Just last week it was Cardinal Schonborn saying to an Irish conference in preparation for the World Meeting of Families, that all families need protecting – including queer families. Also last week, another senior cardinal effectively acknowledged in a newspaper interview, that gay marriage is not a major issue for the Catholic Church.
Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich was speaking to the Augsburger Allgemeine. He said nothing to contradict church teaching on marriage, but at the same time he made several points which put this into some context. He noted for instance, that the state has an obligation to protect all citizens:
Marx: Can and should I transpose all Christian moral precepts into state laws? Whoever does not understand that one thing does not have to lead automatically to the other has not understood the essence of a modern society.
Augsberger Allgemeine (my translation)
Protecting all citizens would obviously include LGBT people. He therefore supported a call for the German supreme court to rule on the matter, which would bring some legal clarity to the situation, taking it out of the political (and religious) battlegrounds. In this, he could well be preparing the Church for a clearer distinction between civil marriage and the sacrament of matrimony. (German law already draws a clear distinction the two. Couples wanting a church wedding go through two ceremonies – one in church, and a separate civil marriage).
Of particular interest to LGBT Catholics, is that when asked if he saw the German “marriage for all” legislation as a defeat for the Church, he instead drew attention to the failure of the German Church to condemn the criminalization of homosexuality under the Nazis. The interviewer, clearly pressing him to declare same-sex marriage a disaster for the Church, suggested that the law would prepare the way for polygamous or incestuous marriage. Cardinal Marx, however, was having note of it – and instead raised what he saw as the more important issue: the historic failure of the Church to protect gay people from prosecution.
AA: They fear that the gates have been opened for marriage between threesomes or for sibling marriages.
Marx: The present law is about the opening of marriage for same-sex couples and not for relatives or three, four persons. I understand these worries, but you should not immediately see a dam breaking. By the way, it is worth remembering that, as a church, we were not necessarily a pioneer in the rights of homosexuals.
AA: What exactly do you mean by that?
Marx: That I must also speak out about this. I too did nothing against this, that homosexuals were prosecuted. The relevant paragraph of law was not deleted until 1994. We have not dealt with this as a church.
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