No longer just adam and eve

No longer just adam and eve

Germany introduces the gender entry "divers. This not only changes the biblical view of man. For baptism, it is not an obstacle. But for the Catholic Church, the question is who can marry whom.

Since Adam and Eve, Catholics have been satisfied with what is written on the first pages of the Bible: that God created man as man and woman. Now in Germany they have to get used to the fact that there are persons who are neither one nor the other, but "diverse". The new sex-registration law passed this week by the Bundestag and Bundesrat does not unhinge the Catholic worldview, but it does pose unusual questions for the church.

The German Bishops' Conference does not see a basic problem. Already the request of the Federal Constitutional Court in November 2017 for a legal improvement was assessed as "understandable": If a clear assignment to the "binary classification" is not possible, said Bishops' Conference spokesman Matthias Kopp at the time, no one should be forced to do so by law or society. Instead of a waiver, however, it would then be "better to choose a positive assignment".

Covenant of life only between man and woman

In the meantime, according to the Bishops' Conference, ecclesiastical administrative lawyers have dealt with the possible consequences of a third gender category – for example in the texts of advertisements for ecclesiastical positions. As for ecclesiastical registers of persons, church records usually use the name and gender information that the person in question keeps according to state law. In the future, the third sex could be introduced here, although it is not provided for in the Bible.

There is no general rule for dealing with the third gender in the Catholic Church. In Rome, it is said that a solution should first be sought at the level of the bishops' conference – that is, where the legislator has brought this problem to the attention of the canon lawyers. One sticking point is marriage: from the Catholic point of view, the covenant of life can only be entered into between a man and a woman.

For the Catholic Church, a simple "no" to diverse marriages is not enough. That's because marriages that are not Catholic also play a role in canon law practice: If, for example, a Protestant man married to a diverse person wants to walk a Catholic down the aisle after this union has broken down, the validity of the first marriage must be examined from the Catholic point of view.

Before dealing with the third sex now became an ie, the so-called transsexuality was the trickiest thing that came to the table of church lawyers. This involved only "a few individual cases," according to an expert at the Vatican who cannot be quoted by name. Only the mental conviction to be born in the wrong body is not enough as an argument. "A man who feels himself to be a woman is not a woman", is the catch of the canonist.

For baptism, no obstacle

With the third sex the matter is more complicated. For baptism, however, it is not an obstacle. "We will not refuse baptism because baptism is necessary for salvation," says curia official. On this point, the Church has always been generous. The salvation of the soul is supreme. A hundred years ago, the Code of Canon Law even provided that every malformed fetus, Latin "monstrum," was to be baptized "at least conditionally" – it too was to be counted among the redeemed children of God. The provision has since been dropped.

The oath comes with the entry in the baptismal register, which is practically the hub for all further personal status matters of a Christian. Until now, there has only been a choice between "male" and "female" in the baptism application or in the register. If the priest had entered "divers," he would have blocked the child's Catholic marriage and his career as a priest, according to the current Roman situation.

On the Protestant side, too, gender plays no role in the act of baptism itself, as the press office of the Protestant Church in Germany (EKD) explained. And in the church records, the categories would correspond to the specifications of the personal status law. "If the civil status law introduces a third option, that will also be included in the church records," a spokeswoman in Hanover announced.

With regard to job advertisements, it said the EKD church office was "already making efforts to advertise jobs in a gender-neutral way rather than in a dualistic way". Perhaps an ecumenical nod to Catholics.

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