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Cardinal Hollerich: Loyal to the Pope; ready to change Church teaching [News Analysis]

March 28, 2023

Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg made the astonishing suggestion that early Christians did not understand what homosexuality was, in a revealing interview with a Croatian journalist.

Questioned about his statement in February 2022 that the Catechism’s teaching on homosexuality is “false,” Cardinal Hollerich said:

When the Church doctrine was being created, the concept of homosexuality did not even exist. Homosexuality is a new word; even in St. Paul’s time, people had no idea that there could be men and women attracted to the same sex.

Repeating the argument that he had introduced in February, the cardinal said that in ancient times, homosexual acts were associated with pagan cults or with abuse of slaves. “But how can you condemn people who can only love members of the same sex?” he asked.

Faithful to Pope Francis

Cardinal Hollerich has emerged as a key ally of Pope Francis, having been appointed by the Pontiff as relator general for the Synod on Synodality, and more recently as a member of the Council of Cardinals. He expressed his loyalty to the Pope, and his confidence in the Synod process, in his interview with Glas Koncila.

“It is very difficult to be a Catholic without obeying the Pope,” Cardinal Hollerich said. “Some very conservative people have always preached obedience to the Pope—as long as the Pope said what they wanted to hear. The Pope says things that are hard for me too, but I see them as an opportunity for conversion, an opportunity to become a more faithful and happy Christian.”

Regarding the Synod in particular, he said that “if the Pope directs the Church in a certain direction, we must go in that direction. And the Pope directed her in toward the Synod.”

When questioned about the German bishops, who have caused consternation in Rome by pursuing the implementation of their “Synodal Path” despite warnings from the Vatican, Cardinal Hollerich again deferred to the Pope’s judgment, saying that the Pontiff has two major objections to the German initiative: that it was not a grassroots movement, and that the German hierarchy was “preoccupied with itself and its structures.” The cardinal did not mention any theological objections to the German proposals.

The cardinal voiced his confidence in the outcome of the Synod, despite the skepticism of tradition-minded Catholics and the brashness of the German hierarchy. “The Holy Spirit sometimes causes great confusion in order to bring about a new harmony,” he said. “But there is a lack of harmony in Europe.”

Ready to change Church teaching

While he was unstinting in his support for Pope Francis, Cardinal Hollerich did not voice the same confidence in statements by previous Pontiffs. When he was asked about his remark that the ordination of women might be discussed at the Synod, he again replied by referring to the current Pope’s position: “Pope Francis does not want the ordination of women and I am completely obedient to that.”

“But people continue to debate it,” the cardinal observed. He went on to say that he supported giving women more authority in the Church, and that once that authority is given, “maybe we can see if there is still a desire among women for ordination.”

When the interviewer pointed out that Pope John Paul II had stated definitively, in Ordinatio Sacredotalis, that the Church does not have the power to ordain women, Cardinal Hollerich said that this was “a true teaching for its time, and we cannot just push it aside.” But he denied that the teaching of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis is infallible, and said “I think there could be room for the doctrine to be expanded.”

Nonetheless, the cardinal returned to his position that he would be guided by the decision of the current Pontiff. “But at this moment, if Pope Francis tells me it’s not an option, it’s not an option.”

—Philip F. Lawler

 


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  • Posted by: Gramps - Apr. 02, 2023 2:12 PM ET USA

    Hollerich certainly does not know either world or Church history. How pathetic!

  • Posted by: grateful1 - Apr. 01, 2023 2:32 PM ET USA

    It's hard to imagine how anyone -- let alone a Prince of the Church -- can be so ignorant and so deceitful at the same time.

  • Posted by: Retired01 - Mar. 31, 2023 11:50 AM ET USA

    The cardinal states: "Even in St. Paul's time, people had no idea that there could be men and women attracted to the same sex." The cardinal should read Romans 1:24-32. If this is a member of the Council of Cardinals (you can fill the blanks)...

  • Posted by: clandr563181 - Mar. 29, 2023 4:13 PM ET USA

    God, the Holy Spirit nor Jesus are authors of confusion, Satan is.

  • Posted by: feedback - Mar. 29, 2023 9:44 AM ET USA

    "Holy Spirit sometimes causes great confusion." The spirit of the father of lies is the source of confusion. Since the day of Pentecost, the Church has been guided by the Spirit of Truth. The cardinal's open readiness to flip on sodomy from vice to "virtue" may be indication of his own sinful inclinations rather than desire to "obey Francis" unconditionally. Since the McCarrick scandal, all gay cardinals and bishops should have the decency to resign for the greater good: the good of the Church.

  • Posted by: rfr46 - Mar. 29, 2023 4:08 AM ET USA

    Astonishing collection of lies, sycophancy and dereliction of duty by a prince of the Church. And our pope allows this to go unanswered. Shame on both of them and their faithless cohorts.

  • Posted by: Lucius49 - Mar. 28, 2023 7:42 PM ET USA

    "True teaching for its time" is Modernist doctrine that all truths are time bound subject to change, not Catholic doctrine. A Pope is the servant of Catholic teaching NOT its source. The notion that ancient people or the Scriptures did not understand same-sex activity like sodomy is frankly ludicrous. Certain authority cannot simply be handed over. The Cardinal seems to have his own time-bound truth in explaining the meaning of "understanding" homosexuality: surrender to the times.

  • Posted by: dcnmthompson7484 - Mar. 28, 2023 7:23 PM ET USA

    Im not sure homosexuality is a new thing. But I guess this is what J. Goebbels meant when he said, "a lie told often enough eventually becomes the truth". We see a lot of that today. Next, the best quote of the piece..."a true teaching for its time". A quote like that can make pretty much anything, no matter how central or critical, become meaningless...in a respectful way.

  • Posted by: IM4HIM - Mar. 28, 2023 7:22 PM ET USA

    Cardinal Hollerich must think that people will believe his obvious lies just because he's a Cardinal. The snakes in the Church hierarchy are now out in the open since they have approval, either implicit or explicit, from Pope Francis.

  • Posted by: rcdifonzo74559 - Mar. 28, 2023 7:12 PM ET USA

    When I was in Latin class in the 1960's, our teacher told us that once homosexuality took hold, the ancient civilizations would fall. Cardinal Hollerich would not appear to have had such a teacher as we had.

  • Posted by: a son of Mary - Mar. 28, 2023 6:13 PM ET USA

    With friends like this, who needs enemies?