“Don't simply level out differences”

Prof. Eberhard Schockenhoff © CBA

Eberhard Schockenhoff is a German priest and professor of moral theology in Freiburg im Breisgau and has also been a member of the German Ethics Council since 2001.

German politicians struggle over the relationship between marriage and same-sex partnerships. Moral theologian Eberhard Schockenhoff explains why the Catholic Church opposes full equality.


CBA: Professor Schockenhoff, why does the Catholic Church reject full equality between marriage and same-sex partnerships??

Schockenhoff: This has to do with their understanding of marriage. Marriage is not only the reliable cohabitation of two people, but from the Church's point of view marriage is also the basis for starting a family.

The community of woman and man is the only union from which children can be born. And this fact, which is significant for society, leads to the conviction that one should not weaken the intrinsic profile of marriage by making same-sex partnerships equal to marriage in all aspects.

CBA: But wouldn't equality be the logical consequence of equal rights??

Schockenhoff: No, because equality means precisely that one is treated equally in that in which one is actually equal. With regard to the legal and public recognition as a reliable cohabitation, marriage and same-sex partnerships are de facto equal today. That marriage remains something symbolically proper has the purpose of making clear the indispensable importance of marriage for society. And by the way, this is not just about the Catholic understanding of marriage, but about an image of marriage that applies in large parts of society: many marriages today are entered into only with a view to starting a family. People live together for many years without a marriage certificate; only when they decide to have a child do they enter into marriage.

CBA: Nevertheless, after the Ireland referendum, the calls for German gay marriage are getting louder again.

Schockenhoff: Same-sex civil partnership, in which two people of the same sex commit to each other for life, makes sense in itself. But I see no gain in simply leveling the existing differences with marriage. This could perhaps offer a certain symbolic satisfaction, but meant no real progress.

CBA: The Federal Constitutional Court is likely to rule sooner or later on adoption rights for same-sex couples. Why does the Catholic Church reject this??

Schockenhoff: If you see the two sexes as merely a freak of nature or biological coincidence, you could say it's irrelevant who a child grows up with. I believe, however, that the complementarity of women and men, including the tension between the sexes, is part of the richness of the human being. And the child should be able to experience this difference between woman and man in its primary socialization space, the family.

The interview was conducted by Volker Hasenauer.

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