The official website of the German Bishops, katholisch.de, is full of praise for Amoris Laetitia. Well-known experts who have been expressing many heterodox positions during the earlier discussions on marriage and family, seem now convinced that their expectations have been met, and that, indeed, the Universal Catholic Church has now started to import and imitate the putatively German model.
One of the most prominent liberal theologians in Germany, Stephan Goertz, editor of a book on homosexuality, entitled Who Am I to Judge? Homosexuality and the Catholic Church, had openly expressed back in August of 2015 the idea that homosexuality could even come close to being a sacrament. He said:
One could ask oneself whether a loyal homosexual loving relationship – one which understands itself as a partnership within the frame of the belief in the God of Israel and of Jesus – could not even have a sacramental character. Homosexual partnerships could thereby find an ecclesiastical approval.
This same man is now saying about Amoris Laetita – in his interview with katholisch.de – that he has a positive assessment of the pope’s new document. He praises the pope for “avoiding to strictly condemn certain forms of contraception” and for leaving the decision of birth control up to the consciences of the couples. He is glad that “the category of ‘natural’ and ‘unnatural’ which dominated the Church’s sexual morality for centuries” is now put into the background. Goertz praises the pope for putting love first, and that “having offspring is not any more the primary end” of marriage.
This German theologian is also relieved about one omission; i.e., the fact that there is tendentiously missing “an explicit condemnation of the homosexual practice as being a grave sin.” When asked whether he sees a German influence in the pope’s exhortation, Goertz answers:
It is clearly recognizable at different places. I think here for example of the key words “discernment of situations”; “examination of conscience” with regard to the remarried divorcees. Also the reference to the necessity to apply general norms wisely to concrete situations. They all should go back to the German-speaking group [at the 2015 Synod].
Another author at katholisch.de, Professor Hubert Wolf calls the recent papal document “revolutionary.”
Another German voice to be heard comes from a female theologian, Ute Eberl. She just gave an interview to the German branch of Vatican Radio. On 11 April she says about the document: It is “genial, wild, and greedy.” The Catholic Church, in her eyes, is now becoming “more adult.” She says that she has found many ideas in the document that she tried to bring into the discussions during the 2014 Synod on the Family, where she was a participant. She praises the pope for “completely omitting to put up new casuistics [sic] and signs with prohibitive interdictions.” She praises the document also for saying that the pertinent decisions should be made in the local dioceses and that the individual conscience is now given more weight. Eberl continues: “There are no pre-fabricated norms and answers any more, but the call to look at each case individually, because each situation is different, and because one cannot put them all into one and the same category.”
This same German theologian also is content with the fact that the “remarried” divorcees may now have access to the Sacraments in individual cases, and with the help of a priest. “I find this o.k. [.…] This is anyway already the practice in many parishes in Germany.”
Eberl admits that she had to smile when she read the pope’s words about the priests of the Eastern rite, according to which their being married “seems to help them to be closer to the life reality of men.” She continues: “Here I thought to myself: oops! Will celibacy be the topic at the next Synod?”
Moreover, those additional theologians from Germany who had participated at the controversial 25 May 2015 “Shadow Council” in Rome seem also to be very pleased with this outcome of the synodal process. Two of the speakers at that event have given their full approval of Amoris Laetita: Professor Eberhard Schockenhoff and Professor Eva-Maria Faber.
Professor Eberhard Schockenhoff, of Freiburg, Germany, sees in the papal document a “confirmation of the Freiburg approach with relation to the remarried divorcees.” (In Freiburg, “remarried” divorcees may already receive the Sacraments after a time of discernment with the help of a priest.) Schockenhoff said, as follows, according to the German branch of Radio Vatican: “The diocese [of Freiburg] has every reason to feel confirmed in the path it has already chosen so far, and thus to continue walking on it with confidence. It would be even better, if other dioceses would now likewise follow [this example].” The theologian praises the pope for “not any more describing each deviation as grave sin” and for “not formulating abstract truth,” but, rather, “for wanting to make a case-by-case decision.” With it, he continues, “the foundation for any general exclusion of the remarried divorcees from Communion is thereby taken away.”
Furthermore, the German theologian, Eva-Maria Faber, now of Chur, Switzerland, sees that the pope appropriately describes the danger that Christian morality can often enough deteriorate into a “cold and lifeless doctrine.” She finds it pleasantly remarkable how much the pope actually describes, “and with joy, the complexity of life.” Faber praises Pope Francis for avoiding “a cold desk-morality” and she is glad that the pope says that “remarried” divorcees cannot easily dissolve their new bond “without adding new sin, because of their new responsibilities toward their new partner and possibly toward their children.” While she sees that the pope seldom speaks about homosexual couples and civil marriages, she stresses that, on two occasions, the pope mentions and even explicitly refers to “all, in whatever situation they find themselves,” and to “those who live in any kind of irregular situation.”
Finally, Professor Faber explicitly says about one clear consequence of Amoris Laetitia: “With this post-synodal document, a change of the existing official discipline has been undertaken [….]”