Same-Sex Blessing: Bishop of Mainz Responds to Vatican

This is a statement of Bishop Peter Kohlgraf of the Diocese of Mainz, Germany.

Since the publication of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith yesterday, much feedback has come to me expressing disappointment and lack of understanding for the content of the declaration. I note how many believers are disappointed and hurt – and by no means only those immediately affected. I take this very seriously. It also bothers me. At the same time, I take this as mandate and incentive that in the Diocese of Mainz we develop strengthened pastoral offerings and programs for – and especially, together with – homosexual people. And I am grateful to those affected to whom it is important to remain connected to the church.

In February, in an article in our church newspaper Glaube und Leben (“Faith and Life”), I expressed my thoughts on the topic of blessing celebrations for same-sex partners. I especially wish to allude to the last paragraphs of my text, which I stand behind as much as ever:

Recently a book appeared which presents examples of liturgical blessing celebrations which are offered by pastoral ministers to same-sex partners, among others (Stefan Diefenbuch et. al, Paare. Riten. Kirche [“Partnerships. Rites. Church”], Paderborn, 2020). Colleagues in our diocesan offices collaborated on the project, and I recommended publication of the book. The book does not evaluate; it collects examples from actual practice.

How do I deal with this as bishop? Do I just not want to know about it? Indeed, the examples are for the most part contrary to church prescriptions. But it happens, and it will continue to happen. Is it the task of the bishop to look the other way? The examples are from many dioceses. Or do I intervene? But the celebrations have already taken place. As bishop can I revoke a blessing? Do I thus wish to break a lot of fragile porcelain with believing people? That makes little sense to me. The blessing celebrations arose from pastoral accompaniment of the people affected. Most of them are not formulas replicating church marriage, nor is the intention to develop a uniform liturgy. Pastoral ministers male and female have accompanied people and spoken a blessing upon the good in their lives. No, I do not call for a form of blessing that is similar to marriage. But I do call for accompaniment – instead of judging. And I call for speaking with – and not just about – those “not few” (Catechism!) who are affected, and remaining by their side.

From the website of the Diocese of Mainz, Germany. Tr. awr.

12 comments

  1. This is a bit of a disingenuous response. +Kohlgraf refers back to an article in the diocesan newspaper that he wrote previously.

    “Recently a book appeared which presents examples of liturgical blessing celebrations which are offered by pastoral ministers to same-sex partners, among others … I recommended publication of the book. The book does not evaluate; it collects examples from actual practice.”

    Except for secular book publishers who will publish (nearly) everything, recommending a book for publication usually involves some level of evaluation, because I am certain that there are some things +Kohlgraf would not recommend to be published .

    “How do I deal with this as bishop? …. Or do I intervene?”

    Well, he could forbid the practice for one. If he believes his priests would ignore him, he could be up front about that as well and either 1) remove them from ministry or 2) keep them in ministry but state the reason is that there are too few priests and it is better to have them remain in service even if they are disobedient in this regard and 3) he could make sure seminary training takes steps to prevent future priests from doing the same.

    “But the celebrations have already taken place. As bishop can I revoke a blessing? ”
    Imagine a situation where a priest blesses a person or group in reference to their membership in a hate group (yes not the same thing, but something that should not have taken place). Would the bishop not be able to come up with a response? How about you can only invoke blessings on good things, so you don’t need to revoke a blessing, but going forward texts and pastoral practice should reflect that reality.

    There is just a bit of pretend powerlessness and ignorance on his part that just rubs me the wrong way.

  2. By all empirical accounts, the actual percentage of people who identify as exclusively same sex attracted is very low. The number of such individuals seeking or already enjoying what they experience as a relationship with Christ and his church would likely be far lower still. So the Bishop is addressing the matter of trying to accompany these same sex couples. We already accompany the much larger number of opposite sex attracted individuals and couples even when we know they may not be very scrupulous about avoiding sins against the sixth and ninth commandments. We invite them at Mass to participate in the penitential act and bestow its absolution. We even give some of them Holy Communion for when they present themselves we have no idea whether they are following our moral teachings. Don’t we bless them at the end of Mass and send them forth on mission?
    Are we not very aware of the high level of tolerance for clergy who are same sex attracted. Chastity is the norm and expectation and even the promise, but all fall short of the Glory of God. Some of these are men who when ordained may have had serious doubts about being able to keep that promise but made it in good faith. (I am not speaking of those men who abused minors of the same sex.) These men have not only been blessed but they bestow blessings of all kinds.
    The question, then, is one not only of justice, but of mercy and love. Should we not be as tolerant with individuals and same sex couples as we are with opposite sex individuals and couples. Should we not seek ways to accompany them on a path that leads to holiness without focusing on certain of their failures? Are these not individuals and couples who possess the dignity that spares them of being judged exclusively for certain of their moral failing?. Are they no less able because of these failings to love and serve the Lord in the least of his brothers and sisters? Should not those with the power of binding and loosening talk with the whole church about this matter?

    1. Fr. Jack, you seem to think yourself enlightened or compromising, but you miss the point, Gay men or women are not failing morally by having sex in a relationship. We are not sexual sinners. Period. We will not give ground on this. We would rather leave. And we will leave.

      The overarching problem has to do with the authority of the magisterium versus the lived experience and evolving conscience of Catholic Christians. It encompasses far more than the LGBT issues. This is the fault line where the approaching schism will quake.

    2. Excellent research done in Australia not long ago arrived at a figure of 7%. Contrary to what you say, this is not an inconsiderable number. It is slightly higher than the number of adults who will struggle with a major depressive episode in a given year. Seven percent is not a few.

  3. Though I am a straight married dad with six children. I was greatly disappointed by the decision that Pope Francis has made to refuse to allow priests to bless the commitment and love that devout Queer Catholics couples share with each other. Love is love. I do have a Queer child of my own. If my daughter someday falls in love with another woman, I would be happy to attend their wedding and welcome her new partner as my seventh child.

  4. “I call for speaking with – and not just about – those “not few” (Catechism!) who are affected”.
    I wonder how many of those who fiercely oppose any recognition by the Catholic Church to homosexual couples, have actually taken the time to meet and listen to LGBT Catholics. Share their stories, hear their sorrows, their dreams, just as we would do with anyone else.
    It’s so easy to judge and declare a “sinner” someone you don’t know, some other you’ve only read about and haven’t cared to approach to.
    I just pray that someday our Church will be able to look at LGBT people just as Jesus would do, and welcome them without any kind of judgment.

  5. When do we as CHURCH get our chances to express our concern and hurt about what the hierarchy has done and continues to do to remove us from Christ and HIS mandate to love our neighbors as ourselves? In the small hours of the morning or throughout the day have you listened to the profound sadness and weeping of our neighbors who feel alone, terrified, and unwanted? Have you heard the despair, the self loathing, the pure agony of LGBTQ people as they struggled to understand their inborn differences, perhaps even tried to suppress or change this innate part of themselves, weighed the consequences of revelation to family, friends or workplace, or lived in fear of being damned to Hell, as some pastors insist is their fate? Have you seen what damage wounding, exclusionary words and actions by the official church have caused? Would we rather these neighbors spend their lives living in shame, hating themselves and refusing to accept who they are? I do not believe it is our call to disparage, diminish or shun these neighbors who were “created in the image and likeness of God” as we believe we also were, but rather to support, encourage, strive to understand and embrace them with love and rejoice in their finding human love, fulfillment and happiness. How is it possible that Jesus, who is ever faithful, compassionate beyond our dreams, and whose knowledge is “unsearchable” would label these dear friends or family members as doomed or unlovable? Aren’t we, or shouldn’t we be imitators of Christ?

    1. I wonder how many more LGBTQ Catholic youth will attempt/commit suicide today because of this latest wound. I tried when I was a teen because of the Catholic Church (three times the rate of their heterosexual peers). This is not just about the pain. It is very much a life and death matter. So much for being pro-life. There will be suicides, alcohol and substance abuse, strained and broken families, slipping school and job performance and the impact of both. There will be abuse, violence and LGBTQ bashing. Spiritual pain, emotional pain, physical pain and death. If any of you have LGBTQ kids you better make sure you know you support them. Especially if you decide to stay with the Catholic Church. If you do the latter they will look at you and wonder how you could do so and still love them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *