Several days ago, Bondings 2.0 reported on Munich’s Cardinal Reinhard Marx’s call for an apology by the Church to lesbian and gay people. His call for apology preceded that of Pope Francis by several days. The cardinal made his remarks at a press conference in Ireland last week, after he had given a speech at a meeting on church and state relations.
Our blog post was based on information from an Irish Times news story. Since that time, The National Catholic Reporter (NCR) filed a story on Marx’s speech, bringing to light some other, stronger comments he made while meeting with journalists.
“Marx, who is president of the German bishops’ conference and a member of the pope’s advisory council of nine cardinals, called on not just the church to apologize to gays and lesbians, but society as a whole, which he said was implicated in this ‘terrible scandal.’
” ‘The history of homosexuals in our society is a very bad history because we have done a lot to marginalize them. It is not so long ago and so as church and as society we have to say sorry.’ “
While calling heterosexual marriage “a special relationship,” Marx made a strong call for social and legal protections for lesbian and gay couples. More importantly, he urged church officials not to oppose such protections. NCR stated:
“Referring to the passing of legislation in Germany recognizing civil partnerships, he urged the church ‘not to be against them.’
“He said the state had to make arrangements for homosexuals so that their rights are recognized as equal but he also suggested that marriage is something different. So far, there has been no move in Germany to permit gay partners to marry.
” ‘Up to now we have this difference — some are against it; some are for it. There was an open discussion. We [the church] have our moral position [on marriage] and that is clear, but the secular state has to regulate these [same-sex] partnerships and to bring them to a just position and we as church cannot be against it,’ he said.”
Marx’s words about society are welcome, but also raise an important question: If society must go beyond apology to provide structures that protect LGBT people, why doesn’t the Church follow suit? In the wake of the pope’s call for an apology to gay people by the Church, many organizations and individuals, including New Ways Ministry, called for the pope to establish structures to promote dialogue and further advancement of LGBT equality in the Church. It would be wonderful if Cardinal Marx, a papal adviser, would apply his own reasoning to the ecclesial situation, and suggest to Pope Francis that the Church establish structures that will make apology a more impactful reality.
Cardinal Marx also commented on the need for the Church to reform its whole approach to moral theology:
“. . . Marx said most conservatives want the pope to state very clearly what is forbidden and make a list of what is not permitted with no discussion. On the other hand, progressives want the opposite — a list of what is now allowed.
” ‘That is not the way to go with conscience,’ he said. ‘The pope is choosing another way. The world is very complex and there are challenging pastoral situations. The people see how the church is looking on my life and understanding and seeing that my marriage is in a difficult situation … but it is not just saying yes or no or black or white.’
“He added, ‘That is reform in my eyes.’ “
During the press conference, Marx paraphrased his statement which shocked the 2014 synod: “You cannot say that a long-term relationship between a man and a man, who are faithful, is nothing. That it has no worth.” His call for civil unions is putting some emphasis behind those words. Now it’s time for him to recognize that the Church needs to value the “worth” of gay and lesbian relationships, too.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry