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Liberal Catholic bishops in Germany failed to approve a document changing the Church’s teachings on sex and sexuality.
The 30-page document, entitled “Life in succeeding relationships – The principles of renewed sexual ethics,” was brought to a vote at a meeting of the German Bishops’ Conference’s “Synodal Way” in Frankfurt Thursday. The resolution to approve needed a two-thirds majority to be adopted, but it did not meet that threshold. The document would have radically reformed the Church’s teachings around same-sex relationships, gender identity, and masturbation, among others.
“We are convinced that it will not be possible to re-orientate pastoral care without re-defining the emphasis of the Church’s sexual teaching to a significant degree,” the preamble to the document stated. “This is why we are suggesting such a major re-emphasis, as we consider it urgently necessary to overcome some of the restrictions in questions of sexuality, for reasons of sexual science as well as theology. In particular, the teaching that sexual intercourse is only ethically legitimate in the context of a lawful marriage, and only with a permanent openness to the transmission of life, has caused a wide rift to open up between the Magisterium and the faithful. This threatens to completely obscure other important aspects of God’s Good News which could have a liberating effect on shaping dignified sexuality.”
A total of 33 bishops voted to approve the document; 21 voted against it. Three bishops abstained from voting, The Pillar reported.
The leaders of the conference expressed outrage at the result. Delegates took the floor for two hours after the vote concluded, blasting those who voted to disapprove, and claiming that the move would foment division in the Church.
Bishop Georg Bätzing, the president of the bishops’ conference, threatened to take the document to Pope Francis’ worldwide bishops’ synod in 2023, despite failing to approve it. “We will take it to the level of the universal church when we are in Rome in November for the ad limina visit when we go about preparing the World Synod with the continental bishops’ conferences in January,” he said, via Fox News.
The first reform the German bishops pushed was for the Church to honor all forms of personal sexual identity, including gender identity. The German bishops’ document also affirms non-binary and so-called “intersex” identities: “[b]iological gender cannot be clearly determined in binary terms in some cases,” the document states, noting that intersex people have physical and chromosomal variance, while transgender people have a difference of “gender perception” from their biological sex. “As a Church, we must respect the individual self-perception of the sexual identity of any person as an inviolable part of their uniqueness as made in God’s image,” the document says.
The document went on to call for a radical reform of the teaching on homosexuality. Church doctrine declares homosexual acts as a mortal sin that completely separates the individual from God. The document called on the Church to reject that. “Same-sex sexuality – also expressed in sexual acts – is therefore not a sin that causes separation from God, and it is not to be judged as intrinsically bad,” the document declared.
The document would also have radically altered Church teachings on masturbation, which is also a mortal sin under Church doctrine. “Experiencing one’s own body through self-stimulation in a pleasurable way can be an important building block of self-acceptance for everyone,” the document declares instead.