CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 23 September 2017

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Keeping same-sex marriage in context

MUNICH (SE): The archbishop of Munich, Reinhard Cardinal Marx, told Augsburger Allgemeine that the Church should not get too excited over a new law passed by the Bundestag on June 30 recognising same-sex marriage, but rather review with disgust its own record on not opposing the prosecution of homosexuals.
 
He said during the July 14 interview with the German magazine that the law in Germany, which made homosexuality a crime, was not rescinded until 1994 and that Catholic people as a Church, did not concern themselves with it.
 
He reminded Catholics who are upset about the new legislation that the Church has never exactly been a trailblazer in defending the rights of homosexuals.
 
Cardinal Marx insisted that the mission of the Church is to state its own teaching on marriage as a union between a man and a woman quite clearly in the public arena and uphold and defend its own teaching.
 
The 63-year-old cardinal insisted that it is wrong to see the passing of the law as a defeat for the Church and to do so is to misunderstand the nature of a modern, secular, democratic society.
 
He pointed out that the concept of marriage is not just a matter for the Church to decide, as the Christian position is one thing, but it is another thing to ask if the Church can make all Christian moral concepts state laws.
 
“Whoever fails to understand that the one does not automatically lead to the other, has not understood the essence of modern society,” the French daily Catholic newspaper, La Croix, quoted him as saying.
 
Cardinal Marx also questioned the presumption made by some Catholics that the new law would open the floodgates for threesome relations and incest, saying that there is absolutely no evidence to support such fears.
 
“The new law is concerned with allowing same-sex partners—and not close relations or three or more people—to marry,” he pointed out. “No one could immediately conjure up a bursting of the dam.”
 
Nevertheless, he admitted that he is highly supportive of an appeal being lodged in the Supreme Court by the governor of Bavaria objecting to the new legislation.
 
“I would very much welcome an appeal as I’d like to know what the Supreme Court thinks about marriage for everyone. I don’t know what the court would or will say, but a Supreme Court verdict would be good for legal peace in Germany,” Cardinal Marx noted.
 
It was pointed out to him during the interview that some in the Christian Social Union political party, as well as the Christian Democratic Union headed by the chancellor of the country, Angela Merkel, have expressed fears that their parties would no longer be Christian.
 
Merkel had allowed a conscience vote in the Bundestag to make a decision on the bill proposing the new law, even though she herself voted against it.
 
But reactions in the Church to the law have mostly been critical and negative. 
 
Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer, from Regensburg, even lamented that Catholics were becoming homeless as far as politics are concerned.
 
However, Cardinal Marx replied that he found this a bit of a stretch, as none of the so-called Christian parties represent or even want to represent all of the Church’s moral positions in their political platforms.
 
“That would not be possible or indeed desirable in a secular state,” he stressed.
 
The cardinal added that he did not view this matter as a litmus test of the influence of the Church in society either, as moulding all Church opinion and moral precepts into state law is simply not an appropriate thing to do in a secular society.
 
“We live in an open society in which there are Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and non-believers. In a secular society, the state must make laws that are valid for everyone,” he pointed out.
 
“Surely Christian influence doesn’t show itself only in laws, but in the everyday values that are lived in society. It is not merely a case of our influence, but of the concerns the gospel obliges us, as Christians, to carry out... We don’t only lobby for the Church!” the cardinal insisted.
 
Australian Church commentator, Father Frank Brennan SJ, said he believes that what the Church should concern itself with is lobbying on same-sex marriage to ensure that the right to act under state law in accordance with its own conscience is protected.
 
He said that he thinks that ensuring that there are no provisions in law that force organisations like the Church to perform or bless same-sex marriages is what the Church needs to look out for, as the state should not be able to dictate in such matters any more than the Church should be able to.
 
However, Father Brennan agreed that the legal provisions of state law and the mission of the Church need to be kept in clear distinction, as the mission of the Church is to proclaim its belief and the responsibility of the state is to guard against the abuse of the human rights of its citizens.
 
But in terms of winners and losers, Cardinal Marx noted that he believes that where the Church lost out was in not speaking up against anti-gay discrimination, not in the passing of the same-sex-marriage law.

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