The big news over the weekend is the screaming headline that Cardinal Marx approves of blessing same sex unions.
As usual, there is another side to the story. A friend in England sent me this:
I have just listened to the interview. The cardinal is behaving like the pope, i.e. being vague and incautious with his choice of words, and the press is behaving shamefully by putting words into his mouth in their commentary on the interview.
The press article has the headline (including the quotations marks which imply that the CARDINAL said the words) “Blessing of homosexual couples is possible.” But the cardinal never said anything of the sort, and even the text of the article cherry picks from the interview and doesn’t make it clear what words were said by the cardinal and what words were said by the interviewer.
The cardinal said: “We must find ways to accompany people in modern situations when they come to us for spiritual care and give them encouragement. I don’t see any problem with that.” He isn’t saying encouragement for their homosexual unions.
Marx goes on to say, “A separate question is how we deal with their situation publicly and liturgically, and that’s an area where we must hold back and think more carefully about.”
The interviewer then states, “So, you can see that there is a way forward to the blessing of homosexual couples in the Catholic Church.”
His answer is a bit sloppy, but it is absolutely not what the headlines are saying, “There is no general solution. I don’t consider that appropriate. But what we are talking about is the pastoral care for people in specific individual situations, and this is true in other areas, where there are things which we do not and can not regulate, where there are no fixed procedures, but that does mean then that nothing happens, but as to what happens, that is something we need to leave up to the pastoral advisor dealing with the specific situation.”
He is talking about encouragement in their life and general spiritual care, and that we do not simply do nothing for them at all.
To give the benefit of the doubt one would say, “Once again a high ranking prelate fails to communicate the Catholic faith clearly and cogently.”
However, the person who is being generous perhaps does not have the full story. After all, the interview in question was conducted in German and we may have translation problems
What makes be think that Cardinal Marx really does approve of blessing same sex unions is that the first news source in which I read the story was the Catholic News Agency–which is usually pretty objective and does not twist the words around to produce sensational headlines.
Today the story is carried in CRUX, and John Allen is a very professional and reliable journalist. The big quote is here:
Asked whether he really was saying that he “could imagine a way to bless homosexual couples in the Catholic Church,” Marx answered, “yes” – adding however, that there could be “no general solutions.”
“It’s about pastoral care for individual cases, and that applies in other areas as well, which we can not regulate, where we have no sets of rules.”
The decision should be made by “the pastor on the ground, and the individual under pastoral care” said Marx, reiterating that, in his view, “there are things that can not be regulated.”
And this goes to the heart of the problem. The “pastoral approach” which the cardinal is espousing is at the heart of Pope Francis’ ambiguity and at the heart of Amoris Letitia.
He says clearly there are no rules and it is up to the discretion of the individual pastor.
Of course we should be flexible and pastoral in our approach to people. Of course we should be compassionate and kind and understanding and non-judgemental.
But we do this based on a clear understanding and statement of Catholic faith and morals.
Did Cardinal Marx come out and clearly campaign for the blessing of same sex unions?
Perhaps not, but neither did he condemn the idea, and if CRUX is right, then it seems he really did give it the green light.
Did the headline writers pick up the ball and running with it? Most likely, and we can blame them for that…
…but we can also blame Cardinal Marx for dropping the ball in the first place.