All posts by Terence

The Queer Christ: Same Sex Desire and Biblical Exegesis (Keith Sharpe)

Jesus Queer Family: the household of Martha and Mary
Jesus Queer Family: the household of Martha and Mary

This paper explores the idea of queer theory generally and queer theology specifically as a set of techniques for the radical deconstruction of all normative sexual identities and social categorisations. It is argued that these techniques resonate with the praxis of Jesus who was essentially crucified by the Jewish religious and Roman political authorities for his queerness in this sense, because in his life and teaching he subverted all the main institutional structures and taken-for-granted realities of his time in order to reveal the transcendent truth which ‘sets us free’.  Since the Bible is witness to Christ as the Word it follows that it can and should thus be read as a queer-friendly text through the lens of the queer Saviour.  Biblical exegesis should take account therefore not only of the multiple contexts of textual narratives but also the inescapable queerness of the worldview which their authors took for granted. Continue reading The Queer Christ: Same Sex Desire and Biblical Exegesis (Keith Sharpe)

DignityUSA Mourns Death of John J. McNeill,

Celebrates Life of Seminal Figure in LGBT Catholic Movement

Boston, September 23, 2015 – DignityUSA mourns the passing of John J. McNeill, a seminal figure in the history of the 46-year-old organization of LGBT Catholics and allies, as well as the broader LGBT civil rights movement.  McNeill died on the evening of September 22 at the age of 90 in hospice care in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in the presence of his devoted spouse and partner of 49 years, Charles Chiarelli.

John McNeill (right) with Brendan Fay, who directed the biopic, "Taking a Chance on God"
John McNeill (right) with Brendan Fay, who directed the biopic, “Taking a Chance on God”

A former Jesuit priest with a doctorate in philosophy from Louvain University in Belgium, McNeill helped inspire the founding of Dignity with articles in theological journals in the 1960s that for the first time challenged Catholic Church teaching on homosexuality from an authoritative theological and scholarly perspective.  Continue reading DignityUSA Mourns Death of John J. McNeill,

“Take Back the Tradition” – Outline.

I wrote some time ago, about a belief that LGBT Christians need to “take back the tradition” in Church history, just as others have begun to “Take Back the Word” in biblical studies (to use the title of a book edited by Robert Goss). The young Fr Joseph Ratzinger wrote about the dangerous “distorting tradiion” against which we must be ever vigilant. It it high time that we correct the distorted tradition.

Fr Joseph Ratzinger
Fr Joseph Ratzinger

For LGBT History Month in the UK next February, queer church history will be a major theme. As my contribution, I will be developing an extended series of posts on the subject, which I hope I will also present in audio – visual form, as well as conventional blog posts.

Below the fold is my current outline for this project  (to be constantly updated and expanded). Continue reading “Take Back the Tradition” – Outline.

New Archbishop of Berlin on marriage, sex, homosexuals and the Synod

Archbishop Heiner Koch does not see marriage as the highest good in Christian life.

Berlin’s new archbishop, Heiner Koch, was installed yesterday. On the eve of his inauguration as archbishop, he was interviewed by Tagespiegel on his views on refugees, marriage, sex, homosexuals, and the Family Synod.

Here is an extract from the interview, in my own informal translation. (The relevant sections in the original German, I have posted here).

Archbishop Heiner Koch
Archbishop Heiner Koch

You are responsible for the issue of family in the Catholic Bishops’ Conference.  Many positions on family, marriage and sexuality are no longer comprehensible even to  Catholics. Must the Church adapt?

We see sexuality as an integrated whole.  Two people love each other, their love grows emotionally, physically and in our understanding spiritually and religious. The greatest freedom is achieved when two people decide to go through life together, even through crises and disease. This holistic view I think is of great value. But hardly anyone knows not that reasoning, even Christians. The alternative is to separate sexuality from commitment. I think that’s not right.

You talk about the ideal. What if it does not work?

That is a dramatic issue. We certainly need to learn a lot  as a church when it comes to dealing with frictions, imperfection, and guilt.

The Church has a lot to learn about dealing with fractures

Why does the Church exclude homosexuals per se from its holistic view?

Part of our understanding of successful sexuality is for the creation of life. For gay men this is impossible. In our view this sexuality is limited. But that does not limit the respect for these people in any way, at least as I see it. Just as he is man , he is good. When I directed the Pastoral Office in Cologne, I met regularly with a group of gay men. Many of the group had grown old and of course support each other, through disease, strokes. There was no longer easy eroticism. But that is anyway a cliché.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church wants to equate the blessing of homosexual couples with weddings.What do you think?

That’s not helpful. It cemented the debate.

In the Catholic Church, gays and lesbians do not even get a blessing. Why not?

We are concerned that this will be confused with marriage. Homosexuals say our relationship is different from that of couples with children. The question is: How can we address differentiated realities, without discrimination?

As long as the church values marriage so highly, the excluded automatically  feel devalued

Well, in the Catholic Church marriage is not the ultimate good.

Jesus invited people to  leave marriage and family and to fit into the new, larger faith family. We celibate priests are also living outside  of marriage. I would not bring in this purely valence. But as long as someone feels devalued, we have a problem cause:.

You are going   to Rome in October for the family Synod. What do you expect?

I hope that everyone is ready there to learn from the experiences of other countries and cultures. It would be bad if it was just a matter of enforcing one’s own powerful convictions.

At the moment, reformists and conservatives  are adamantly opposed.

I hope that the Holy Spirit brings movement into it! It is also expected that debate will not be finished at the end of the Synod on 26 October.

Do you think a third Synod is possible?

It would do the job well. The theme of marriage and the family can not be grasped in concepts and definitions, because it comes to relationships, this is something dynamic. There will always be people who are not covered by rigid rules.

The focus in education is too much on the utility of knowledge

Why not, loosen the existing rules? Approximately when dealing with people in a second marriage? Who are excluded from the sacraments.

On the understanding of marriage hardly anyone in the church will move. But perhaps this is not a question of marriage, but of the Eucharist. In a nutshell: Can there be human situations in which someone who had blame unloaded upon himself, is approved on all order out of the Eucharist? Would God say in any case: Do not come to me in the Eucharist? Are we as a church proclaiming something that God would not say? If God perhaps in the one who has failed on us?

Will Francis prevail at the Synod? Some say it depends the whole pontificate.

Raising this is the best way to cause the Synod to fail. I do not know how many comments from both left and right are already in the drawers under the motto: “The truth have sold” or on the other side: “The forgotten people”. That really worries me, because we will then have to deal with each other during the day.

Your predecessor lived in a deprived area in Wedding. You moved to Lichterfelde. Why?

It happened like this. I moved into a parsonage, which was already converted straight into apartments. I’ve got three rooms, a kitchen, a bathroom. I can live within the community and I am at home anywhere in this great city. A more central location would be even better, so that from time to time someone would come along and ring the doorbell. That is probably not going to happen there on the outskirts.

Who knows. Maybe this is a new pilgrimage?

Now you’re not saying I’m a relic!

Archbishop with a penchant for the East

Heiner Koch, 61, is an outgoing Rhinelander with sense of humor. He comes from Dusseldorf, studied theology, philosophy and education and began as a youth and student chaplain in Cologne. He continued the commitment to young people, and to women and families, as head of the Cologne Archdiocese Seelsogeamtes, as Vicar General and as Auxiliary BishopCologne.In 2005, he was responsible for the World Youth Day in Cologne. In the Episcopal Conference, he is responsible for the issue of family and in October he goes to Rome, where the bishops from around the world advise on the family and marriage.

In 2013 Pope Francis sent him as Bishop to Dresden-Meissen. There he learned humility, he says, which he thinks is a very important virtue, especially for the Church. Tomorrow, Saturday at 11 clock he will be in St. Hedwig installed in his office as Archbishop of Berlin. He draws in a rectory in Lichterfelde, where he could live with him in the church, which he finds good. He would prefer a still more central location, “so that from time to time someone comes along and rings the bell”.

Neuer Berliner Erzbischof über Ehe, Sex und Homosexuelle, und der Familiensynode

Die Ehe hält Erzbischof Heiner Koch nicht für das höchste Gut christlichen Lebens

  • Staatlich anerkannt. Der neue Berliner Erzbischof Heiner Koch legt im Wappensaal des Berliner Rathauses den staatlichen Treueeid ab. – FOTO: KNA

Sie sind in der Bischofskonferenz für das Thema Familie zuständig. Vielekatholische Positionen zu Familie, Ehe und Sexualität sind selbst Katholiken nicht mehr vermittelbar. Muss sich die Kirche anpassen?

Wir sehen Sexualität als integrierte Größe: Zwei Menschen lieben sich, ihre Liebe wächst emotional, körperlich und in unserem Verständnis auch geistlich-religiös. Die größte Freiheit ist erreicht, wenn zwei Menschen sich entscheiden, gemeinsam durchs Leben zu gehen, auch durch Krisen und Krankheit. Diese ganzheitliche Sicht halte ich für einen hohen Wert. Doch kaum jemand kennt diese Begründung, auch Christen nicht. Die Alternative wäre, Sexualität von Bindung zu trennen. Das finde ich nicht richtig.

Sie sprechen vom Ideal. Was ist, wenn es nicht funktioniert?

Das ist eine dramatische Frage. Wir müssen als Kirche sicherlich noch viel dazulernen, was den Umgang mit Brüchen, Unvollkommenheit und Schuld angeht.

Die Kirche muss viel dazulernen beim Umgang mit Brüchen

Warum schließt die Kirche Homosexuelle per se von ihrer ganzheitlichen Sicht aus?

Zu unserem Verständnis von gelungener Sexualität gehört die Weitergabe von Leben. Bei homosexuellen Menschen ist das ausgeschlossen. Damit ist die Sexualität aus unserer Sicht beschränkt. Das schränkt aber die Wertschätzung für diese Menschen in keiner Weise ein, so sehe ich das zumindest. So wie der Mensch ist, ist er erstmal gut. Als ich in Köln das Seelsorge-Amt geleitet habe, habe ich mich regelmäßig mit einer Gruppe schwuler Männer getroffen. Viele aus der Gruppe sind mittlerweile alt und stehen selbstverständlich zueinander, über Krankheiten, Schlaganfälle hinweg. Da ist nichts mehr mit erotischer Leichtigkeit. Aber das ist eh ein Klischee.

Die evangelische Landeskirche will die Segnung homosexueller Paare mit Trauungen gleichstellen. Was halten Sie davon?

Das ist nicht hilfreich. Es zementiert die Debatte.

In der katholischen Kirche bekommen Schwule und Lesben nicht mal einen Segen. Was spricht dagegen?

Wir haben Sorge, dass das mit Trauung verwechselt wird. Homosexuelle sagen: Unsre Beziehung ist anders als die von Paaren mit Kindern. Die Frage ist: Wie können wir differenzierte Wirklichkeiten ansprechen, ohne zu diskriminieren?

Solange die Kirche die Ehe so hoch hängt, fühlen sich die Ausgeschlossenen automatisch abgewertet.

Na ja, das Höchste ist die Ehe in der katholischen Kirche auch nicht.

Wie jetzt?

Jesus hat die Menschen aufgefordert, Ehe und Familie zurückzulassen und sich in die neue, größere Glaubensfamilie einzufügen. Auch wir zölibatär lebenden Priester fallen aus der Ehe raus. Ich würde das nicht in diese Wertigkeit reinbringen. Aber so lange sich jemand abgewertet fühlt, haben wir ein Problem.

Sie fahren im Oktober nach Rom zur Familiensynode. Was erwarten Sie?

Ich hoffe, dass alle dort bereit sind zu lernen, auch von den Erfahrungen anderer Länder und Kulturen. Es wäre schlimm, wenn es nur darum ging, die eigene Überzeugung machtvoll durchzusetzen.

Im Moment stehen sich Reformwillige und Bewahrer unnachgiebig gegenüber.

Ich hoffe, dass der Heilige Geist da Bewegung hineinbringt! Es ist auch abzusehen, dass die Debatte mit dem Ende der Synode am 26. Oktober nicht abgeschlossen sein wird.

Halten Sie eine dritte Synode für möglich?

Es würde der Sache gut tun. Das Thema Ehe und Familie ist nicht in Begriffe und Definitionen zu fassen, weil es um Beziehungen geht, das ist etwas Dynamisches. Es wird immer Menschen geben, die von festen Ordnungen nicht erfasst werden.

Der Fokus in der Bildung ist zu sehr auf die Verwertbarkeit des Wissens ausgerichtet

Was spricht dann dagegen, die bestehende Ordnung zu lockern? Etwa beim Umgang mit Menschen in zweiter Ehe? Die sind von den Sakramenten ausgeschlossen.

Am Eheverständnis will kaum jemand in der Kirche rütteln. Aber das ist ja vielleicht auch keine Frage der Ehe, sondern der Eucharistie. Auf den Punkt gebracht: Kann es menschliche Situationen geben, in denen jemand, der Schuld auf sich geladen hat, über alle Ordnung hinaus zur Eucharistie zugelassen wird? Würde Gott auf jeden Fall sagen: Der darf in der Eucharistie nicht zu mir kommen? Verkünden wir als Kirche etwas, was Gott so nicht sagen würde? Kommt Gott vielleicht gerade in dem, der gescheitert ist, auf uns zu?

Wird sich Franziskus bei der Synode durchsetzen? Manche meinen, davon hänge das ganze Pontifikat ab.

Diese Überhöhung ist das beste Mittel, um die Synode zum Scheitern zu bringen. Ich möchte nicht wissen, wie viele Kommentare von links wie rechts schon in den Schubladen liegen nach dem Motto: „Die haben die Wahrheit verkauft“ oder auf der anderen Seite: „Die haben die Menschen vergessen“. Das macht mir große Sorgen, denn wir werden auch am Tag danach miteinander umgehen müssen.

Ihr Vorgänger hat im sozialen Brennpunkt in Wedding gewohnt. Sie ziehen nach Lichterfelde. Warum?

Das hat sich so ergeben. Ich ziehe in ein Pfarrhaus, das gerade in Wohnungen umgewandelt wird. Ich habe da drei Zimmer, Küche, Bad. Da kann ich in der Gemeinde mitleben und bin irgendwo zuhause in dieser großen Stadt. Noch schöner wäre eine zentralere Lage, damit ab und zu mal jemand vorbei kommt und klingelt. Das wird da draußen wohl nicht passieren.

Wer weiß. Vielleicht wird das ein neuer Pilgerort?

Jetzt sagen Sie nicht, ich bin eine Reliquie!

Erzbischof mit Faible für den Osten

Heiner Koch, 61, ist ein aufgeschlossener Rheinländer mit Sinn für Humor. Er stammt aus Düsseldorf, studierte Theologie, Philosophie und Erziehungswissenschaften und begann als Jugend- und Studentenpfarrer in Köln. Das Engagement für Jugendliche, für Frauen und Familien setzte er auch als Leiter des Seelsogeamtes im Kölner Erzbistum fort, als Generalvikar und als Kölner Weihbischof. 2005 verantwortete er den Weltjugendtag in Köln. In der Bischofskonferenz ist er für das Thema Familie zuständig und fährt im Oktober nach Rom, wo die Bischöfe aus der ganzen Welt über Familie und Ehe beraten.

2013 schickte ihn Papst Franziskus als Bischof nach Dresden-Meißen. Dort habe er Bescheidenheit gelernt, sagt er, was er für eine sehr wichtige Tugend hält, gerade auch für die Kirche. Am morgigen Sonnabend um 11 Uhr wird er in St. Hedwig in sein Amt als Berliner Erzbischof eingeführt. Er zieht in ein Pfarrhaus in Lichterfelde, wo er in der Gemeinde mitleben könne, was er gut findet. Eine zentralere Lage wäre ihm noch lieber, „damit ab und zu mal jemand vorbei kommt und klingelt“.


Synod Secretary General: The Church Must Include, not Exclude. 

Cardinal Baldisseri Fires Back at Sessa Aurunca

Cardinal Baldisseri, Synod secretary general

“The art of accompaniment”

“The crisis of the family is due also to the inaction of the Church” that is increasingly called to “listen” and “accompany”, to “include” rather than “exclude”, to offer the right tools so that everyone can discover, live and witness to “the incomparable beauty of marriage.” Because the family “is not just a cluster of problems”, but it is especially the Gospel, that is good, good news to announce.   On the very eve of the Ordinary Synod of Bishops dedicated to the vocation and mission of the family, the Cardinal Secretary General Lorenzo Baldisseri is clear.   Speaking Tuesday afternoon, 15 September, at the pastoral conference of the Diocese of Sessa Aurunca, he summarized the course of the synod from the extraordinary assembly last year and highlighted key issues and expectations related to the work that the nearly three hundred global bishops will conduct for three weeks from Oct. 4.

First, the cardinal revealed the “challenges and fragility of the family in today’s context.”   To be able to announce to the world the beauty of the family, in fact, it must shed light on the shadows that, unfortunately, exist in an era in which a pervasive anti-family mentality is spreading, touted as a way of emancipation.   Three challenges are particularly serious and urgent: that of ”individualism and emotional fragility”, that of “lack of faith” and the challenge “of economic insecurity and social exclusion.”  Without forgetting, added the cardinal, the “ecological crisis” that is also “human”.

In the face of all this – and the synod will be called to give “authoritative and shared” answers – the Church must first of all discover “the art of ‘accompanying’: involving engaged couples, families already established and those that are “wounded”, living, that is, in “irregular” situations.  “Without ceasing – said the secretary general of the synod – to proclaim the truth: the Christian doctrine on marriage unique, faithful and indissoluble,” the Church must “discern between different situations” and “include” rather than “exclude.”   The entire Church – not just the hierarchy, but the entire people of God – must present itself as “a mother with arms open to all”

L’Osservatore Romano

Cardinale Baldisseri: La Chiesa deve «includere» piuttosto che «escludere».

Rilanciata dal cardinale Baldisseri a Sessa Aurunca

Cardinal Baldisseri

L’arte dell’accompagnamento

«La crisi della famiglia è dovuta anche alla latitanza della Chiesa» che è chiamata sempre più ad «ascoltare» e «accompagnare», «includere» piuttosto che «escludere», offrire i giusti strumenti affinché tutti possano riscoprire, vivere e testimoniare «la bellezza incomparabile del matrimonio». Perché la famiglia «non è solo un agglomerato di problemi», ma è soprattutto Vangelo, cioè una buona e bella notizia da annunciare. Nell’immediata vigilia del Sinodo ordinario dei vescovi dedicato alla vocazione e alla missione della famiglia, il cardinale segretario generale Lorenzo Baldisseri parla chiaro. Intervenuto martedì pomeriggio, 15 settembre, al convegno pastorale della diocesi di Sessa Aurunca, ha tracciato una sintesi del percorso sinodale fin qui percorso a partire dall’assemblea straordinaria dello scorso anno e ha evidenziato temi e aspettative relativi al lavoro che i quasi trecento vescovi di tutto il mondo porteranno avanti a partire dal 4 ottobre per tre settimane.

Innanzitutto il porporato ha fatto emergere «sfide e fragilità della famiglia nel contesto odierno». Per poter annunciare al mondo la bellezza della famiglia, infatti, bisogna gettare luce sulle ombre che, purtroppo, non mancano in un’epoca in cui «si diffonde con pervasività una mentalità “anti-famiglia”, propagandata come via di emancipazione». Tre le sfide particolarmente gravi e urgenti: quella dell’«individualismo e della fragilità affettiva», quella della «mancanza di fede», e la sfida «della precarietà economica e dell’esclusione sociale». Senza dimenticare, ha aggiunto il porporato, la «crisi ecologica» che è anche «umana».

Di fronte a tutto ciò — e il sinodo sarà chiamato a dare risposte «autorevoli e condivise» — la Chiesa deve anzitutto riscoprire «l’arte dell’accompagnamento»: che coinvolga i fidanzati, le famiglie già costituite e quelle «ferite», che vivono, cioè, situazioni «irregolari». «Senza rinunciare — ha spiegato il segretario generale del sinodo — a proclamare secondo verità la dottrina cristiana sul matrimonio unico, fedele e indissolubile», la Chiesa deve «discernere tra le diverse situazioni» e «includere» piuttosto che «escludere». Al mondo intero la Chiesa — non solo le gerarchie, ma l’intero popolo di Dio — deve mostrarsi come «madre dalle braccia aperte per tutti»

L’Osservatore Romano

Bishop Bode on his expectations for the Synod on the Family in Rome  

In early October, the Bishop of Osnabrück, Franz-Josef Bode, will take part in the global synod of bishops on the subject of family in Rome.   In an interview with the Catholic news agency KNA, he commented on his expectations for this meeting.  
KNA:. Bishop Bode, what kind of atmosphere do you expect at the Synod of Bishops?  
Bode: There will be a special atmosphere.   Because there was already a preparatory synod last year.   And because for the first time there have been surveys among the faithful about the issues on the agenda.   In this way, opinions and trends have evolved.   Therefore, this Synod is eagerly awaited.   This is also true for myself  
KNA: A major topic will be those who divorced and remarried.   You yourself have advocated allowing those affected back to receiving Holy Communion, under certain conditions.   Which?  
Bode: Marriage is indissoluble according to the will of Jesus.   Marriage is entered into with a sacrament, which is never just dissolved.   Through the weakness of humans this life relationship can nonetheless break up and fail.  People can come to a new relationship, which is more mature, but does not have the same sacramental value as the first.   The question is, whether this new reality, which perhaps expresses the covenant between God and humans better than the first, must always have the consequence of exclusion from confession and communion.   We should include the question, what circumstances have led to the breakdown of the marriage.  Sofar we have treated all alike, whether they bear the blame or not.   Moreover, this is connected to a question of the understanding of the Eucharistic celebration.   Is it really only the representation of a complete unity in faith and the Church, or is it also a help for journies through life which have their wounds?   And that people can’t express that in Confession and receive forgiveness for it, I find that almost more difficult than the question about Communion.  
KNA: A big issue will be the dealings with homosexuals and a religious recognition of their stable partnerships.   Is there any indication of a solution for that?  
Bode: The Catechism makes clear that we do not discriminate against these people.   As with others who live together before marriage, so also with them we should recognize their strengths and not only their weaknesses and shortcomings.   But civil unions are not to be equated with marriage.   Marriage for us is the relationship of husband and wife, from which can come children.   The Church can help and assist life partnerships in conversations and in positive companionship.  However, it is not possible to give anything which is tantamount to marriage.   But we will be able to accompany their path with prayer and a private form of blessing.  
KNA: Where people live in fidelity and dependability, can there be recognition from the Church?  
Bode: Recognition of what is lived there.   It is not a sacrament.   But if I am open in principle not to always demand either all or nothing, then the same is true for homosexuality.   Where that is also of course dependent.on cultural and political contexts   Even the last Synod highlighted the differences in the universal Church.  Perhaps we need therefore to go different ways  
KNA:. What opportunities do you see for uniform solutions for the Catholic Church worldwide?  
Bode: There is always a chance, because we mutually believe in one Christ, because the basis is the Scripture and because we have a tradition of the Church as a whole.  Indeed that was always the advantage of the Church, that it builds a community irrespective of borders and across cultures.   But in the fundamental concept of marriage and family there is unanimity.   Regarding the homosexual way of life, we must accept a greater diversity between cultures.  
KNA: What will change about pastoral care after the synod?  
A synod is not a Council, that takes decisions which are then pastorally implementrd.   The Synod gives recommendations to the Pope, who then prepares written directions from them.   Therein, he can of course also set new pastoral priorities.   In our recommendations we can keep the doors open for local.pastoral solutions   It is conceivable to give the priests their own authority, so that in the Pastoral they can take responsibility for finding solutions in respect of those divorced and remarried.   For many years already there have been suggestions in the dioceses on how pastors should deal with it.   I hope that this can be done in a theologically well- founded manner.  We have almost always looked only at what the dogma says of pastoral , but rarely what the pastoral says of dogma .   With that,
there’s a dialogue, an innermost connection  
KNA: Conservative and reform-minded bishops get together in Rome.   Are they really outspoken behind closed doors?  
Bode: I hope for a climate in which the different positions can be expressed openly.   And in fact, not just in the three minute statements at the beginning of the synod, but also among themselves in small groups.   That must occur in a really matter-of-fact manner.   For this, elements of prayer, balancing, retreating and meeting again are important.  Most of all, it needs time.   I do not know how far we will come in three weeks.  
KNA: How important is the participation of the non-clergy?  
Bode: We cannot indeed as clergy and men discuss by ourselves family issues.   It is absolutely necessary that married couples are involved.   In addition, very honest statements are flowing in from the surveys.   Furthermore, the bishops spoke beforehand with advisers and married couples, especially with women.  
KNA: How important is your own family to you as a man living a celibate life?  
Bode: I have four older sisters.   All four sisters and two children have married.   And they already have now eight children in turn.   As an uncle and grand uncle, I am well aware of completely normal family life.   Unfortunately, two of my sisters have already passed away, so that I am also acquainted with this situation of serious illness and widowhood.   In my circle of friends, I have friends whose marriages have failed and have made a good new beginning.   In addition, I meet regularly with the six married couples of a family circle from the parish in which I was the pastor.   I am very involved with my family.  

Bischof Bode über seine Erwartungen an die Familiensynode in Rom

“Verschiedene Positionen offen aussprechen”

Der Osnabrücker Bischof Franz-Josef Bode nimmt Anfang Oktober an der Weltbischofssynode in Rom zum Thema Familie teil. Im Interview der Katholischen Nachrichten-Agentur äußerte er sich über seine Erwartungen an dieses Treffen.

KNA: Bischof Bode, was erwarten Sie atmosphärisch von der Bischofssynode?

Bode: Es wird eine besondere Atmosphäre sein. Weil zur Vorbereitung im vergangenen Jahr bereits eine Synode stattfand. Und weil es erstmals Umfragen unter den Gläubigen zu den anstehenden Themen gegeben hat. Dadurch haben sich Meinungen und Richtungen herausgebildet. Deshalb wird diese Synode mit Spannung erwartet. Das gilt auch für mich selbst.

KNA: Ein großes Thema sollen die wiederverheirateten Geschiedenen sein. Sie selbst haben sich dafür ausgesprochen, Betroffene unter bestimmten Bedingungen wieder zum Kommunionempfang zuzulassen. Welche?

Bode: Die Ehe ist nach dem Willen Jesu unauflöslich. Mit einer sakramentalen Ehe ist etwas geschlossen, was sich niemals einfach auflöst. Durch die Schwäche der Menschen kann diese Lebensbeziehung dennoch zerbrechen und scheitern. Menschen können zu einer neuen Beziehung kommen, die reifer ist, aber sakramental nicht die gleiche Wertigkeit hat wie die erste. Die Frage ist, ob diese neue Wirklichkeit, die vielleicht besser dem Bund Gottes mit den Menschen entspricht als die erste, immer den Ausschluss von Beichte und Kommunion zur Folge haben muss. Wir sollten die Frage einbeziehen, welche Umstände zum Bruch der Ehe geführt haben. Bislang behandeln wir alle gleich, ob jemand Schuld trägt oder nicht. Zudem verbindet sich damit eine Frage nach dem Verständnis der Eucharistiefeier. Ist sie wirklich ausschließlich die Darstellung einer vollkommenen Einheit in Glaube und Kirche oder ist sie auch Hilfe für Lebenswege, die ihre Wunden haben? Und dass Menschen das nicht in der Beichte ausdrücken und Vergebung dafür erlangen können, finde ich fast noch schwieriger als die Frage nach der Kommunion.

KNA: Großes Thema wird auch der Umgang mit Homosexuellen und eine kirchliche Wertschätzung ihrer festen Partnerschaften sein. Zeichnet sich dafür eine Lösung ab?

Bode: Der Katechismus macht deutlich, dass wir diese Menschen nicht diskriminieren. Wie bei anderen, die vor der Ehe zusammenleben, geht es auch bei ihnen darum, ihre Stärken zu erkennen und nicht nur ihre Schwächen und Defizite. Eingetragene Lebenspartnerschaften sind aber nicht der Ehe gleichzusetzen. Ehe ist für uns die Beziehung von Mann und Frau, aus der auch Kinder hervorgehen können. Kirche kann den Lebenspartnerschaften in Gesprächen und in positiver Begleitung helfen und ihnen beistehen. Es wird jedoch nichts geben können, was einer Trauung gleichkommt. Aber mit Gebet und einer privaten Form von Segen wird man ihren Weg begleiten können.

KNA: Wo Treue und Verlässlichkeit gelebt werden, kann es eine Anerkennung von der Kirche geben?

Bode: Anerkennung dessen, was da gelebt wird. Ein Sakrament ist das nicht. Aber wenn ich grundsätzlich die Offenheit habe, nicht immer nur alles oder nichts einzufordern, dann gilt das auch für die Homosexualität. Wobei das natürlich auch abhängig ist von kulturellen und politischen Zusammenhängen. Schon die vergangene Synode hat die Unterschiede in der Weltkirche aufgezeigt. Vielleicht muss man da unterschiedliche Wege gehen.

KNA: Welche Chancen sehen Sie für einheitliche Lösungen in der katholischen Kirche weltweit?

Bode: Die Chance gibt es immer, weil wir gemeinsam an den einen Christus glauben, weil die Grundlage die Heiligen Schrift ist und weil wir eine Tradition der Kirche insgesamt haben. Das war ja immer der Vorteil der Kirche, dass sie über Grenzen hinweg, über die Kulturen hinaus eine Gemeinschaft bildet. In der grundgelegten Auffassung von Ehe und Familie herrscht doch Einmütigkeit. Bei den homosexuellen Lebensformen wird man eine größere Verschiedenheit in den Kulturen annehmen müssen.

KNA: Was wird sich in der Seelsorge nach der Synode ändern?

Bode: Eine Synode ist kein Konzil, das Beschlüsse verabschiedet, die dann pastoral umzusetzen sind. Die Synode gibt Empfehlungen an den Papst, der daraus ein richtungweisendes Schreiben verfasst. Darin kann er natürlich auch neue pastorale Schwerpunkte setzen. In unseren Empfehlungen können wir die Türen offenhalten für pastorale Lösungen vor Ort. Denkbar ist, den Priestern eigene Vollmachten zu geben, damit sie in der Pastoral verantwortbare Lösungen finden können etwa mit Blick auf die wiederverheirateten Geschiedenen. Es gibt ja bereits seit Jahren in den Diözesen Anregungen, wie die Seelsorger damit umgehen sollten. Ich wünsche mir, dass das in einer theologisch noch begründeteren Weise geschehen kann. Wir haben fast immer nur im Blick, was die Dogmatik der Pastoral sagt, aber selten, was die Pastoral der Dogmatik sagt. Dabei ist das doch ein Dialog, eine innerste Verbindung.

KNA: In Rom treffen konservative und reformorientierte Bischöfe zusammen. Wird hinter verschlossenen Türen wirklich kein Blatt vor den Mund genommen?

Bode: Ich hoffe auf ein Klima, in dem die verschiedenen Positionen offen ausgesprochen werden können. Und zwar nicht nur in den Drei-Minuten-Statements zu Beginn der Synode, sondern auch in Kleingruppen untereinander. Das muss auf wirklich sachliche Art geschehen. Elemente des Gebets, des Abwägens, des Rückzugs und der erneuten Zusammenkunft sind dazu wichtig. Vor allem braucht es Zeit. Ich weiß nicht, wie weit wir in drei Wochen kommen.

KNA: Wie wichtig ist die Teilnahme von Nicht-Klerikern?

Bode: Wir können ja nicht als Kleriker und Männer allein die Fragen von Familien besprechen. Es ist absolut notwendig, dass Ehepaare dabei sind. Daneben fließen aus den Umfragen sehr ehrliche Statements ein. Zudem haben die Bischöfe im Vorfeld mit Beratern und Eheleuten gesprochen, speziell auch mit Frauen.

KNA: Wie wichtig ist Ihnen als zölibatär lebender Mann die eigene Familie?

Bode: Ich habe vier ältere Schwestern. Alle vier haben geheiratet und zwei Kinder. Und die haben jetzt schon wieder acht Kinder. Als Onkel und Großonkel bekomme ich das ganz normale Familienleben gut mit. Leider sind zwei meiner Schwestern schon verstorben, so dass ich auch diese Situation der schweren Krankheit und Witwenschaft kenne. In meinem Bekanntenkreis habe ich Freunde, deren Ehen gescheitert sind und die gute Neuanfänge gemacht haben. Auch treffe ich mich regelmäßig mit den sechs Ehepaaren eines Familienkreises aus der Gemeinde, in der ich Pfarrer war. Ich bin sehr eingebunden in meine Familie.

Sabine Just und Johannes Schönwälder

Cardinal Schonborn: “Irregular Situations”

What view and what attitude should we take, in your opinion, to couples who live an irregular situation?

At the last Synod, I offered a key that caused much discussion and was even mentioned in the Relatio post discupatationem, but that is no longer present in the final document, the Relatio Synodi. It was an analogy with the ecclesiological key given by Lumen Gentium, the constitution on the Church, in its article 8. The question at issue is: “Where is the Church of Christ? Where is concretely embodied? Does the Church of Jesus Christ really exist, as he desired and founded?”. To this, the Council responded with the famous statement: “The sole Church of Christ remains in the Catholic Church” subsists in the Catholic assembly. It is not a pure and simple identification, like saying that the Church of Jesus Christ is the Catholic Church. This was stated by the Council: “It subsists in the Catholic Church”, together with the Pope and legitimate bishops. The Council adds this phrase, which has become key: “Although outside of her body there are many elements of sanctification and truth, belonging properly to God’s gift to the Church of Christ, they push towards Catholic unity.” Other denominations, other churches, other religions are not simply nothing. The Vatican II excludes an ecclesiology of all or nothing. All this takes place in the Catholic Church, but there are elements of truth and holiness in other churches, and even in other religions. These elements are elements of the Church of Christ, and by their nature tend to Catholic unity and the unity of mankind, toward which the Church herself, in anticipation, so to speak, of the great plan of God which is a single Family of God, humanity. This key justifies this approach of the Council, for which it does not consider first what is missing in the other Churches, Christian communities or religions, but what is positive there. They capture the seeds of the Word,as has been said, the seeds of the Word, elements of truth and sanctification.

How can this insight be applied, in your view, to the family? Do you think there are elements of sanctification and truth, that is, positive elements, in imperfect forms of marriages and families? In these forms the explicit sacramental marriage covenant is lacking. But this does not seem to prevent that there are also elements that are almost promises of this alliance: loyalty, attention to each other, the desire to be a family. This is not everything, but it’s already something. You can recognize these “seeds” of truth about the family, then the shepherds can help you to grow and mature?

I simply proposed to apply this interpretation to the ecclesiological reality of the sacrament of marriage. Because marriage is a Church in miniature, the’ ecclesiola, the family as a small church, it seems legitimate to establish an analogy and say that the sacrament of marriage is fully realized where there is justly a sacrament between a man and a woman living in faith etc. But this does not prevent that, outside of this full realization of the sacrament of marriage, there are elements of marriage that are signals of waiting, positive elements.

For example, consider a civil marriage …

Yes, we consider it as something more a mere de facto union. Why? It is a simple civil contract which from the point of view of the Church has no meaning. But we recognize that in civil marriage, there is more commitment, a stronger alliance, than in a simple de facto union. … The couple are committed to society, to the people and to themselves, in a more explicit alliance, legally anchored by sanctions, obligations, duties, rights….The Church believes that it is a step further than simply living together. There is in this case a closer proximity to sacramental marriage. As a promise, a sign of waiting. Instead of speaking of all that is missing, you can even come close to these realities, noting the positive things that exist in this love that has stabilized.

For the Synod, therefore, it will be important of the look on the quality of situations that objectively speaking, have failings .

We should look at he numerous situations of coexistence not only from the point of view of what is missing, but also from the point of view of what is already promised, that is already present. Moreover, the Council adds that, although there is always real holiness in the Church, this is made ​​up of sinners and advances along the path of conversion (LG 8). It is always in need of purification. A Catholic can not be put on a grade higher than the others. There are saints in all the Christian churches, and even in other religions. Jesus said twice to the pagans, a woman and a Roman officer: “Such a faith I have not found in Israel.” A true faith, that Jesus found outside of the chosen people.

If we apply this to marriage, the gap is not between those who live a sacramental marriage – and they are, so to speak, in order – and the rest of humanity , who lives with difficulty imperfect realizations of what should be the sacrament of marriage …

Those who have the grace and the joy of living a sacramental marriage in faith, humility and mutual forgiveness, trust in God who acts in our daily life, they see and discern in a cohabiting couple, the same elements of true heroism, true charity, true mutual giving. Also we must say: “It is not yet a full reality of the sacrament.” But who are we to judge and say that there are not elements in them of truth and sanctification? The Church is a people that God draws to himself and in which all are called. he Church’s role is to accompany each in growth, on a journey. As a pastor I experience this joy of being on the road, among the believers, but also among many non-believers.

We realize that, on the one hand, it is necessary and it is good to have objective criteria, we need it, but, on the other hand, these criteria do not exhaust all of reality …

I take a very simple example that concerns a man and a woman. Their first marriage was civil, because he was already divorced, and they are then married civilly. This marriage was a failure and they are separated. The woman has a second marriage. In this case, the husband had not been married religiously and she had been married civilly. They were therefore able to celebrate a sacramental marriage. Objectively justifiable, it is correct. But what would happen if the first woman’s husband had not been divorced? If it had been the first religious marriage, which went on to failure for different reasons and finally led to a second union, this would be irregular. This should make us respectful to the objective order, but also pay attention to the complexities of life. There are cases in which only a second or even a third marriage, people really discover the faith. I know a person who had a very young first religious marriage, apparently without faith. This was a failure, which was followed by a second and even a third civil marriage. Only then, for the first time, did this person discover faith and became a believer. Therefore, the objective criteria are not set aside, but in accompaniment I stand next to the person in his journey.

So, what to do in these circumstances?

The objective criteria clearly tell us that some people, tied by sacramental marriage, can not participate fully in the sacramental life of the Church. Subjectively this situation is lived as a conversion, as a real discovery in their lives, to the point that it could be said, in some way – so different, but analogous to the Pauline privilege – that for the sake of faith you can take a step which objectively goes beyond what we would say is the rule. I think we are faced with something that will have great importance during the next Synod. I do not avoid, in this regard, remaining shocked by a purely formalist way of arguing, by beating the drum of intrinsece malum‘ (“intrinsically evil”).