German Church at war with herself over homosexual blessings

According to Assmann, no advice, warning or sanctions after blessing ceremony

Warned priest contradicts Vicar General: There were instructions

The discussion about a blessing ceremony for all loving couples in Mettmann continues: In a letter to the editor, the Vicar General from Cologne presented his view of the blessing ceremony. Father Herbert Ullmann doesn't want to leave it that way.

The lead priest of the Parish of St. Lambertus Mettmann, Herbert Ullmann, has distanced himself from the presentation by Vicar General Guido Assmann. "With all due respect for the office and person of Vicar General Msgr. Assmann, as a person affected, I cannot let his portrayal in the church newspaper stand like this," said a statement by the pastor published on Monday on the parish's Facebook page.

Ullmann is referring to a letter from Assmann to the editor in the current issue of the Kölner Kirchenzeitung. "Regarding the service in Mettmann/Wülfrath, there was neither an anonymous complaint in Rome nor a warning nor the threat of sanctions against anyone," the Vicar General wrote in it. Rather, several newspapers reported on the blessing service in Mettmann. "This public reporting was also read in Rome. The Roman Dicastery for Divine Services and the Administration of the Sacraments then wrote to the archbishop of Cologne and asked for a statement and information on possible measures." As Vicar General, he informed Ullmann about the letter and asked for his account. "I believe that this was done in a very transparent and trusting manner," said Assmann. The task of the priests is to explain the teachings of the Church to the faithful in an unadulterated manner. "What consequences the believers draw from this is their own responsibility and thus becomes a question of conscience."

"That also happened to us in the mission room - among witnesses"

In his statement, Ullmann criticized that Assmann's statement that there had been no anonymous complaint was incomprehensible to the working group "Rainbow Church for All" and to him personally. "In millions of newspapers around the world, friendly reports from two regional newspapers in Rome are to be read and evaluated? And which authority, purely rationally speaking, will admit when asked by the archdiocese: Yes, we have been informed by an anonymous source?" asks the pastor. In the letter from the Roman Dicastery to the Archbishop of Cologne, connections with the synodal path were also mentioned that were proven not to have been in any newspaper. "Anyone in a small minority of declared opponents of the blessing service who is proud of having denounced Rome is also interested in making this known in appropriate circles," writes the pastor. "That also happened to us in the mission room, among witnesses."

Ullmann also emphasized that the documents from Rome and Cologne on the "blessing service for all lovers" speak a clear language and also contain service instructions in their linguistic form. "Msgr. Assmann and I are personally friendly to each other, which I really appreciate. In this respect, the discussion about the Roman 'charge' was also 'transparent and trusting', even if it was linked to unequivocal conditions," said Ullmann. He would like to see a "little more sensitive humanity that respects the conscience as the supreme authority" from the Cologne church leadership, as well as more generosity and tolerance. And: "A little more emphasis on pastoral and pastoral care instead of mantra-like repetition of man-made canon law regulations."

"Otherwise I risk my existence. Unfortunately, you have to say it like that."

The "blessing service for all lovers" took place in Mettmann in March and made headlines nationwide at some distance. The parish had already published excerpts from Assmann's letter, Ullmann's reply and from the conditions that the Vicar General had imposed on the pastor in a telephone call in a post on their Facebook page at the beginning of August. Among other things, the cited editions state that same-sex couples as well as partnerships of divorced people who have remarried cannot be blessed by the church, but individuals "regardless of disposition and life status" can be blessed at any time. At blessing ceremonies and also individual blessings, everything should be avoided "that could give the appearance of a sacrament, e.g. anointing". Ullmann was urged "to stand up for a clear image in the future in the public appearance of the parish and through his actions".

In this post from the beginning of August, Ullmann also writes that he has now learned that there is no warning for a priest in the canonical sense. "Nevertheless, it was verbally explained to me that the conditions imposed on me in civil law corresponded to a 'warning'." The process in the parish has led to numerous expressions of solidarity for Ullmann. As a reaction, the "Rainbow Church for All" group has already announced a second, ecumenical blessing service. Ullmann himself will not be involved because he has to comply with the Archbishop's requirements. "Otherwise I risk my existence. Unfortunately, you have to say that."