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Monday, July 09, 2012

World's youngest Cardinal equates faithful homosexual and heterosexual relations

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ZEIT: At 55 years you are the youngest cardinal in the world. When were you actually for the first time in Rome? 

Rainer Maria Woelki: For the first time? I must have been about 16. 

ZEIT: At that time quite young ... Woelki: Actually it was a promise of our youth chaplain. I was at a public high school in Cologne-Mülheim, where there was still a high school Mass, but it was going to be abolished. Our religion teacher said if we retain the Education Mass, we would take a trip to Rome. Later, after my school days, there followed other Rome visits. I met Joseph Ratzinger for the first time at that stage. 

ZEIT: How so? 

Woelki: The Cardinal celebrated Holy Mass often in the Campo Santo, the German theology students live. Our chaplain had studied with him and I was introduced to him. 

ZEIT: Today, the Pope is under pressure like never before. When you experience the recent affairs of confidential documents and the embezzled money in the Vatican , were you surprised by the extent of the scandal? 

Woelki: I am impressed by how clear the Pope says that it is here necessary to conduct an investigation. Where there are deficiencies, he will uncover them and change something. For me, this is a sign of strength. 

ZEIT: But are you not frightened by the extent of the scandal? 

Woelki: Wherever people are, of course, there is weakness, unfortunately, also in the church. What we say is that we should also seek to live. The more annoying is when a bank within the Church acts badly or even money laundering happens and financial irregularities take place. This should have no place with us. 

ZEIT: But money laundering is a serious crime.

 Woelki: Yes, of course, and I am glad that in Rome last year there was a new beginning, as a result of Papal initiative. Conversely, we can not say that the history of the church was free of such things. That unfortunately has always existed. 

ZEIT: That does not make it any better! 

Woelki: Of course not, but we should also keep a sense of perspective and of the whole matter. And the church was also always aware of the fallibility of its members, from which comes the old proverb, “Church of sinners, the Church of Grace”.

ZEIT: You describe the problem now in a very human categories. But are we not seeing an institutional failure of the Curia and the Vatican? 

Woelki: I do not know if one can say that. Of course, a lack of cooperation or even a covert and sometimes vicious opposition are even worse when they happen within the Church with the claims that we represent. On the other hand, apparently people are vulnerable, that they can be tempted by the lust for money, career and power. 

 ZEIT: One of the Bishops appointed by the Pope converted within one year, a decline of several million euros intp a plus, because he had audited public contracts awarded by the Vatican, for bribery. 

Woelki: I can not judge that in the end, I will not sit on the boards of financial supervision of the Holy See Bribery or even corruption are undoubtedly an issue that weighs heavily, even here in Germany. 

 ZEIT: But in Germany that would be something unthinkable! 

Woelki: I dare not say that this is unthinkable in Germany. Within and outside the Church there is a commitment to professional oversight, and yet time and again the misconduct of individuals or like-minded cliques has to be complained about. Corruption remains a problem in the Church which we work as well as possible to overcome 

ZEIT: Have you got the impression that Benedict has opponents in the Curia? 

Woelki: That I can not say, but I'm not long enough cardinal. 

ZEIT: From the Curia is heard that the Pope is tired office. Have you understanding for that? 

Woelki: Humanely, of course I understand that clearly. My father is 84 this year .. 

ZEIT: ... a year younger than Benedict ... 

Woelki: ... and my mother is 83. I know the hardships associated with age. The more I admire the Pope for what he does and how he does it and with what force and wit with which he is minister of the Gospel. That he also has hours of weariness, I understand deeply that I feel sometimes like that. 

 ZEIT: But your career is only just taking off! 

 Woelki: Yes, but if I had appointments from early morning, sometimes at night I'm worn out. That must be more difficult for a man of 85. 

 ZEIT: Do you feel close to the vortex of scandal in Rome? 

 Woelki: That the Catholic Church loses credibility and trust , I very much care about. I know also of great initiatives and exemplary activities around the world. We can just do what we have tried, for example, in the context the abuse cases- we can only begin a process of self-purification. And against the backgroundm we need to acknowledge us and say that there is guilt and blame. 

 ZEIT:Is VatiLeaks as bad for your church as the abuse crisis ? 

Woelki: No, the abuse I think is very much worse. VatiLeaks and financial issues indicate a problem, no doubt. It is evil is on the other hand, if a child is being abused and what has been done to him he or she has to suffer for a lifetime.  

ZEIT: Your Eminence, do you share the view that there is a backlog of reforms in the Catholic Church? 

Woelki: a backlog of reforms has always existed. 

ZEIT: In what way, please? 

Woelki: Mahatma Gandhi was once asked by two missionaries, why their message is appeared so hard. And Gandhi said, you smell too little of the Sermon on the Mount. One could also say that you taste too little of Jesus Christ. That's the real reform jam! But you have probably not meant that?(laughs)

ZEIT: In fact, we thought now rather about the Catholic Congress. You were one of the few leading bishops who had put the reform movement on a footing. Is it a mistaken impression that there are bishops who have a fear of the laity?

Woelki: Three cardinals, the Nuncio, a total of 17 local bishops, there were quite a lot of the bishops at the Catholic Congress. By the way, even when compared to earlier days of the Catholic Congresses, as they told me, because it was my first!

ZEIT: The German lay people can be pretty brutal in comparison to the rest of the global church quite often compared.

Woelki: I see things differently. For me, those souls who are critical are first of all Christians who love their church and are concerned: they suffer from the church or from some of her positions, but they are in church, and they are fighting for their church. That it is very tiring to face up to all this as a bishop, I will not deny, yes.

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. 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.


Article continues 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.

ZEIT:  Horst Seehofer, the Prime Minister of Bavaria, lives in a second marriage. When he visited the Pope for his 85th Birthday with a visiting delegation from Bavaria, Pope Benedict gave him Communion.

Woelki: This is a good example of what I'm saying, Who am I that I rate the "Catholic" living conditions of Horst Seehofer? I am not informed about it, it's nothing to me. I'm not his confessor, and not the competent canonical lawyer, but all the world looks to me for a morally and canonically impeccable judgment. The Pope has certainly acted as probably does every pastor who wants to turn away nobody.

ZEIT: In a Zeit interview, the chairman of the Bishops' Conference, Robert Zollitsch said he expects a move in dealing with the re-married during his lifetime. Do you share this prediction?

Woelki: The remarried, in their second relationship can sometimes succeed in what they had failed in their marriage. With their children, they form a family and try to live the faith as far as circumstances permit. They are engaged in our parishes and do good there. But we also face the responsibility to the Word of Jesus.

ZEIT: Can you elaborate?

Woelki: The Pope has only just at the World Meeting of Families in Madrid pointed out that the excluding of the remarried from the sacraments causes great sufferings for the contemporary church. These people belong to the Church, even if they are not allowed to receive communion.

ZEIT:  Should the remarried receive Holy Communion? Woelki: (hesitates) I usually do not as a bishop, what is the life situation of each person before me.

ZEIT: But do you give the remarried Communion?

Woelki: As a priest I have assume that everyone who asks from me the Eucharist does so with a pure heart. I would not lose sight of those who strive in recognition of breaking their marriage to live according to church doctrine and not receive communion. They thus give a strong testimony of faith.
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