The Catholic Church in Germany has relaxed so-called morality rules for employees, meaning employees who divorce and civilly remarry or who enter into a gay relationship will no longer lose their jobs at Catholic institutions.
The change came Tuesday, Reuters reports, with a little more than two-thirds of Germany’s 27 dioceses voting to go along with the change.
“The new rule opens the way for decisions that do justice to the situations people live in,” Alois Glueck, who leads a committee of lay Catholics, told Reuters.
Cardinal Rainer Woelki of Cologne said the Church isn’t changing its teaching, but responding to current realities.
“People who divorce and remarry are rarely fired,” he said to the KNA news agency. “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.”
Germany allows churches to have their own labor practices even if they stand opposed to national law. Catholic bishops in Germany are widely seen as more liberal than their American counterparts.
During the October 2014 Synod on the Family, for example, two German Cardinals – Walter Kasper and Reinhard Marx – emerged as the chief proponents of measures that would permit a pathway for the divorced and civilly remarried to receive Communion.
In the United States, the use of morality clauses varies widely among parishes, dioceses, schools, universities, and nonprofits. There is little appetite among American bishops for any sort of national policy.
Several high-profile firings of openly gay employees at Catholic schools have led some American dioceses to adopt strict morality clauses.
The most recent example continues to play out in San Francisco, where hundreds protested Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone’s attempt to insert a new morality clause into teacher contracts there.
It’s not just schools: Conservatives are criticizing Catholic Relief Services for employing a gay vice president who is married. The employee is not Catholic and works in a financial capacity.