Anger at Cardinal for thinking and acting with the mind of the Church

Cardinal Woelki reprimands priest after blessing ceremony for lovers

The #OutInChurch initiative and the Synodal Path reform dialogue have put dealing with sexual minorities in the Catholic Church high on the agenda. A case from the Archdiocese of Cologne now raises questions.

If the organisers' account is anything to go by, the event was a resounding success. The first "blessing service for all loving couples" of the Parish of St. Lambertus in Mettmann also attracted people from the neighbouring towns of Hilden and Düsseldorf to the Thomas Morus Church at the end of March. The celebration was prepared by the working group "Rainbow Church for All", which has been working for more acceptance of gays, lesbians and other sexual minorities in the Catholic Church since 2022.

The church was opened in the fateful year of 1964.  Vatican II closed one year later.

Cathcon: Saint Thomas More would be surprised such events were taking place in a church dedicated to his holy memory

The highlight of the celebration was the anointing and blessing of the participants, which was done by parish assistant, Ulrike Platzhoff and priest, Herbert Ullmann. Those present described the service as atmospheric and moving. She had never experienced anything like it in a church before, said one visitor. But in the meantime, disillusionment is spreading among the organisers, there is even talk of horror.

At a preparatory meeting for a new edition of the service next February, Pastor Ullmann informed the Working Group about a reaction from the Archdiocese of Cologne, says member Maximilian Bröhl. According to the WG, Ullmann had to make a statement and received a "warning" from the Archdiocese "after an unknown person reported our parish priest to Rome". At the same time, the clergyman was forbidden to celebrate further "blessing services for all loving couples" in the Mettman-Wülfrath mission area.

The Archdiocese of Cologne did not want to comment on the matter, which became public on Friday evening through a report in the "Rheinische Post". "Please understand that we cannot comment on personnel matters as a matter of principle," the press office said on request. The reprimanded priest Ullmann is currently still on holiday.

In the view of canon lawyer, Norbert Lüdecke, the case is in itself uncontroversial. "A pastor has to profess again before taking office that he identifies with all the binding teachings of the Church, including the moral condemnation of non-heterosexual acts without exception. And he has sworn to abide by all Church regulations. They include not blessing non-hetero relationships," Lüdecke said.

The Cologne cardinal, in turn, was obliged - like all Bishops - to "urge compliance with all church laws and to prevent abuses, also with regard to the sacramentals, which include blessings".

Warning instead of reprimand?

Because there is no such thing as a reprimand in canon law, Lüdecke suspects a warning behind the measure. "With it, the parish priest is requested not to commit such a violation of the law again, otherwise he will also have to reckon with punishment."

But how does all this fit in with the current reform debate in the church? At the last plenary meeting of the Synodal Way in mid-March in Frankfurt, the majority of participants voted in favour of the possibility of blessing ceremonies for homosexual couples - a few days before the service in Mettmann took place.

As late as May, the chairman of the German Bishops' Conference, Bishop Georg Bätzing, supported the proposal. All that was needed, he said, was a pastoral handout that made it clear that a blessing ceremony was not a marriage and not a sacrament. "This is where the border lies."

But it is also a fact that Woelki abstained from the vote in Frankfurt and shortly afterwards declared that he was waiting for a statement from the Vatican on the treatment of homosexual couples.

Most recently, in March 2021, in response to a question, the Vatican's Faith Authority had said that Catholic priests were not allowed to bless same-sex couples who ask for religious recognition of their union.

According to canon lawyer Lüdecke, the case once again illustrates a basic dilemma of the Synodal Path, which was launched with many hopes. The Cologne Cardinal had declared from the beginning that he felt completely free with regard to the results achieved there. "He is, too. How his counterparts deal with them is legally irrelevant to him."

Some Catholics at grassroots level nevertheless feel that they have been affronted. In the e-mail with which the Rainbow Church Working Group addressed the Cardinal and the Vicariate General, it says: "We no longer feel comfortable in a church where people are excluded and discriminated against. And since we would like to change something, we have decided against leaving our church and for change through joint action." It is difficult to feel the love of God in church services and activities "when we know at the same time that the institution of the church does not accept certain forms of love and gender identity".

See original story


See also Cardinal Woelki has moved position on these matters.


Popular Posts