Martin Bürger

Martin Bürger reports for LifeSiteNewsThe working document of the German bishops’ “synodal path” to be voted on next month proposes to redefine marriage as only one among many other ways “to live love and sexuality.” An earlier working document, released last year, had made similar claims but was never put to a vote.

In one section, the four-page document states, “The openness for the passing on of life is not decisive for each individual [sexual] act, but to be affirmed in the overall course of a binding and long-term partnership.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, meanwhile, refers to the encyclical Humanae Vitae by Pope Paul VI, teaching “each and every marriage act must remain open ‘per se’ to the transmission of life.” The Catechism adds, “This particular doctrine, expounded on numerous occasions by the Magisterium, is based on the inseparable connection, established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act.”

Given the composition of the synodal path, it is unlikely for the alternative proposals to be adopted.

The document tries to redefine “the concept of fertility” to include not just “the openness to new life,” but also “a social and personal dimension.” Accordingly, “[e]ven same-sex couples and other couples who cannot give birth to a new life have the potential for a fertile life.”

Additionally, basing itself on the principle that “man’s dignity is inviolable,” the drafters of the document “regard personal self-determination … lived in Christian freedom as the central principle of order for the shaping of human sexuality. This means that people are allowed to say ‘no’ to unwanted sexual acts and ‘yes’ to a relationship with a self-chosen responsible partner.”

The document does not clarify that according to Catholic teaching, a man can choose only a woman, and vice versa, in marriage, “for the shaping of human sexuality.” Instead, it says, “We see marriage as the preferred but not the only way to live love and sexuality in a relationship.”

Where the main proposal speaks of the potential for growth in relationships of love, which appear to include homosexual relationships, the alternative emphasizes that “God’s revelation for human couple relationships provides for marriage and life in marital fidelity.”

“We honour people’s different sexual orientations and gender identities as well as their long-term, faithful and exclusive couple relationships,” the document adds, which is countered by the alternative proposal emphasising that human beings are to be honored “independently” of their homosexuality or gender confusion, not because of it.

Alternatively, the participants in the synodal path can vote for “deepening” the Church’s teaching instead of further developing it.

While the term “development,” especially in modern usage, is often meant to refer to “change,” the term “deepening” accepts Church teaching as it is and tries to understand and explain it better.

Notably, the document did not comment on masturbation. A passage on that particular action was part of the first working document for the synodal path last year, claiming that the “joyful experience of one’s own body (self sex) can also mean a responsible approach to one’s own sexuality.”

In this case, the Catechism points out, “‘Both the Magisterium of the Church, in the course of a constant tradition, and the moral sense of the faithful have been in no doubt and have firmly maintained that masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action.’ ‘The deliberate use of the sexual faculty, for whatever reason, outside of marriage is essentially contrary to its purpose.’ For here sexual pleasure is sought outside of ‘the sexual relationship which is demanded by the moral order and in which the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love is achieved.’”

It is unclear why an explicit mention of masturbation was dropped. However, the claim that not every sexual act has to be open to life could be interpreted in such a way as to include the use of contraception and masturbation.

The members of the synodal path, including all bishops and dozens of lay members named by the Central Committee of German Catholics and other organizations, are set to vote on the language of the document on sexuality on September 4.

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