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Luxembourg’s synod report calls for change on homosexuality, priestly celibacy

Participants in the diocesan phase of the synod on synodality in Luxembourg have called for a change in Church teaching on homosexuality and the abolition of mandatory priestly celibacy.  

Their appeal was cited in a 16-page report following a consultation process involving 4,590 Catholics in the Archdiocese of Luxembourg, which is led by Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich. 

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The Jesuit cardinal will have a major role in the gathering of the world’s bishops in Rome at the end of the two-year synodal process in October 2023. Hollerich will serve as relator general of the bishops’ assembly on the theme “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission.”

Luxembourg archdiocese’s synod document, released in French on July 5, said: “The Church needs a change of view on homosexuality, to open up to marriage for all, and to abolish the obligation of celibacy for priests.”

Cardinal Hollerich said earlier this year that he believed that the “sociological-scientific foundation” of the Church’s teaching on homosexuality was “no longer correct.”

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The synod report, “On the way to a living Church of the people of God in Luxembourg,” collates the responses of individuals and groups to a questionnaire on the themes of the synodal process. 

It considers them under the headings “Communion,” “Participation,” and “Mission.” Under each heading, there is a reflection on what can change at a diocesan level and what needs to be discussed further by the universal Church.

Under the title “Communion,” the text says that the archdiocese needs a “clear vision” for the future and to “develop a real pastoral project built in a synodal way.” It calls for an “independent office” at the universal level to analyze the Church’s problems. 

“It is necessary to modernize the rules and viewpoints of the Church,” it says. “To be credible, the Church must acknowledge its errors and question itself.”

After citing the appeal for change on homosexuality and priestly celibacy, the report says that “on the one hand, women take ‘a central place in the life of the Church,’ they participate in large numbers, but on the other hand, they are ‘sidelined at the level of institutions.’” 

“The service of preaching should be opened to the laity (women/men),” it says.

Under the heading “Participation,” the report calls for the principle of subsidiarity to be applied at the local level, with greater opportunities for “joint decision-making.” It says that lay people should be able to express their wishes “concerning the appointments of priests and lay professionals, and of the bishop.” It adds that parishes want the universal Church to “reform structures in order to integrate women by giving them responsibilities, abolish mandatory celibacy, [and] reform sexual morality to open ways of participation.” 

Under “Mission,” the text says that the local Church “must be a welcoming Church, capable of empathy, first of all towards the weakest and most fragile,” and value the diverse cultures and languages “which are specific riches in Luxembourg.” At the universal level, it appeals for greater efforts to combat abuse. The document also calls on the Church “to review its teaching, its internal law, its rituals, and even the sacraments: to aim at building a bridge between the Gospel message that it must proclaim and the concrete life of people.”

The report, prepared by a two-person team who analyzed local submissions, notes that “a very small number of individuals spoke out against the acceptance of the divorced and married, the valuing of women in the Church, the acceptance of homosexuality, and the abolition of mandatory priestly celibacy.”

The report describes the 4,590 people who took part as “a considerable number.” There are an estimated 439,000 Catholics in Luxembourg, which covers the whole of the small country bordering Belgium, Germany, and France. This suggests that roughly 1% of Luxembourg’s baptized Catholics took part in the process.

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According to German media, Cardinal Hollerich said on Monday that he hoped to consult Church committees over the summer regarding changes that could already be implemented at a local level ahead of the bishops’ meeting in Rome.

The archbishop of Luxembourg reportedly declined to comment on last week’s Vatican warning that the German “synodal way” posed a potential threat to Church unity.

But he noted that it was “positive” that “the conclusions of the synodal way in Germany will be taken to the world synod.”

Cardinal Hollerich has previously expressed “great respect” for the controversial German initiative, saying that participants dared “to ask very big questions.”

Luxembourg’s RTL media group quoted the cardinal as saying on July 25 that Catholics who expected the Church’s structure to be “completely changed” would be disappointed.

He said: “We are in a huge civilizational change. And our whole theology, everything that is dear and sacred to us, in Christianity and in the Catholic Church, hangs together with a civilization that is about to disappear.” 

“People no longer understand what we say or what we say at theological conferences. There are many things that need to be changed.”

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