An astonishing news item in the Wall Street Journal reports: “At a meeting in Frankfurt, German [Catholic] church leaders voted 168 to 28. . .to adopt a draft statement on sexuality that includes a resolution saying that ‘same-sex partnerships who want to take the risk of an unbreakable common life. . .should be able to see themselves placed under the blessing of God.’”
A priest who has campaigned against longstanding Church teaching rejoiced at the vote, even though it directly contradicted several statements by Pope Francis, saying it was “a milestone in the journey toward a church without discrimination, a church full of respect for the diversity of love and partnerships.”
This concern for “the church” rings hollow. Every priest promises God – through his bishop – to pray the Breviary. On the 27th Sunday of the liturgical year, priests (including, presumably, the German bishops) should have read this passage from Pope Saint Gregory the Great:
Pastors who lack foresight hesitate to say openly what is right because they fear losing the favor of men. As the voice of truth tells us, such leaders are not zealous pastors who protect their flocks, rather they are like mercenaries who flee by taking refuge in silence when the wolf appears.
Identifying the wolves that threaten his flock is among the many duties, in conscience, that a priest shares in obedience to his bishop. If bishops object to such teachings, they ought to announce – out of mere honesty – that they don’t think their priests should be praying the Divine Office anymore.
It isn’t a surprise that the vast majority of German bishops do not think homosexual acts are sinful. Their studied ambiguity on the subject has been on display for years. It isn’t even surprising to suspect that a considerable number of German bishops may be active homosexuals. Anyone who celebrates “the diversity of love and partnerships” should not object to the suggestion that “celebrating diversity” is code for “celebrating sodomy.”
But it’s astounding that the vast majority of German bishops are willing to deny their apostolic authority. Their votes, in effect, sever them from the Church and declare that they are not qualified to make pronouncements on Christian marriage. “Their end is destruction, their god is the belly, and they glory in their shame.” (Phil. 3:18) So we need not waste our time on them. Despite the noise they make, they are both incoherent and irrelevant.
We must turn elsewhere for a Christian vision of marriage rooted in the teachings of Jesus and the Scriptures. Here is the beautiful “Exhortation before Marriage” – a canned homily for weddings – written years ago, a time when even mere platitudes ran much deeper than things currently on evidence in Germany:
“You are about to enter upon a union which is most sacred and most serious. It is most sacred because it is established by God Himself. By it, He gave to mankind a share in the greatest work of creation, the work of the continuation of the human race. In this way, He sanctified human love and enabled man and woman to help each other live as children of God, by sharing a common life under His fatherly love.
“Because God Himself is its author, marriage is of its very nature a holy institution, requiring of those who enter into it a complete and unreserved giving of self.
“However, Christ Our Lord added to the holiness of marriage an even deeper meaning and a higher beauty. He referred to love in marriage to describe His own love for His Church and for the people whom He redeemed by His own blood. He thereby gave Christians a new vision of what married life should be, a life of self-sacrificing love like His own. It is for this reason that His apostle, St. Paul, clearly states that marriage is now and for all time to be considered a great mystery, intimately bound up with the supernatural union of Christ and the Church, which union is to be its prototype.
“This union. . .will bind you together for life in a relationship so close and so intimate, that it will influence and direct your entire future. . .That future, with its hopes and disappointments, its successes and failures, its pleasures and its pains, its joys, and sorrows, is hidden from your eyes. You know that these elements are mingled in every life, and are to be expected in your own. And yet, not knowing what is before you, you take each other for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death.
“Because these words involve such solemn obligations, it is most fitting that you rest the security of your wedded life upon the great principle of self-sacrifice. You begin your married life by the voluntary and complete surrender of your individual lives in the interest of that deeper and fuller life you are to have in common. From this day on you will belong entirely to each other, you will be one in mind, one in heart, and one in affections. Whatever sacrifices you may hereafter be required to make to preserve this mutual life, always make them generously. Sacrifice is difficult and trying. Only love can make it easy, and perfect love can make it a joy. We are willing to give in proportion as we love. When love is perfect, the sacrifice is complete.
“God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, and the Son so loved us that He gave Himself for our salvation. ‘Greater love than this no man has, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’
“If you allow true love and the unselfish spirit of perfect sacrifice to guide your every action, you can expect the greatest measure of earthly happiness that may be allotted to us in this vale of tears. The rest is in God’s hands.”
The German bishops would do much better by committing plagiarism than by spreading falsehood.
*Image: A Flock of Sheep Surprised by the Storm by Eugène Verboeckhoven, 1839 [Royal Museum of Fine Arts Belgium, Brussels]
You may also enjoy:
Fr. Gerald E. Murray’s Germany’s Schismatic Synodal Way
Michele McAloon’s Germany on the Brink of Schism