member of Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinal Advisers and president of the Vatican’s Council for the Economy.

He spoke about the Catechism in response to a question about “how homosexual, queer, or trans people are to be accommodated in Catholic teaching.”

He said: “An inclusive ethic that we envision is not about being lax — as some claim. It is about something else: encounter at eye level, respect for the other. The value of love is shown in the relationship; in not making the other person an object, in not using or humiliating the other person, in being faithful and dependable to each other. The Catechism is not set in stone. One may also doubt what it says.”

He went on: “We discussed these questions during the family synod, but there was reluctance to set something down. Even then I said: there are people living in an intimate love relationship that is expressed sexually. Are we really going to say that this is worthless? Sure, there are people who want to see sexuality limited to procreation, but what do they say to people who can’t have children?”

Marx’s comments are part of a growing push within the German Church for changes to the Catechism’s teaching on homosexuality.

Earlier this month, Bishop Georg Bätzing, Marx’s successor as chairman of the German bishops’ conference, agreed with a journalist’s assertion that “no one” adhered to the Church’s teaching that sexuality should only be practiced within marriage.

“That’s true,” Bätzing said. “And we have to somewhat change the Catechism on this matter. Sexuality is a gift from God. And not a sin.”

He was speaking after participants in the German “Synodal Way” voted in favor of draft documents calling for same-sex blessings and the revision of Catholic teaching on homosexuality.

In February, another prominent European Church leader, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, S.J., was asked by the German Catholic news agency KNA how he dealt “with the Church teaching that homosexuality is a sin.”

He replied: “I believe that this is wrong. But I also believe that we are thinking ahead in doctrine here. The way the pope has expressed himself in the past, this can lead to a change in doctrine. Because I believe that the sociological-scientific foundation of this teaching is no longer correct.”

Hollerich, the archbishop of Luxembourg, will play a central role in the upcoming Synod on Synodality in Rome, serving as relator general. He is also president of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE).

The Catechism, which Pope John Paul II described as “a sure norm for teaching the faith,” says: “Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’ They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.”

“The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.”

It continues: “Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.”

Cardinal Marx celebrated a Mass marking “20 years of queer worship and pastoral care” in Munich earlier this month.

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In his interview with Stern, Marx was asked about the Mass and whether homosexuality was “recently still considered a sin in the Church.”

He said: “Homosexuality is not a sin. It is a Christian attitude when two people, regardless of gender, stand up for each other in joy and sorrow.”

“I speak of the primacy of love, especially in sexual encounters. But I must admit that 10 or 15 years ago I myself could not have imagined that one day I would celebrate this service in this way. Now I was very much looking forward to it.”

Cardinal Marx’s interviewer noted that there was a rainbow flag before the altar at the Mass. The cardinal was asked whether Rome had contacted him about it.

“In the past few years, I have received several letters on the subject, but I think I am doing the right thing,” he said.

“I’ve felt freer to say what I think in recent years, and I want to move Church teaching forward. The Church is also changing, moving with the times: LGBTQ+ people are part of creation and loved by God, and we are challenged to stand against discrimination.”

“The Church may be slower in some things, but that is a development that is happening everywhere. Most companies just a few years ago would not have accepted openly homosexual board members.”

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When the interviewer said that no company defined homosexuality as a sin in its statutes, Marx said: “What is it with you and sin all the time? It has to be about the quality of relationships. This issue has not been adequately discussed by some in the Church, you are right.”

“But sin means turning away from God, from the Gospel, and you can’t impute that to all people who people who live same-sex love and, on top of that, say: away with them.”

Marx was also asked if he had ever blessed a same-sex couple.

He replied: “A few years ago in Los Angeles, after a service where I preached on unity and diversity, two people came to meet me and asked for my blessing. I did it. This was not a wedding ceremony, after all. We cannot offer the sacrament of marriage.”

The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reaffirmed in March 2021 that the Catholic Church does not have the power to bless unions of people of the same sex.

The Vatican statement, issued with the approval of Pope Francis, sparked protests in the German-speaking Catholic world.

Several bishops expressed support for blessings of same-sex couples, while churches displayed LGBT pride flags, and a group of more than 200 theology professors signed a statement criticizing the Vatican.

Priests and pastoral workers across Germany held a day of protest last May during which they conducted blessing ceremonies attended by same-sex couples.

Marx’s interviewer suggested at one point that the cardinal himself had “no sexuality.”

“Of course I am — like everyone else — a sexual person,” said the 68-year-old Church leader. “I also have a sexuality, even though I am not in a relationship.”

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