In Berlin earlier today, a new archbishop was installed, Heiner Koch, who as bishop of Cologne had a track record of pastoral sensitivity to LGBT concerns: he was in the news some years ago, for instance, for dropping in unexpectedly in a local LGBT community centre, to talk to the community and listen to their concerns.
In an interview with Tagespiegel on the eve of his inauguration, he spoke among other things, about his views on homosexuals in the Church. Unlike his colleague Bishop Bode, he is opposed to any form of blessing for same – sex couples, lest it be “confused” with marriage. In my view, there are obvious contradictions in his thinking: earlier in the interview, when speaking in general terms about family and marriage, he describes the value of marriage in terms which could apply equally well to same- sex couples, with no hint at all of procreation:
You are responsible for the issue of family in the Catholic Bishops’ Conference. Many positions on family, marriage and sexuality are no longer comprehensible even to Catholics. Must the Church adapt?
We see sexuality as an integrated whole. Two people love each other, their love grows emotionally, physically and in our understanding spiritually and religious. The greatest freedom is achieved when two people decide to go through life together, even through crises and disease.
But when he is asked specifically about homosexuals, he backtracks and insists that in the Church’s view, “sexuality” (not simply formal marriage) is only “complete” when it is between a man and a woman, and open to new life.
Even so, I think he will be a valuable ally at the Family Synod, where there will not be any question of formal Church recognition of gay couples, but there will be extended discussion on the importance of “respect, compassion and sensitivity”,which are so often neglected.
He recognizes, for instance, that the Church faces a real challenge, in its efforts to differentiate between married couples and their ability to conceive life, while avoiding any form of discrimination or disrespect for same – sex couples.