How to respond to the expected increase in requests for the baptism of the children of gay couples after the October Synod? That was the subject under discussion at a secret meeting convened by Cardinal Marx, chairperson of the German Bishops’ Conference. It is expected that gay couples in droves will return to the Catholic Church.
‘This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for evangelisation,’ said Father Eberhard Schoeckenhoffer, a moral theologian. ‘There are thousands of gay families out there just waiting to come home’.
Traditionalists have pointed out that infant baptism requires a commitment to teach the faith on the part of parents and godparents. They cite the Code of Canon Law:
There must be a founded hope that the infant will be brought up in the Catholic religion. (Canon 868).
Says Fr Schoeckenhoffer: ‘To require parents to uphold all the teachings of the Church as a precondition of the baptism of their children would be against reason and against normal Catholic practice. We don’t require much in the way of commitment from heterosexual couples. To do so in the case of same sex partnerships would be blatant homophobia. If it moves, baptize it; if it doesn’t move, bless it. The rule of thumb of countless parish priests through the ages holds good here.’
Said Helga Blumfeldt and Marianne Schlaeger, mothers of two and founders of the campaigning group ‘Equal Baptism’: ‘It’s a matter of justice. Why should our children be denied what the others are getting simply because we do not believe all that Catholic sex stuff? Most people don’t agree with it either. The Church should get real.’
[In 2013 alone 178,000 German Catholics renounced the payment of Church tax – Ed]