At 55, Rainer Maria Woelki is the youngest Cardinal in the Catholic Church, appointed by Pope Benedict XVI and serving as the Archbishop of Berlin. He recently sat down with the German newspaper Die Zeit. The full interview is worth a read, including his thoughts on gay relationships, sentiments that are surprising coming from such a high ranking prelate:

ZEIT: From the Catholic Congress a statement is quoted that has given you a lot of trouble. You said about homosexual relationships: "I think it is conceivable that, where people take responsibility for each other, where they live in a stable homosexual relationship, that is to be regarded in a similar manner to heterosexual relationships," Do you stand by this?

Woelki: "You must be careful not to mark down someone in an unfair way (literal translation of German- official English translation Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided) says the Catechism about people who have homosexual tendencies. If I take that seriously, I do not view in homosexual relationships "a violation of natural law" view, as expressed in the Catechism. I try to also perceive that as people they always assume responsibility for one another, loyalty to each other and have promised to provide, even though I cannot share such a life plan. The life plan for which we stand as the Catholic Church is a sacramental marriage between a man and a woman who is open to the transmission of life. This is what I said at the Catholic Congress in Mannheim immediately before the statement you quoted.

[Ed: Final section soon but that is the end of the passage on homosexuality- next is about the call to disobedience in the German and Austrian churches.]

ZEIT: Why is the Church so hard about this?

Woelki: Maybe it's a problem that today in the church everything must be almost over-correct. It must also be possible to be Catholic without every last detail being always checked.

ZEIT: The Church cannot discipline unruly flock on a regular basis, the believer must be converted so that his church does not issue him a free pass for everything?

Woelki: Yes, it is about willingness as a believer to be able to stand in a tension of closeness and distance to the church. Today we suffer from the ecclesiastical side sometimes a false perfectionism.

Cardinal Woelki is 30 years younger than Pope Benedict. He is reportedly not timid when it comes to promoting the church's teaching on homosexuality, but does his approach to the topic suggest a softened tone that comes with his younger age? Might a softer touch to this sensitive issue win more hearts than the battle-like language we're so used to here in the US?  

The original German text appears here, and the translation excerpted above is here.

Comments

JIM MCCREA | 7/23/2012 - 7:13pm
Luisa: have a go yourself!

And be a little nicer with your criticisms.
Luisa Navarro | 7/23/2012 - 3:10am
The translation is absolutely pathetic. Couldn't you get a better one?
Bill Mazzella | 7/20/2012 - 1:03pm
The Cardinal is decidedly different than Ratzinger and the other restorationists that dominate Rome. The nuances are notable. We have to leave the Church of Dogma and reclaim the Church of the Gospel. Unlike Ratzinger who seems to want to avoid what happened under Hitler, Woelki probably sees that a Church who supported Hitler and/or was afraid to confront him should repent for more serious sins and stop being the Church of Dogma.
Amy Ho-Ohn | 7/20/2012 - 8:04am
The translation is slightly incomplete. The Cardinal said, "I may not see in homosexual relationships exclusively (ausschließlich) the violation of natural law." He did not suggest one should not see the violation of natural law at all.

Attempts to portray Woelki as heterodox on this or any other point look a bit desperate. Before Berlin, Cardinal Woelki was Auxiliary to Cardinal Meisner in Köln. If he were squishy on doctrine, he wouldn't have lasted one day. Most likely, he is a younger version of Meisner himself: a good, kind, decent, loyal, honest, dedicated old fellow who is absolutely committed to upholding Catholic doctrine in every particular.

" ... willingness as a believer to be able to stand in a tension of closeness and distance to the church" is nothing novel: if one can't make a good confession, one is still obliged to go to mass and simply refrain from presenting oneself for communion. Millions of Catholics do it every Sunday.
T BLACKBURN | 7/20/2012 - 7:24am
Nothing new at all.
"It must also be possible to be Catholic without every last detail being always checked." Ask Sister Pat Farrell if that seems new to her.
 "False perfectionism"? The perfection of ecclesiastical leaders is never false. In fact, it is never less than perfect, right David?