Did Berlin’s Cardinal Woelki endorse same-sex relationships in a recent speech? Judging from some blogs’ jubilant reporting it would seem so. Translated, the cardinal seems to have said this:

“When two homosexuals take responsibility for one another, if they deal with each other in a faithful and long-term way, then you have to see it in the same way as heterosexual relationship.”

Little else to infer from that than that he indeed endorse gay relationships, or at least called them equal to heterosexual relationships. It’s a major turnaround for the archbishop who, upon his appointment to the German capital, was considered far too orthodox for the tastes of Berlin’s citizenry. But quotes without context are almost always worthless, especially when they seem to be so out of character for the speaker.

Rod Dreher, at The American Conservative, is one of the few to provide that context, in the form of a statement from Cardinal Woelki’s press secretary. He explained that the cardinal was arguing against the discrimination of homosexuals:

“Cardinal Woelki set long-term homosexual relationships in which two people have already made a life-long commitment to one another in relation to [certain] heterosexual relationships which indeed are not in any case “in [proper] Catholic order” (the unmarried, those lacking commitment, etc.). A comparison with sacramental marriage between man and wife was absolutely not the theme. […] Sacramental marriage between man and woman retains its special role. I see no cause for confusion.”

The only cause for confusion comes in the way the cardinal’s words were reported by certain media. Here lies a task for all Catholics, clergy or laity, to be as clear and unequivocal as possible, exactly to avoid such confusion. On the other hand, even crystal clear explanations won’t stop certain writers from drawing the exactly opposite conclusion from what the speaker intended to say.

Photo credit: Franco Origlia/Getty Images

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