German prelates seem to be making the headlines these days. If it isn’t Archbishop Müller, it’s Berlin’s Archbishop, Rainer Cardinal Woelki. About six weeks ago, he was featured in this blog with comments that seemed to endorse homosexual relationships. Although that wasn’t really the case, it was something that continued to haunt him. In an interview for German weekly Die Zeit he was asked if he maintained his earlier statement about homosexual relations. Cardinal Woelki answered:
“”Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided,” the Catechism says about people with homosexual tendencies. If I take that seriously, I can’t merely see homosexual relationships as a “violation of natural law”, as the Catechism puts it. I should also try to perceive it as people permanently taking responsibility for one another, being loyal and willing to take care of each other, even if I can’t agree with such a lifestyle. The lifestyle that we, as the Catholic Church, stand for, is the sacramental marriage between one man and one woman, open to the transmission of life. I have also said this at the Catholic Day in Mannheim, immediately before the passage you quoted.”
Reading this, I think it is unfair to see Cardinal Woelki’s earlier statement as an acceptance or even endorsement of homosexual relationships. He says clearly that he is unable to agree with this lifestyle. But, and this is the key, he does emphasise an important element of our dealings with people or situations that we don’t agree with. This element is love, as the catechism quote also hints at. Through love, we can see the good in situations which are “intrinsically disordered”, meaning that in their nature they are contrary to natural law. But, as Jesus has shown us, love trumps all, so even in these situations, love can shine through. Does that mean that homosexual acts and relations cease to be disordered? No, they don’t. But, as the Catechism and the cardinal indicate, we must acknowledge the fact that love, loyalty, responsibility and care can be present in this lifestyle.
Loving homosexual relationship or abusive heterosexual ones don’t so much tell us anything about the validity, the “ordered-ness” or the superiority of the one over the other. They do tell us that love, or the lack thereof, must be acknowledged. That does not change anything about the natural law or how one thing or another relates to it. That, we can argue, is set.