German bishops commit to 'newly assessing' Catholic doctrine on homosexuality and sexual morality

Pope Francis and German bishops Pope Francis meets with German bishops during their ad limina visit Nov. 20, 2015. | Vatican Media.

The German bishops' conference has committed to "newly assessing" the universal Church's teaching on homosexuality, sexual morality in general, as well as the sacraments of ordination and marriage. The commitment comes at the beginning of a controversial two-year "Synodal Process" by the German hierarchy.

Following consultations in Berlin last week, the chairman of the Marriage and Family Commission of the German bishops' conference declared that the bishops agreed that homosexuality is a "normal form" of human sexual identity.

"The sexual preference of man expresses itself in puberty and assumes a hetero- or homosexual orientation," Berlin's Archbishop Heiner Koch asserted in a statement released by the bishops' conference.

"Both belong to the normal forms of sexual predisposition, which cannot or should be be changed with the help of a specific socialization".

Koch went on to say that "developments" made possible by Amoris laetitia, Pope Francis' exhortation of marriage and the family, the Church must consider the latest scientific and theological insights on human sexuality.

Four diocesan bishops gathered for formal consultations on the topic "The Sexuality of Man – How should one discuss it scientifically-theologically and judge it ecclesiastically?" in the German capital on Dec 5.

Archbishop Koch, together with diocesan bishops Franz-Josef Bode of Osnabrück, Bishop Wolfgang Ipolt of Görlitz, Bishop Peter Kohlgraf of Mainz, as well as several auxiliary bishops from the Faith and Family Commission of the bishops' conference consulted with a number of invited medical specialists, theologians and canon lawyers during the event.

Calling for a "solid discussion supported by human sciences and theology" Koch and Bode said that Amoris Laetitia already provides for noticeable "developments" of both Church doctrine and practice, adding that a sexual relationship for divorced and remarried couples after Amoris laetitia "was no longer always to be qualified as grave sin," and that wholesale "exclusion from the reception of the Eucharist" of such couples could no longer be justified.

Koch said that the "Synodal Process" should must begin from an "unbiased" position on the Church's teaching and without fixed points of view, but rather an openness to taking into account "latest scientific insights".

All participants, according to Koch, agreed that "human sexuality encompasses a dimension of lust, of procreation, and of relationships." And since sexual orientation was to be considered unchangeable, "any form of discrimination of persons with a homosexual orientation" was to be rejected, as was "explicitly stressed by Pope Francis" in Amoris laetitia.

According to a press release issued by the bishops, there was also discussion on whether the prohibition of homosexual acts by the Church's magisterium was "still up-to-date" – and whether artificial contraception should still be condemend by the Chuch for "both married and unmarried" couples.

The results of the "expert consultation" in Berlin will be fed in to the "Synodal Process" through the synodal forum on "Life in Successful Relationships - Living Love in Sexuality and Partnership", will begin its work in February 2020.

Coinciding with the opening of the Synodal Process, several diocesan and national Catholic associations funded by the German Church tax, or Kirchensteuer, have made public demands for changes to the Church's teaching and practice on similar issues.

Calls for "reform" range from the blessing of homosexual unions to the priestly ordination of women, and, in at least one local group's case, for the approval of abortion when "a woman or couple decided to go through with it."

In an interview published by the official web portal funded by the German bishops, Agnes Wuckelt, deputy chairwoman of the German Catholic Women's Association (KFD), demanded that women be ordained to the priesthood, asserting that a "sacramental ordination of women as deacons" would be a welcome first step in that direction.

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