Blessing service for lovers © Rudolf Wichert (KNA)
On Wednesday, the organizers recorded on Facebook the 100. "Blessing service for lovers". A majority of the events will take place this Monday. And is already making waves in the Catholic Church.
For a "grassroots effort," the initiative bears rich fruit. With "blessing services for lovers" Catholics in Germany want to set a sign against the no from the Vatican to the blessing of homosexual couples. The organizers have recorded more than 100 services so far. A large part is to be distributed these days – "around the 10. May around" – take place. If you look at the interactive map on the homepage "liebegewinnt", however, you will also see that large parts of Bavaria, but especially the eastern part of Germany – with the exception of Berlin – are wastelands.
Much attention – internationally and from the Vatican
Nevertheless: The initiative has long since given rise to debates – even beyond Germany's borders. Major media outlets, such as the Wall Street Journal, are reporting that. And in the Vatican there is growing concern that in Germany there are splitting mushrooms on the way, which endanger the unity of the universal church. For the Roman Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had declared in a letter published in mid-March that the church had no authority to bless same-sex relationships. These connections would not correspond to the divine will.
He does not hope that the blessing services will lead to a schism, but the danger certainly exists, said, for example, the 90-year-old Cardinal Camillo Ruini, longtime president of the Italian Bishops' Conference. Australian Cardinal George Pell urged German bishops to "uphold the teachings of Scripture and the teachings of the Church". A part of the church in Germany goes "in the decidedly wrong direction".
Between reforms and universal church
The chairman of the German Bishops' Conference, Limburg Bishop Georg Batzing, and his fellow bishops between Hamburg and Passau are thus under prere from two sides: Many at grassroots level want reforms in Catholic sexual morality in general and in dealing with homosexuals in particular – while leading representatives of the universal church are putting on the brakes.
The fact that the topic also plays an important role in the Synodal Way to the Future of the Church initiated by the German bishops and the Central Committee of German Catholics does not make things any easier. "Our connection to Rome and to the Holy Father is very close," Batzing now emphasized once again to the Italian press service ACI Stampa.
What are the possible consequences?
With the blessing services, the bishops are forced to take a stand, at least indirectly. Do they even face excommunication, that is, expulsion from ecclesial communion, if they allow such celebrations to take place? Even the experts are already meditating on this ie. No, means the Munsteraner church lawyer Thomas Schuller in a guest contribution for the portal catholic.de. The paper of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, even if it was approved by the Pope, is not a magisterial document, but only to be understood as an aid for the episcopal ministry.
Yes, says Gero Weishaupt. "A bishop who ignores and acts contrary to the papal ban on blessing same-sex couples incurs excommunication as an act punishment, d.h. it steps in as soon as a bishop publicly speaks out in favor of blessing homosexual unions," the church jurist told the Austrian website kath.net.
Criticism from Bishop Batzing
Bishop Batzing criticized the current blessing services in advance. Services have "their own theological dignity and pastoral significance. They are not suitable as an instrument for church-political manifestations or protest actions". Bernd Monkebuscher, pastor in Hamm, North Rhine-Westphalia, and one of the initiators of "Love Wins" disagrees. "We are not protesting against something, but we are siding with people who still expect something from church."
While theologians argue about which biblical and magisterial roots the treatment of homosexual people can refer to, the blessing services seem like a small mustard seed of hope to the participants in the first celebrations. "This is church," says one of them on Thursday evening in Geldern: "And not what is said up there."