German bishops will vote Monday on changing the German Church’s labor law to allow Church institutions to employ divorced and civilly remarried Catholics or those living in homosexual relationships.

The bishops were expected to vote unanimously in favor of the change on Nov. 24 last year, but decided to postpone the decision after a federal court ruling supported the Church’s current laws that forbid employing staff whose lifestyles run contrary to Church teaching.  

Until now, those seeking employment in the German Church — the second-largest employer in the country — have been required to adhere to lifestyles consistent with Church teaching. Many believe that if enacted, the changes would seriously undermine Catholic doctrine in these key areas.

But according to inside sources, those trying to push through the labor reforms are meeting some stiff resistance, possibly preventing them achieving the unanimous vote needed to approve the change.

In view of this, it seems one possible strategy the bishops may be using is to keep this reform out of the public eye and so win the vote behind the scenes. Once passed, it could then be presented at the upcoming Synod on the Family in October as a fait accompli pastoral practice already being successfully applied.

This would help to further the agenda of the majority of the German bishops’ which is to create an opening to allow divorced and civilly remarried Catholics receive Holy Communion, and advance the acceptance of practicing homosexuals in the Church. 

On Monday this week, the bishops released results of the second survey sent out to dioceses in preparation for the upcoming synod.

As predicted, the responses from the German Catholics showed a large discrepancy between ways of life and Church teaching. Most of the respondents also expected “a greater understanding” among Church leaders for those in living situations “that do not comply with this vision.”  The majority also expected “a development of the Church’s teaching and a greater openness to the realities of life today.”

But some observers were skeptical about the results, pointing out that the number of respondents wasn’t disclosed, only that the bishops’ conference had examined “one thousand pages” of results from dioceses across the country.