The priest responsible for the formation of young men preparing for the priesthood in the German Diocese of Limburg in a homily last Sunday demanded that the Church change her prohibition on blessing the so-called divorced and remarried, as well as homosexual relationships.
Fr. Christof May also said he no longer understands why women can’t become priests, and he supported allowing non-Catholics to receive Holy Communion.
“The divorced remarried couple … comes to me and asks for a blessing,” May said. “One of the partners may have been married many years ago, perhaps 10, 15, 20 years ago. The two don’t want to marry again, but they want a blessing, and I am not allowed to give it. I am not allowed to say, ‘The community, as it is now, is good.’
“If one of the two partners came to me in the confessional, I could not absolve him, because there is still the first marriage bond, which has been torn apart internally for a long time,” he lamented. “I could not allow them to attend the Eucharist — but a member, somehow a member of the Church, he may remain.”
Pope John Paul II explained in 1997, referring to his 1981 apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio, that “the divorced and remarried cannot be admitted to Eucharistic Communion since ‘their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist’ (n. 84). And this is by virtue of the very authority of the Lord, Shepherd of Shepherds, who always seeks his sheep.”
“It is also true with regard to Penance, whose twofold yet single meaning of conversion and reconciliation is contradicted by the state of life of divorced and remarried couples who remain such,” the Pope added.
“They did an unbelievable amount of voluntary work in the parish,” he said. “There was hardly a liturgy where they weren’t active as a lector, as a cantor, as an organist — not to represent themselves, but to be taken into service. How often did I have them with me on Thursdays at Mass in the nursery home, and how much did they delight the people?”
“A blessing?” May asked rhetorically. “I’m not allowed to bless them. Instead, such people are and were verbally beaten up, sent away.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, however, already calls for precisely the opposite — namely, “They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.”
Fr. Christof May didn’t elaborate on how exactly men and women with same-sex attraction are “verbally beaten up, sent away.” He did, however, lament that men with deep-seated homosexual tendencies are not allowed to become priests.
He called the sacramental marriage between a Catholic and a non-Catholic Christian “the sacrament of reconciliation, of union, of communion. But then, when the two of them come to the Sunday service, I would have to reject the one partner who is not Catholic at the communion rail.”
May admitted that “we don’t do that for pastoral reasons.” However, he then said he wants more. “I want to be able to say openly and honestly to the person: it is your decision, it is your conscience. I fully recognize your marriage, and I cannot in good conscience then exclude you from the Eucharist, communion, community. From Monday to Saturday you live together, pray together, suffer together, but on Sunday you are separated. This does not work.”
The priest didn’t explain the connection between a valid sacramental marriage and access to the Eucharist. Even marriages between two Protestants are recognized by the Catholic Church to be sacramental marriages, but even May didn’t demand that they should be able to receive the Eucharist.
On the question of female priests, May said, “There is an instruction from the ’90s by Pope John Paul II. In it, it says that Holy Orders for women is no longer to be discussed. Roma locuta, causa finita [Rome has spoken, the case is closed].”
A little later, he said, “For me, Holy Orders was always clearly bound to men. One argument: Jesus broke with many patterns back then, and if he had wanted to, he would have called women to be apostles. I have made this argument very much my own since my theological studies. But I realize: It is no longer true for me.”
Pope John Paul II solemnly declared in his 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis, “Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32). I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”
According to May, the teachings of Jesus Christ are essentially dated. “Yes, he has broken with many patterns. But as true God and true man, he was also a child of his time, when the question of the role of women had to be resolved in a completely different way.”
May mentioned arguments against the ordination of women that refer to the rejection this idea experiences in places like Africa, without commenting on the danger of schism. According to the priest, “we wouldn’t have a female chancellor in Germany either, if we only ever align ourselves to what is not yet working in other countries. If the Church is to be a beacon of light, and a beacon for the times, then maybe we also have to make points that are still irritating in other countries.”
Fr. Christof May’s bishop is Georg Bätzing, who is also the head of the German Bishops’ Conference.