In new interview, Cardinal Marx speaks on same-sex blessings
Catholic News Agency 24 December, 2019
Cardinal Reinhard Marx at the German Bishops’ Press Conference at the Pontifical Teutonic College on October 5, 2015 (Bohumil Petrik/CNA)
‘I can bless them both in the sense of pastoral accompaniment, we can pray together. But theirs cannot be a marriage-like relationship.’
Cardinal Reinhard Marx has expressed the view that homosexual couples can receive a Church blessing “in the sense of a pastoral accompaniment” in the Catholic Church, but not in a manner that resembles marriage.
In an interview with the German magazine Stern, the Archbishop of Munich and Freising was asked, “What do you do when a homosexual couple asks you for an episcopal blessing?”
Marx responded: “I can bless them both in the sense of pastoral accompaniment, we can pray together. But theirs cannot be a marriage-like relationship.”
While there is room for differing interpretations of Marx’s comments, the website “katholisch.de,” funded by the German bishops, has reported on the matter using the headline “Marx: Homosexual couples can receive a blessing.”
After that report was published, Matthias Kopp, press director for the German bishops’ conference, told CNA that the conference has nothing to add to the published interview.
CNA asked the Archdiocese of Munich to clarify the cardinal’s remarks, and whether the blessing of homosexual couples is practiced in the diocese. The archdiocese has not yet responded.
In the magazine interview, Marx also said that he told the [Vatican] Synod on the Family in 2015 that homosexual couples, who are faithful to each other and support each other, should not be “negatively bracketed” by the Church or told by the Church that stable homosexual relationships are considered worthless.
At the same, Marx affirmed in the interview with Stern that a homosexual union “is not a marriage” in the Catholic sense of the word, and that the sacrament of marriage is between a man and a woman.
Marx also commented on the question of women’s ordination.
Asked about the sacramental ordination of women, Marx, who is referred to as “the most powerful Catholic in Germany” by the magazine, said that Pope Francis has told him that “the door is closed,” given Pope St. John Paul II’s statement of 1994. Nonetheless, the German prelate claimed that debate on the issue is “not over.”
The interview is not the first time Cardinal Marx has spoken on Catholic blessings of homosexual couples.
In a February 2018 interview with the Bavarian State Broadcasting Company, Marx agreed that a blessing is possible, however qualifying there could be “no set of rules” on the question – rather, the decision would be that of “a priest or pastoral worker.”
After CNA reported that, the German bishops’ conference requested a “correction” of CNA’s translation.
More recently, Archbishop Heiner Koch of Berlin, following consultations in early December, stated that both hetero- and homosexuality are “normal forms of sexual predisposition, which cannot or should be be changed with the help of a specific socialization.”
Koch, who attended the Vatican Synod on the Family together with Marx and is Chairman of the Marriage and Family Commission of the German bishops’ conference, spoke after the German bishops asserted they were committed to “newly assessing” the universal Church’s teaching on homosexuality – and sexual morality in general – ahead of a two-year “synodal process.”
WHEN MARRIAGE BETWEEN GAYS WAS RITE
The Irish Times.
A KIEV art museum contains a curious icon from St Catherine’s monastery on Mount Sinai. It shows two robed Christian saints. Between them is a traditional Roman pronubus (best man) overseeing what in a standard Roman icon would be the wedding of a husband and wife. In the icon, Christ is the pronubus. Only one thing is unusual. The “husband and wife” are in fact two men.
Is the icon suggesting that a homosexual “marriage” is one sanctified by Christ?
The very idea initially seems shocking. The full answer comes from other sources about the two men featured, St Serge and St Bacchus, two Roman soldiers who became Christian martyrs.
While the pairing of saints, particularly in the early Church, was not unusual, the association of these two men was regarded as particularly close. Severus of Antioch in the sixth century explained that “we should not separate in speech [Serge and Bacchus] who were joined in life”. More bluntly, in the definitive 10th century Greek account of their lives, St Serge is openly described as the “sweet companion and lover” of St Bacchus.
In other words, it confirms what the earlier icon implies, that they were a homosexual couple. Unusually their orientation and relationship was openly accepted by early Christian writers. Furthermore, in an image that to some modern Christian eyes might border on blasphemy, the icon has Christ himself as their pronubus, their best man overseeing their “marriage”.
The very idea of a Christian homosexual marriage seems incredible. Yet after a 12-year search of Catholic and Orthodox church archives Yale history professor John Boswell has discovered that a type of Christian homosexual “marriage” did exist as late as the 18th century.
Contrary to myth, Christianity’s concept of marriage has not been set in stone since the days of Christ, but has evolved both as a concept and as a ritual. Prof Boswell discovered that in addition to heterosexual marriage ceremonies in ancient church liturgical documents (and clearly separate from other types of non-marital blessings such as blessings of adopted children or land) were ceremonies called, among other titles, the “Office of Same Sex Union” (10th and 11th century Greek) or the “Order for Uniting Two Men” (11th and 12th century).
These ceremonies had all the contemporary symbols of a marriage: a community gathered in church, a blessing of the couple before the altar, their right hands joined as at heterosexual marriages, the participation of a priest, the taking of the Eucharist, a wedding banquet afterwards. All of which are shown in contemporary drawings of the same sex union of Byzantine Emperor Basil I (867-886) and his companion John. Such homosexual unions also took place in Ireland in the late 12th/early 13th century, as the chronicler Gerald of Wales (Geraldus Cambrensis) has recorded.
Boswell’s book, The Marriage of Likeness: Same Sex Unions in Pre- Modern Europe, lists in detail some same sex union ceremonies found in ancient church liturgical documents. One Greek 13th century “Order for Solemnisation of Same Sex Union” having invoked St Serge and St Bacchus, called on God to “vouchsafe unto these thy servants [N and N] grace to love one another and to abide unhated and not a cause of scandal all the days of their lives, with the help of the Holy Mother of God and all thy saints.” The ceremony concludes: “And they shall kiss the Holy Gospel and each other, and it shall be concluded.”
Another 14th century Serbian Slavonic “Office of Same Sex Union”, uniting two men or two women, had the couple having their right hands laid on the Gospel while having a cross placed in their left hands. Having kissed the Gospel, the couple were then required to kiss each other, after which the priest, having raised up the Eucharist, would give them both communion.
Boswell found records of same-sex unions in such diverse archives as those in the Vatican, in St Petersburg, in Paris, Istanbul, and in Sinai, covering a period from the 8th to the 18th centuries. Nor is he the first to make such a discovery. The Dominican Jacques Goar (1601-1653) includes such ceremonies in a printed collection of Greek prayer books.
While homosexuality was technically illegal from late Roman times, it was only from about the 14th century that anti-homosexual feelings swept western Europe. Yet same sex union ceremonies continued to take place.
At St John Lateran in Rome (traditionally the Pope’s parish Church) in 1578 as many as 13 couples were “married” at Mass with the apparent co-operation of the local clergy, “taking Communion together, using the same nuptial Scripture, after which they slept and ate together”, according to a contemporary report.
Another woman-to-woman union is recorded in Dalmatia in the 18th century. Many questionable historical claims about the church have been made by some recent writers in this newspaper.
Boswell’s academic study however is so well researched and sourced as to pose fundamental questions for both modern church leaders and heterosexual Christians about their attitude towards homosexuality.
For the Church to ignore the evidence in its own archives would be a cowardly cop-out. That evidence shows convincingly that what the modern church claims has been its constant unchanging attitude towards homosexuality is in fact nothing of the sort.
It proves that for much of the last two millennia, in parish churches and cathedrals throughout Christendom from Ireland to Istanbul and in the heart of Rome itself, homosexual relationships were accepted as valid expressions of a God-given ability to love and commit to another person, a love that could be celebrated, honoured and blessed both in the name of, and through the Eucharist in the presence of Jesus Christ.
The controversy of same sex marriage is a great challenge to the Christian churches.
Some respond to the issue with 5000 year old biblical bigotry. That does not work.
That civil society decides to have civil same sex marriage is not any church’business. It’s a matter for politicians representative of citizens.
But Christians have to accept that there is a precedent for gay couples being blessed in church.
And the Christian church did not take an active interest in any kind of marriage until the 12 th century.
I have been celebrating same sex blessings for 33 years.
I have celebrated a gay marriage last July in the Republic.
I will do so in Northern Ireland when the law changes in January.
I personally have had a Civil Partnership and am content with that.
I do occasionally wonder about there being two “wives” or two “husbands”.
Maybe new realities deserve new terms?
My partner and I introduce each other as “my partner”.