In contradiction of the Catholic Church's 2,000-year-old teaching on marriage and sexual morality, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the German Bishops' Conference and one of Pope Francis' senior advisers, said it is okay for Catholic priests to encourage homosexual couples and to bless them in some form of liturgical or church ceremony.
The influential cardinal made his remarks on the Bavarian State Broadcasting radio service on Feb. 3, reported the Catholic News Agency and other media outlets. His statements apparently have not been challenged by Pope Francis or by other bishops.
When asked about "the blessing of homosexual couples," Cardinal Marx said these cases can be addressed on an individual basis by a priest or pastoral careworker in dialogue with the couple(s).
"We must be pastorally close to those who are in need of pastoral care and also want it," he said, in reference to homosexual couples. "And one must also encourage priests and pastoral workers to give people in concrete situations encouragement. I do not really see any problems there."
"An entirely different question is how this is to be done publicly and liturgically," said the cardinal. "These are things you have to be careful about, and reflect on them in a good way.
The interviewer Karin Wendlinger then asked, as translated by the Catholic News Agency, "So you really could imagine a way to bless homosexual couples in the Catholic Church?"
Cardinal Marx answered, "Yes, however there are no general solutions. That would not be right, I think. It’s about pastoral care for individual cases, and that applies in other areas as well, which we can not regulate, where we have no sets of rules. That does not mean that nothing happens."
"But I really have to leave that to the pastor on the ground, and the individual under pastoral care," he said. "There you can discuss things, as is currently being debated, and consider: How can a pastoral worker deal with it?"
"However, I really would emphatically leave that to the particular, individual case at hand, and not demand any sets of rules again – there are things that can not be regulated," said the cardinal.
The Catholic Church (and most Protestant denominations) teaches that sexual activity is preserved for marriage between one man and one woman, who promise to be faithful to each other and to always be open to the possibility of life (procreation). All sexual activity outside of marriage is sinful, and this includes acts such as adultery, fornication, masturbation and homosexuality.
Cardinal Marx, however, as reported by Life Site News, has called on the Church to apologize to homosexuals for not opposing Germany's law against sodomy (it was overturned in 1994).
The cardinal has also claimed, "you cannot say that a relationship between a man and a man, and they are faithful, [that] it is nothing, that has no worth."
The state "has to regulate these partnerships and to bring them into a just position, and we as a church cannot be against it," said Cardinal Marx.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, "The natural structure of human sexuality makes man and woman complementary partners for the transmission of human life. Only a union of male and female can express the sexual complementarity willed by God for marriage. The permanent and exclusive commitment of marriage is the necessary context for the expression of sexual love intended by God both to serve the transmission of human life and to build up the bond between husband and wife." (1639-1640).
Also, the Church teaches, "Marriage comes from the loving hand of God, who fashioned both male and female in the divine image (see Gn 1:27). A man 'leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body' (Gn 2:24). The man recognizes the woman as 'bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh' (Gn 2:23). God blesses the man and woman and commands them to 'be fertile and multiply' (Gn 1:28).
"Jesus reiterates these teachings from Genesis, saying, 'But from the beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother [and be joined to his wife], and the two shall become one flesh'" (Mk 10:6-8).
According to the late Fr. John Hardon, SJ, (1914-2000) -- one of the leading moral theologians in the Catholic Church who is now being examined for possible sainthood -- "Guided by divine Revelation and her authority to interpret the natural law, the Church declares that the use of the sexual function has its true meaning and moral rectitude only in true marriage." And true marriage is only possible between one man and one woman.
"It is the constant teaching of the Catholic Church, based on divine revelation and Christian tradition, that homosexual activity is morally indefensible," said Fr. Hardon, citing the teachings of Pope Paul VI and Pope St. John Paul II. "The reasons for this are founded on the revealed truth that sexual experience is divinely reserved to husband and wife in their marital relations."
As for people with homosexual tendencies, "They are to be treated with understanding and sustained in the hope of overcoming their personal difficulties," he said, adding, "their guilt will be judged with prudence. But under no circumstances is their behavior to be justified."
"Homosexuality by its very nature, excludes the procreation of offspring," said Fr. Hardon. "It is the selfish indulgence in sexual pleasure of two persons of the same gender whose claim of loving one another excludes the love of children who cannot be conceived or born.... [H]omosexuality is really mutual masturbation with a person and without the risk of pregnancy."
"The purpose of sexual activity is for married people to cooperate with God in the beginning of children," said Fr. Hardon, "and to both express and cultivate their mutual love for each other." This is not possible with same-sex couples, whether they exist legally in some sort of civil union or pseudo-marriage.
When asked whether sodomy is a "sign of the Church's 'self-destruction,'" Fr. Hardon answered, "Yes, as Pope Paul VI declared in one of his most outspoken denunciations of homosexuality. In context, he is speaking of the immoral practices among professed Catholics who are defending homosexuality:
'The Church finds herself in an hour of disquiet, of self-criticism, one might even say of self-destruction. It is like an acute and complex interior upheaval, which no one expected after the Council. One thought of a blossoming, a serene expansion of the mature concepts of the Council. The Church still has this aspect of blossoming. But since bonum ex integra causa, malum ex quocumque defectu, the aspect of sorrow has become most notable. The Church is also being wounded by those who are part of her” (Allocution to the students of the Lombard Seminary, Dec. 7, 1968)."