Two years ago, I wrote a response when one German bishop denied Church teaching on homosexual acts. Then a year ago, I provided more clarity when a few US priests questioned this teaching. Now another German bishop is denying the 2000-year tradition of the Church. CNA asked me for some comment as an expert. I want to share two aspects of that article. First, the story this time. Second, my quotations.
The Story of a Bishop Denying Church Teaching
Bishop Peter Kohlgraf of Mainz is the bishop who misunderstands Catholic teaching.
A German Catholic bishop has publicly defended his support for a book of blessings and rites for homosexual unions.
Bishop Peter Kohlgraf of Mainz also suggested that Catholics with homosexual inclinations cannot all be expected to live chastely and the Church should adopt a pastoral approach that acknowledges this.
“Quite a few people who have homosexual attractions belong to the Church and are truly pious in the best sense of the word,” Bishop Peter Kohlgraf of Mainz wrote in a column for his diocesan newspaper that was also published on the diocese’s website, with the headline “Don’t ignore science,” on Feb. 3.
“As to the demand for chastity: what does it mean from the perspective of people who experience same-sex attraction? I think that few of them would consider this demand as tactful and respectful, because — as the Catechism also knows — this inclination is not self-selected.”
The Issues with His Suggestions
In the Article
The article quoted some lines I said before or mentioned when CNA emailed me.
Fr. Matthew Schneider, L.C., told CNA by email on Feb. 17 that “the Church historically has been concerned with a wider swath of sexual sin than just homosexuality.”
He said: “Two teachings lead to the logical consequence that no sexual act between two people of the same sex is moral. First, marriage is only one man and one woman. Second, all sex outside marriage is sinful.”
Schneider, who is writing a doctoral thesis on moral theology and has previously responded to demands by German bishops, added: “Certain things in Church teaching are solid and unchanging while other practices are prudential but must not go against the principles of the infallible teaching.”
Writing for the National Catholic Register in 2019, Schneider reviewed the history of Church teaching on homosexual acts. He concluded that for “2,000 years, the Church has not wavered in her teaching on the immorality of homosexual acts.”
He wrote: “There has not been a definition in the extraordinary magisterium but the ordinary universal magisterium can be infallible if taught universally with regard to time and place. The immorality of homosexual acts is an infallible teaching of the Church in the ordinary universal magisterium. Thus, the Church cannot change this teaching no matter how much certain priests might wish it changed.”
Schneider told CNA on Feb. 17: “How we minister to those who are attracted to the same sex to help them live chastity and other aspects of growing in holiness — be it following a Courage or Spiritual Friendship model — is prudential. However, prudential application cannot go so far as to endorse sinful acts of individuals, such as sexual acts outside of legitimate marriage.”
“Likewise, prudence allows blessings of friendships but does not require them. However, blessing friendships should be a friendship that is leading people towards holiness, not a blessing of ‘homosexual friendships’ as a kind substitute for marriage, endorsing — at least implicitly — the immoral sexual acts of the ‘friends.’”
Although it did not come to me when interviewed about this piece, another point now arises. This bishop completely misunderstands the virtue of chastity. All humans are called to live chastity. Even a married couple looking to conceive a child should be living chastity. Fr. John Hardon, SJ defines it:
The virtue that moderates the desire for sexual pleasure according to the principles of faith and right reason. In married people, chastity moderates the desire in conformity with their state of life; in unmarried people who wish to marry, the desire is moderated by abstention until (or unless) they get married; in those who resolve not to marry, the desire is sacrificed entirely.
He also notes chastity in marriage in another definition:
The virtue of chastity [in marraige] means marital fidelity between husband and wife, which forbids adultery; mutual respect of each other’s dignity, which forbids any unnatural sexual activity, or sodomy; and the practice of natural intercourse that does not interfere with the life process, which forbids contraception.
As such, a married woman can be pregnant and have practiced perfect chastity in the last 9 months. Chastity is about using your sexuality rightly, not about never using it. Thus, Bishop Kohlgraf’s whole argument that they need not live chastity seems to miss the whole point.
The Church has not, will not, and cannot change her teaching on homosexual acts. At the same time, the Church teaches us to show compassion and charity to homosexual persons. (Cf. CCC 2357-2359) Focusing on this takes energy away from things that matter far more. We need to minister to those with such attractions in truth, we need to reach out to them, we need to evangelize this segment of the population.
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