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An open rebellion in the Roman Catholic Church

The German bishops’ rejection of natural law and Scripture rejects Christianity

A Roman Catholic minister blesses a same-sex couple in Baden-Baden, Germany, in May 2021. Associated Press/Photo by Benedikt Spether/Picture-Alliance/DPA

An open rebellion in the Roman Catholic Church

Some Roman Catholic bishops in Germany have been increasingly vocal in rejecting the teaching of their church’s magisterial authority on sexual morality. This is evident in recent statements by bishops pressuring the church to liberalize its teaching on homosexuality and in recent services in which same-sex couples are blessed, in open defiance of Pope Francis and church teaching.

It indicates a serious moral and theological rebellion within the Roman Catholic Church. The implications are serious for both Roman Catholics and watching Protestants worldwide.

Why would bishops do this? The German Roman Catholic prelates pushing for this change in church teaching openly admit that they are going against natural law and church doctrine. “We can no longer go on the assumption of natural law alone, but must think much more strongly in such categories as caring and responsibility for one another,” said German Conference of Catholic Bishops Chairman Georg Bältzing. He clearly understands that affirming homosexuality means rejecting natural law and Scripture as the church has understood God’s revelation for 2,000 years. Such open defiance is breathtaking.

Natural law exists because human beings can use reason to determine certain moral truths, such as the prohibition of murder, from nature. Even non-Christian philosophers and thinkers in various wisdom traditions, such as Confucianism, can discern that certain bodily acts go against the nature of human beings and reality itself. Natural law formed an important part of the basis of Western jurisprudence up until the past few decades.

For Roman Catholicism, however, the stakes are heightened. The Bible teaches that God speaks through nature and conscience in what is called general revelation. Adultery, stealing, and murder are prohibited by God’s eternal law, which is known through general revelation, which is apparent to all rational beings, and reinforced by special revelation in Scripture (e.g., the Ten Commandments). Natural law is one way in which we know the eternal law of God, which is rooted in the very being of God. The Roman Catholic Church puts a premium on natural law reasoning.

In lobbying for this change in church doctrine, the bishops are aware of what they are doing—they are consciously, deliberately, and stubbornly advocating heresy.

Because homosexuality goes against natural law and Scripture, when church leaders succumb to political pressure from the world and begin to call good what God calls evil, we have open rebellion against God. Homosexuality is just one of the many ways that human sexuality can be distorted and diverted from its God-given purpose, but it is a particularly clear-cut example of a violation of natural law.

Even non-Christians can know that homosexuality is unnatural if they are willing to admit that human nature, including sexuality, has a purpose. Homosexuality is incapable of providing society what it needs for its continuation—children. Of course, if non-Christians see human beings as mere accidents of random, mindless evolution, then they might take the nihilistic perspective that sexuality—and human nature in general—has no purpose or meaning whatsoever.

In consciously deciding to oppose natural law, the German Roman Catholic bishops are going against reason and nature, and they are rejecting both general and special revelation. So, for anyone to pretend that either reason or revelation is authoritative for them going forward is absurd. The point here is that in lobbying for this change in church doctrine, the bishops are aware of what they are doing—they are consciously, deliberately, and stubbornly advocating heresy.

The fact that the Roman Catholic Church has stood firm on the issue of sexual morality for the first half-century of the current phase of the sexual revolution has helped mitigate against many of the most destructive tendencies of secularism and atheism in the larger culture. The Roman Catholic Church’s stand against the whitewashing of homosexuality has been significant for non-Catholics in many countries because the culture has not been able to paint traditional Christian morality as the eccentric view of small, extreme sects. In some cultures, Catholic leaders have a great deal of cultural authority.

But if Roman Catholic resistance to the sexual revolution weakens, as some bishops are advocating, then we should expect the persecution of conservative Christians to ramp up. Opposition to homosexuality will be portrayed as the view of only a small number of extremist groups.

One does not have to be a Roman Catholic to be concerned about the collapse of orthodoxy in Germany. Extreme liberalism seems to be solidifying its hold on the German Roman Catholic Church. Liberal theology kills wherever it is found, and a moment of decision looms for Catholicism.

Craig A. Carter

Craig A. Carter is the research professor of theology at Tyndale University in Toronto, Ontario, and theologian in residence at Westney Heights Baptist Church in Ajax, Ontario.

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