"Not to break the staff on the backs of others"
The moral theologian, Stephan Goertz about the Church's attitude to homosexuality
"If someone is gay, who the Lord seeks and has good will - who am I to judge him?" Thus Pope Francis spoke two years ago at a press conference on the return flight from his first trip to Latin America. "Who am I to judge him?" in line with this is the title of a new collection of essays on the subject "Homosexuality and the Catholic Church".
In an interview the theologian. Stephan Goertz the Mainz moral theologian explained the motivation for the publication of the comprehensive 400 page volume.
Question: Professor Goertz, why so many religions find homosexuality difficult?
Goertz: religions such as Judaism, Islam or Christianity come from a time that did not yet have available today our human scientific knowledge about human sexuality; that which then applied was unquestionably equated with the divine order: the Earth is the centre of the world, men and women are not equal, all men covet women, all women men. And that affects the sexual morality.
Stephan Goertz (pictured here with the Essen Bishop Overbeck) is a professor of moral theology at the University of Mainz
Question: What was derived from it?
Goertz: The reproduction was considered the primary God-given natural purpose of sexuality. And sexual behavior was not allowed to endanger the social order. In this concept, sexual relations between men or women had no place.
Question: Do you deal in your book specifically with the subject "Homosexuality and the Catholic Church". Does the Church of today not have more important, more urgent issues?
Goertz: You should ask that to those for whom homosexuality still is a problem. It would be irresponsible if the theology would not comment. First, sexuality is something that affects all people. And secondly, we still have to deal with the fact that at the political level in many parts of the world there is discrimination, persecution, with exclusion of homosexuals. It would be an important Christian witness, if the Catholic Church were to act with a resolute anti-discrimination policy.
Question Now, the church has long said yes, that homosexuals should not be discriminated against. But then there are also the traditional and biblical passages, where homosexuality is condemned ...
Goertz: We always have to figure in the concrete historical situation of the authors of biblical texts in our interpretation.
Question: In the book of Leviticus, sexual acts between people of the same sex are called "atrocities" that "are punished by death". That sounds pretty clear.
Goertz: The context here is of that sexuality had to fulfil the primary purpose, to ensure the survival of the people. That's obviously not our situation, and that's especially since the Council no longer our sexual morality. Therefore, one cannot use single quotes taken out of context to answer a moral issue today. That would be a fundamentalist use of biblical texts.
Question: Opposition: Do you not do the exact same thing if you pick out the points that match your view of things?
Goertz: I take a theological stance on the foundation of the Bible. That God has absolutely promised everyone his love that in the people of God natural, social differences are to be overcome, that we should not condemn others. I think that is theologically more important than rules on the "nature" of individual sexual acts.
Question: The problem is that anyone who wants to talk today about homosexuality and church without foaming at the mouth, is at once caught in the crossfire between right wing blogs or left wing church critics ...
Goertz: In certain circles one has the impression that arguments barely penetrate in fact. The task of theology is to examine the arguments and to ask what today the Christian message demands from us. We must carefully differentiate and boldly approach the issues. And then such a theology will hopefully be perceived accordingly by the bishops.
Question: In the autumn, the topic of the World Synod of Bishops is marriage and the family. What is to be expected in your view as you overlook the treatment of homosexuals in the church? And what would be desirable?
Goertz: To be realistic, perhaps, once again it can be stressed that homosexuals should not be discriminated against and criminalized and that they have their natural place in the church. This is globally considered an important message. Maybe it will finally also leave behind the old condemnations of homosexual acts. I think it is desirable that one searches even more within the Catholic Church for a direct dialogue with homosexuals and does not talk more over their heads away and give precipitate moral judgments. That would be a positive signal.
Question: Then perhaps the question would also be in the room, which is now being discussed already in politics, how far the marriage can be made equal with gay or lesbian partnerships.
Goertz: Different can be designated as separate, yet experience an equal consideration and respect. One might ask theologically whether a binding gay love affair that sees itself as a partnership in faith in the God of Israel and Jesus, possesses a sacramental character. Homosexual partnerships could then find church recognition.
Question: Could that one day also be done by external signs, or by a blessing of homosexual couples?
Goertz: Although I do not expect that this will be already on the synod agenda: I see no problem in principle theologically.