MUNICH — The president of the German Bishops’ Conference has declared that, in his view, Catholic priests can conduct blessing ceremonies for homosexual couples.

Cardinal Reinhard Marx told the Bavarian State Broadcasting’s radio service that “there can be no rules” about this question. Rather, the decision of whether a homosexual union should receive the Church’s blessing should be up to “a priest or pastoral worker” and made in each individual case, the German prelate stated.

Speaking Feb. 3, on the occasion of his 10th anniversary as archbishop of Munich and Freising, Cardinal Marx was asked why “the Church does not always move forward when it comes to demands from some Catholics about, for instance, the ordination of female deacons, the blessing of homosexual couples or the abolition of compulsory [priestly] celibacy.”

Cardinal Marx said that, for him, the important question to be asked regards how “the Church can meet the challenges posed by the new circumstances of life today, but also by new insights, of course,” particularly concerning pastoral care.

Describing this as a “fundamental orientation” emphasized by Pope Francis, Cardinal Marx called for the Church to take “the situation of the individual ... their life story, their biography ... their relationships” more seriously and accompany them, as individuals, accordingly.

Cardinal Marx has recently called for an individualized approach to pastoral care, which, he has said, is neither subject to general regulations nor is “relativism.”

Such “closer pastoral care” must also apply to homosexuals, Cardinal Marx told Bavarian State Broadcasting: “And one must also encourage priests and pastoral workers to give people in concrete situations encouragement. I do not really see any problems there.”

The specific liturgical form that blessings — or other forms of “encouragement” — should take is a quite different question, the Munich archbishop continued, and one that requires further careful consideration.

Asked whether he really was saying that he “could imagine a way to bless homosexual couples in the Catholic Church,” Cardinal Marx answered, “Yes” — adding, however, that there could be “no general solutions.”

“It’s about pastoral care for individual cases, and that applies in other areas, as well, which we cannot regulate, where we have no sets of rules.”

The decision should be made by “the pastor on the ground and the individual under pastoral care,” said Cardinal Marx, reiterating that, in his view, “There are things that cannot be regulated.”

Editor’s Note:

In response to questions and public commentary regarding this story, CNA has decided to publish our translation of an excerpt from Cardinal Marx’s Feb. 3 radio interview, which is available below.

Questions have been raised regarding CNA’s characterization of the cardinal’s remarks as an “endorsement.” Our headline is intended to reflect that Cardinal Marx directly answered in the affirmative (“Yes”) to the question of “bless[ing] homosexual couples in the Church,” saying that such a decision must be made by “the pastor on the ground” in each “particular, individual case.” While CNA does not retract our headline, we appreciate the questions that have been asked, work to avoid sensationalism, and will continue to scrutinize our texts and headlines for fairness and accuracy.

CNA translation, excerpted from Bavarian State Broadcasting interview with Cardinal Marx:

Karin Wendlinger: Catholics certainly also have suggestions as to which “vitamin supplements” they want to give the Church, but the Church does not always move forward when it comes to demands from some Catholics about, for instance, the ordination of female deacons, the blessing of homosexual couples or the abolition of compulsory [priestly] celibacy.

Cardinal Marx: I do not believe that this is the most important “vitamin supplement” [the Church needs]. Rather, the question to be asked is how the Church can meet the challenges posed by the new circumstances of life today — but also by new insights, of course: for example, in the field of pastoral work, pastoral care. That seems to me a fundamental orientation, which was again underlined by the Pope. We have to consider the situation of the individual, his life history, his biography, the disruptions he goes through, the hopes that arise, the relationships he lives in — or she lives in. We have to take this more seriously and have to try harder to accompany them in their circumstances of life.

And this is true, as well, for the cases you mention; it also applies to homosexuals: We must be pastorally close to those who are in need of pastoral care and also want it. And one must also encourage priests and pastoral workers to give people in concrete situations encouragement. I do not really see any problems there. An entirely different question is how this is to be done publicly and liturgically. These are things you have to be careful about and reflect on them in a good way.

Karin Wendlinger: So you really could imagine a way to bless homosexual couples in the Catholic Church?

Cardinal Marx: Yes; however, there are no general solutions. That would not be right, I think. It’s about pastoral care for individual cases, and that applies in other areas, as well, which we cannot regulate, where we have no sets of rules. That does not mean that nothing happens.

But I really have to leave that to the pastor on the ground and the individual under pastoral care. There, you can discuss things, as is currently being debated, and consider: How can a pastoral worker deal with it? However, I really would emphatically leave that to the particular, individual case at hand and not demand any sets of rules; again — there are things that cannot be regulated.