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Theologian resigns from German ‘Synodal Way’ forum on sexual morality

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Katharina Westerhorstmann. / Screenshot from K-TV Katholisches Fernsehen YouTube channel.

Bonn, Germany, Jun 15, 2022 / 06:15 am (CNA).

A theologian has resigned from the German “Synodal Way” forum on sexual morality.

Katharina Westerhorstmann told the Catholic television station K-TV that she left the forum “not only because of time constraints, but also because of the concrete work in the synodal forum itself,” reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

The Synodal Way is a controversial multi-year gathering of German bishops and lay people to discuss four main topics: the way power is exercised in the Church; the priesthood; the role of women; and sexual morality.

Westerhorstmann teaches theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville’s campus in Austria. She will remain a member of the “Synodal Way” and is still allowed to participate in debates during plenary assemblies.

She said that the synodal forum’s direction was clear from the beginning. When a draft text had been presented, she said, her proposals for amendments “were highlighted in color because they did not fit the predetermined direction.”

Speaking to, the German bishops’ official news website, Hendrik Johannemann disputed Westerhorstmann’s account. Johannemann is a member of the synodal forum on sexual morality and came out as homosexual during the “Out in Church” campaign on German television earlier this year.

When changes were made to texts, all “amendments that were not along the lines of the original text” were highlighted in color, said Johannemann. These amendments could have been either “significantly more progressive” or more conservative, he added.

Westerhorstmann pointed out that she and other members of the synodal forum, including Bishop Stefan Oster of Passau in Bavaria, had previously tried “to explain more precisely our view of man, which corresponds to the current teaching of the Church.” But the proposed document was not adopted.

The synodal forum on sexual morality has introduced several texts to the plenary assembly of the Synodal Way. They have already been voted on once, but face two additional rounds of debate before a final vote.

One text, “Celebrations of blessing for couples who love each other,” says: “The synodal assembly calls on the bishops to officially allow in their dioceses celebrations of blessing for couples who love each other and want to commit, but to whom sacramental marriage is not available or who do not want to enter into it. This also applies to same-sex couples on the basis of a re-evaluation of homosexuality as a normative variant of human sexuality.”

In 2021, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reaffirmed that the Church does not have the authority to bless homosexual relationships.

Another document introduced by the Synodal Way forum, “Magisterial reassessment of homosexuality,” calls for a change in Catholic teaching on homosexuality, saying that sexual orientation is “inseparable” from every human being. Sexual orientation “is not self-selected and it cannot be changed,” the text argues.

Accordingly, it demands a change to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which says that the Church “has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’ They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.”


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