OXFORD, England (CNS) -- Germany's bishops'
conference expressed regret over a June 30 parliamentary vote to allow
same-sex weddings, vowing to defend the "Catholic understanding of
The vote by lawmakers "abandons the differentiated
perception of various forms of partnership in order to stress the value
of same-sex partnerships," said Archbishop Heiner Koch of Berlin,
chairman of the bishops' Commission for Marriage and Family.
differentiation isn't discrimination, and same-sex cohabitation can be
valued through other institutional arrangements without opening up the
legal institute of marriage," he said.
Germany's parliament, or Bundestag, voted 393 to 226 with four abstentions to allow same-sex couples to marry.
Koch said Article 6 of Germany's 1949 constitution stressed the
heterosexual "classic marriage concept," adding that the Catholic Church
would "face an increasing challenge" over the "vitality of Catholic
marriage," but not change its "sacramental understanding" of marriage as
a male-female union.
"As a church, we respect same-sex partnerships in which mutual responsibility and care are taken," he said.
it is worth noting how many who long fought the institution of marriage
have now become fervent advocates of 'marriage for all,' and how
prudent convictions about marriage have been abandoned citing changing
times and popular moods," he said.
The vote was hurriedly arranged
by Social Democrat Bundestag members for the last day of the
legislative season. The action followed a June 26 magazine interview
pledge by Chancellor Angela Merkel, a practicing Protestant who
previously opposed same-sex marriage, to allow a free vote for her
governing Christian Democratic Union.
However, while 70 Christian
Democrats backed the measure, German media said prominent party members
had vigorously opposed it, citing Christian convictions.
In a June
28 letter to parliament, Msgr. Karl Justen, director of the church's
Catholic Office in Berlin, said constitutional protection for
heterosexual marriage was confirmed by Germany's Federal Constitutional
Court when it approved same-sex registered partnerships in 2002.
said the Catholic Church recognized a "great diversity of family
situations," but he insisted same-sex partnerships "cannot be equated
Meanwhile, Thomas Sternberg, chairman of the lay
Central Committee of German Catholics, which has previously backed
liberal church reforms, told Passauer Neue Presse June 30 he also
believed lawmakers had made a "serious mistake" by backing legislation
that would require constitutional changes.
Same-sex marriage is
legal in Norway, Sweden, Denmark , Finland, Iceland, Netherlands,
Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Luxembourg, France, Great Britain (excluding
Northern Ireland), and Ireland, and was backed by 83 percent of Germans
in a 2017 survey by the government's anti-discrimination agency.
measure was expected to be approved July 7 by the Bundesrat upper house
for signing into law by President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.