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So is Cardinal Marx for or against the blessing of same-sex unions?

Cardinal Marx said the decision should be made by the ‘pastor on the ground’ (Getty)

On Saturday Cardinal Reinhard Marx gave an interview in which he appeared, at first glance, to endorse the idea of blessing same-sex unions in some cases, saying it should be down to the “pastor on the ground” and that general rules could not be applied.

Now the German bishops’ conference has released its transcript of the interview. Yet, rather than clearing up confusion, it has only raised more questions.

In the English-language media, the story was broken by Catholic News Agency. It reported that Cardinal Marx, asked if he was endorsing blessings for same-sex unions, said: “Yes, there can be no general rules…” Interestingly, that “yes” does not appear in the German bishops’ transcript. It may have been a throat-clearing, as in “Yes, well…”

To add to the confusion, Catholic News Service has reported that Cardinal Marx explicitly rejected the idea of blessing same-sex unions. This, however, seems to be another misreading.

CNS reported Cardinal Marx saying “that would not be right” when asked about blessing same-sex unions. But here is the full exchange:

Karin Wendlinger: So you really can imagine that there might be a way to bless homosexual couples in the Catholic Church?

Cardinal Marx: There are no general solutions and I think that would not be right, because we are talking about pastoral care for individual cases, and that applies to other areas as well, which we cannot regulate, where we have no sets of rules.

As more than one Twitter user has pointed out, the cardinal appears to be saying that “general solutions” would not be right – not necessarily the blessing of same-sex unions.

So is Cardinal Marx for or against the blessing of same-sex unions? He seems to reject the idea of a blessing in the form of a standardised public ritual – the “general solution” he talks about. But he hedges his answer, leaving it up to the pastor to decide what pastoral care is suitable. It is hardly an outright rejection of same-sex blessings. Here are two chunks of quotation provided by CNS:

We must be pastorally close to those who are in need of pastoral care and also want it. And one must also encourage priests and pastoral workers to give people encouragement in concrete situations. I do not really see any problems there. An entirely different question is how this is to be done publicly and liturgically. These are things you have to be careful about, and reflect on them in a good way …

That does not mean that nothing happens, but I really have to leave that to the pastor on the ground, accompanying an individual person with pastoral care. There you can discuss things, as is currently being debated, and consider: How can a pastoral worker deal with it? However, I really would emphatically leave that to the pastoral field and the particular, individual case at hand, and not demand any sets of rules again — there are things that cannot be regulated.

The spokesman of the bishops’ conference told CNS that the cardinal was unavailable for further interviews. That is a pity – a chance to clarify his position more precisely has been missed.