German Wedding

The German Catholic Church voted to change a rule so that lay employees would not be fired for getting a divorce or a homosexual civil union.

The Roman Catholic Church in Germany, already a champion of reforms prompted by Pope Francis, has decided to amend a Church labor law which had been used to fire lay employees who remarried or formed gay civil unions.

Even amid light opposition, more than two-thirds of the 27 German dioceses voted in favor of reform which will keep lifestyle choices out of employment decisions in the nation’s Catholic schools, hospitals, and social services. The change transpires in the midst of the worldwide Catholic Church debating whether to modernize their views on remarriage after divorce and gay sex.  German bishops and theologians have long been advocates of such revisions.

Previously, German law allowed churches to enforce their own labor rules, in effect, overriding national laws.  But recently, German courts have ruled to limit the scope of Church labor law. Further, there has been increasing public outcry when lay Catholic Church employees were fired for reasons that are seen as antiquated dogma.

Cardinal Rainer Woelki contends that the rule change does not mean that the Catholic church is changing its teachings on the topics of divorce or homosexual relationships but just adapting to the modern world. “People who divorce and remarry are rarely fired,” Woelki said. “The point is to limit the consequences of remarriage or a same-sex union to the most serious cases (that would) compromise the Church’s integrity and credibility.”

Opponents to the changes say that employees who remarried were rarely fired anyway, and only extreme cases of remarriage and same-sex union which threatened to undermine the Church’s integrity were punished with termination of employment. The world-wide discussion regarding the loosening of restrictions on remarried and openly gay Catholics will reconvene this fall in the Vatican.

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