Loiola XXI

Lugar de encuentro abierto a seguidor@s de S. Ignacio de Loyola esperando construir un mundo mejor

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Algunas importantes cuestiones que la iglesia debe discutir seriamente, según el Card. Marx

German Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich speaks during a news conference at the bishops’ spring meeting in Lingen March 11, 2019. The sexual abuse scandal and demands for reform have changed the German church, the cardinal said at the end of the meeting. (CNS photo/Harald Oppitz, KNA)

The Catholic Church in Germany is at a point where serious debate — including on priestly celibacy and the role of women — and openness to doing things in a new way must encouraged, said the president of the German bishops’ conference.

“Shakeups demand special proceedings,” Cardinal Reinhard Marx, conference president, said March 14 at the end of the bishops’ spring meeting in Lingen.

The sexual abuse scandal and demands for reform have changed the German church, the cardinal said.

“The church in Germany is experiencing a break. The faith can only grow and deepen if we are liberated from blocked thinking, in order to pursue free and open debates and the ability to take new positions and go down new paths.

“The church needs a synodal advancement. Pope Francis encourages this,” said Cardinal Marx. “We will create formats for open debates and bind ourselves to proceedings that facilitate a responsible participation of women and men from our dioceses.

“We know about the cases of clerical abuses of power. It betrays the trust of people searching for firm footing and religious orientation. What must be done to achieve the necessary reduction of power and to construct a fairer and legally bound order will be to clarify a synodal path.”

Germany’s bishops said they are still working on how to move forward following the sexual abuse scandal and other pressing issues.

“Many voices can be heard saying that there must be a concrete list of measures. I can only say in reply that we have this catalog and we are still working on the points named there,” Cardinal Marx said.

During the meeting, the bishops heard the analyses and opinions of theology professors, female administrators within the church and church officials on issues pertaining to the sexual abuse crisis, church law, women in church administration and Catholic sexual morality.

He said debates on celibacy require further study.

“We treasure celibacy as an expression of religious commitment to God. How far it must adhere to the witness of priests in our church, we will find out,” he said.

Cardinal Marx also said Catholic sexual morality is in need of development. “We perceive that we are often not versed in questions regarding modern sexual behavior,” he said.

The cardinal said he was aware that the results of the conference would not satisfy many people.

“Not all of the findings of our discussions will meet with your understanding,” he said. “For this reason, we ask for your accompaniment in prayer, your support and your critical voice. Only thus can we advance together as the people of God.”

He also acknowledged the widespread disillusionment among German Catholics.

“At this assembly, we have seen, heard and experienced that you, the believers in whose service we stand and with whom we feel bound in community, accompany our consultations with criticism,” said Cardinal Marx.

He thanked the faithful for their prayers and their criticism.

“We would like to tell you that we see and hear you. Your criticisms, worries, hardships, doubts and your demands,” he said. “I tell you sincerely — we understand it.”

Cardinal Marx also commented on his experience attending the Vatican summit on protection of minors, convened by Pope Francis.

“It (the conference) was not about a hastily assembled list of measures, but rather a globally realistic view and the awareness: We bear responsibility to the victims across the whole world,” he said. “None of us can negate or completely taboo the problem any longer.”

During the conference, the bishops revealed that one of the steps in sexual abuse reform mandated by Germany’s federal government has been postponed.

“We have postponed work regarding monitoring areas of intervention and prevention in recent months, not least of all because we just held a major Catholic-oriented symposium last November on the theme of monitoring,” said Bishop Stephan Ackermann of Trier, spokesman for the bishops’ conference on child abuse issues.

Bishop Ackermann explained that church officials, diocesan abuse prevention staff and an independent commission had participated in the previous year’s discussion.

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Hacia una revisión de la doctrina sobre el celibato obligatorio

Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich arrives for the opening session of the Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment at the Vatican Oct 3. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

WASHINGTON (CNS) — German Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising called for change in long-standing church teachings as the German bishops’ conference prepares for a workshop debate to “review” the issue of celibacy for priests.

In his homily at New Year’s Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady in Munich, Cardinal Marx said the church must, “in light of the failure” surrounding the clergy sex abuse crisis, be open to modifying church teaching in response to changing modern times.

“I believe the hour has come to deeply commit ourselves to open the way of the church to renewal and reform,” Cardinal Marx said, according to an audio of the homily posted on the archdiocesan website. “Evolution in society and historical demands have made tasks and urgent need for renewal clear to see.”

“I believe the hour has come to deeply commit ourselves to open the way of the church to renewal and reform.”

The cardinal, who is president of the German bishops’ conference, said that current measures to address sex abuse are not enough without revisiting church teachings. “Yes, matters are about development and improvement and prevention and independent reviews—but more is also demanded,” he said.

“I am certain that the great renewal impulse of the Second Vatican Council is not being truly led forward and understood in its depth. We must further work on that,” he said. “Further adaptations of church teachings are required.”

The cardinal’s statements coincide with plans to openly debate the issue of celibacy at the German bishops’ permanent council meeting in the spring. The bishops have said the workshop during the meeting is a direct response to the abuse crisis.

Despite the Vatican’s call for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops not to vote in November on several proposals for responding to the sexual abuse crisis because of a lack of time given the Vatican to study the proposals and potential conflicts with church law, the German bishops plan to host numerous ecclesiastical and secular professionals from various disciplines to analyze celibacy.

Pressure to end mandatory priestly celibacy has risen in Germany following the renewal of the sex abuse scandal last year. The history and purpose of priestly celibacy is now a hotly contested issue in Germany, as sexual freedom is a core principle of modern German culture.

Secular media outlets have advocated the abolition of celibacy saying it is an outdated practice. German Catholics also have become skeptical of celibacy because of the tremendous influence of Protestantism on Christianity in the country. Last November, the lay Central Committee of German Catholics has voted by a large majority to abolish mandatory celibacy for priests.

“Truth is not final. We can recognize it deeper in the shared path of the church,” Cardinal Marx said in his homily. He said he will take new stances on issues because it is his “duty as a priest and a bishop” to do so.

He added that Catholics must “leave behind categories like left and right, liberal and conservative and concentrate on the path of the Gospel in a concrete point in time.”

“Turn yourselves to a new thinking. To risk this thinking is important at the end of year and the beginning of a new year — not a flight into the rhetoric of the past,” he said.

“Naturally we stand in a great tradition — but this is not a complete tradition. It is a path into the future.”

In conclusion, Cardinal Marx said that 2019 will be filled with “unrest and opposition” within the church because of any proposed changes in church teaching, “but this new thinking is required.”

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Discusión en torno a las palabras del Papa Francisco sobre la homosexualidad y el sacerdocio.

Pope Francis leads an audience at the Vatican on Nov. 30. (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)Pope Francis leads an audience at the Vatican on Nov. 30. (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)


In a new book based on interviews with a Spanish priest, Pope Francis says that homosexuality in the priesthood is “something that worries me” and a “very serious” question. He remarks that gay priests who cannot maintain their vows of celibacy should leave the priesthood rather than live “double lives,” advises against admitting gay men into seminaries if their homosexuality is “deep seated” and suggests that a societal perception of homosexuality as “fashionable” has permeated Catholic culture.

The pope’s comments have provoked consternation among previous admirers, who worry that he is walking back the more pastoral approach to L.G.B.T. Catholics that has been his hallmark, and rejoicing among some of his usual critics, who complain that his persistent emphasis on mercy can sometimes break church doctrine. Others likely found themselves simply perplexed in the wake of this latest controversy. Is this same guy who asked, “Who am I to judge?” in deflecting questions about a gay priest in 2013?

If homosexual priests who stumble on celibacy should leave the priesthood, Catholics and church observers asked on social media, what about heterosexual priests who similarly struggle with their vows?

“Pope Francis has, not for the first time, been misunderstood, and a few headline writers gave people the wrong impression,” America editor at large James Martin, S.J., said in an interview conducted by email on Dec. 3. “But his comments were rather confusing to begin with.

“Pope Francis has, not for the first time, been misunderstood, and a few headline writers gave people the wrong impression.”

“He first speaks about gay priests expressing their ‘affections’—that is, being sexually active—which he obviously condemns,” Father Martin notes. “He says that they shouldn’t be accepted into seminaries or religious orders, but then he says that gay priests should be ‘impeccably responsible,’ leading to the conclusion that he accepts them if they are celibate…. My sense is that he is essentially reminding gay priests to be celibate—like all priests are called to be.”

The pope’s suggestion that “homosexuality” had become “fashionable” in contemporary Western culture startled and pained many. “I can’t speak for Pope Francis, but I’m assuming by ‘fashionable’ he means that one sees it more and more in public life,” says Father Martin. “But if he means that one is gay simply because it’s ‘fashionable,’ that’s not only wrong but hurtful and perpetuates the idea that gay people ‘choose’ their orientation. That would mean he’s going against not only every reputable psychiatrist but the lived experience of L.G.B.T. people.”

But had the pope really strayed far from what the church has already said about gay men in the priesthood or in preparation for it?

“Not really,” says Father Martin. “But it’s important to see his comments in context with his past remarks on gay priests and L.G.B.T. people. His most famous quote, ‘Who am I to judge?’ was a response to a question about gay priests. And, more recently, he told his friend Juan Carlos Cruz, a gay man and abuse victim, ‘God made you like this.’”

The psychologist Thomas Plante, the Augustin Cardinal Bea, S.J. University Professor in psychology at Santa Clara University in California, tracks the source of the pope’s latest headline-generating contretemps back to 2005, when the Vatican released an instructionon admitting men with “homosexual tendencies” to the priesthood. That document indeed proposes the same distinctions Francis briefly attempted to parse in his book-length dialogue with Fernando Prado, C.M.F., The Strength of Vocation: Consecrated Life Today—that while it was acceptable to admit candidates who had experienced “transitory” homosexuality into Catholic seminaries, candidates with “deep seated homosexuality” should be prevented from entering, if always treated with sensitivity and respect.

The problem is such distinctions do not hold up well under modern psychological scrutiny. “Sometimes our beloved church gets burdened by these documents in some respects,” Dr. Plante says. “I think the folks in the Roman collars and red hats writing these documents could use a little help from professionals in the field,” he adds. The instruction’s language does not reflect “what we really know now about human sexuality and homosexuality and how it all works.”

“Pope Francis, I love him, but he is not a mental health professional.”

Dr. Plante has conducted thousands of evaluations of seminary applicants and has essentially thrown his hands up—along with the seminary directors who consult with him—in trying to make the distinctions the Vatican apparently insists on.

“The critical issue here is that people’s sexual orientation, from a psychological view and a risk-factor view in terms of the clergy abuse crisis, is irrelevant,” Dr. Plante says. “It is how they manage their impulses that’s important. How they manage their desires, their impulses, gay or straight—that’s really the issue.”

When the pope speaks off the cuff on such a charged subject, Dr. Plante worries that “homosexual priests get scapegoated because of the fact that they’re gay, not the fact of what they are doing with their orientation….It is who they are, not what they do, and that is a really big problem.

Dr. Plante wonders why the pope and other church leaders do not more often reach out to professionals in psychology or human sexuality before they speak out on the subject. “You want clarity here because it is such a hot topic,” he says. “There is so much emotion, so much anger and hostility” around the issue. “You have to take a deep breath and be very clear about your communication because when you are not really clear, other people are going to project their own narratives, their own storylines,” he says, voicing concern that some will use the pope’s imprecision as “ammunition” to bash gay men in the priesthood.

Father Martin agrees that the use of “imprecise language” or comments that “seem to contradict one another” can confuse people “and, in some cases, demoralize them.”

“They also tend to then be used by ‘both sides’ and create further division in the church,” he says. “We all speak off the cuff, but I suppose when you’re the pope those off-the-cuff remarks are more likely to cause damage.”

Dr. Plante does not believe, as some headlines suggest, that Pope Francis or the Holy See wishes to drive gay men out of the priesthood. “Let’s see how that works out, if we really had an inquisition and took out all the priests who identify as gay,” he says. Dr. Plante speculates that would mean a reduction of “one-third to half” of the priesthood and the removal and humiliation of “folks who have done nothing wrong and are managing their impulses, something you have to do whether you are married or celibate or straight clergy.”

“Pope Francis, I love him, but he is not a mental health professional,” Dr. Plante says. “Why not talk to the professionals in the field?… There are many engaged Catholics out there who want to help and know something about this stuff. Let us help you. We mean well and we want to help the church.

“If the Vatican had a leaky roof,” Dr. Plante says, “you wouldn’t send a guy in a Roman collar and a red hat up on a ladder to fix it, would you?