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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 2, 2014 - Volume 43 Issue 01
Church should recognize same-sex relationships, Bishop of Antwerp says
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Church should recognize same-sex relationships, Bishop of Antwerp says

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A Belgian Catholic bishop says his church should recognize 'a diversity of forms' of relationships - including same-sex relationships.

Johan Bonny, Catholic Bishop of Antwerp, made the statement in a December 27 interview with De Morgen newspaper. The interview has been translated into English by the National Catholic Reporter.

'There should be recognition of a diversity of forms [of relationships],' Bonny said. 'We have to look inside the church for a formal recognition of the kind of interpersonal relationship that is also present in many gay couples.

'Just as there are a variety of legal frameworks for partners in civil society, one must arrive at a diversity of forms in the church ... The intrinsic values are more important to me than the institutional question. The Christian ethic is based on lasting relationships where exclusivity, loyalty, and care are central to each other.'

Bonny told De Morgen that the leadership of Pope Francis had given him the courage to go public with his views.

In September the bishop wrote to a Vatican synod called by the Pope, arguing that the church needed to do more to welcome LGBT people, divorcees, and unmarried couples.

The church will have to find a way to bless same-sex relationships, Bonny said.

'In the church more space must be given to acknowledge the actual quality of gay and lesbian couples; and such a form of shared-life should meet the same criteria as found in an ecclesiastical marriage,' Bonny said.

'We have to acknowledge that such criteria can be found in a diversity of relationships and one needs to search for various models to give form to those relationships.'

Bonny added that opposite-sex marriage had a privileged place in Catholic doctrine, however.

'[Opposite-sex marriage] will continue to retain its own particular sacramental character and liturgical form,' Bonny said, 'But this particularity does not have to be exclusive nor does it have to close the door on a diversity of relationships whose inner qualities the church can acknowledge.

'Indeed, we need to seek a formal recognition of the kind of relationship that exists between many gay and lesbian couples. Does that recognition have to be a sacramental marriage? Perhaps the church could much better reflect on a diversity of forms of relationships. One has the same kind of discussion about civil marriages. In Belgium the same model [for civil marriages] exists for man-woman relations as well as for same-sex relations.'

As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis opposed legalization of same-sex marriages but reportedly signaled that he could accept some form of civil union as an alternative.

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