German Catholics chafe against Vatican's same-sex marriage ruling

By Ayhan Uyanik and Thomas Escritt
MUNICH (Reuters) - Two days after marrying his longtime partner, Anselm Bilgri, a former monk and prior in one of Germany's most famous monasteries, learned that the Vatican would not bless relationships like his.
"For me it was almost funny: I and my partner married this ban on Friday and then on Monday," he said. "It almost felt like an answer" to our marriage through the Church, added the 68-year-old.
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But the March decision by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the watchdog of the Catholic Church, that priests are not allowed to bless same-sex unions, was not well received by one of the richest national churches in the world.
It dismayed many who had hoped Pope Francis would soften the tough line of sexual morality of John Paul II and his successor, the German Benedict XVI.
According to officials who record membership in the church, the German church has already lost members after years of abuse scandals.
The German bishops tried to hide their outrage, saying the German Church had given some thought to the "living situation" of people in "successful relationships".
In Cologne, the largest archdiocese in Germany, the numbers who registered to leave the church for tax purposes increased noticeably after the judgment.
While the numbers are modest compared to the country's 23 million Catholics, the 400,000 deduction last year has ramifications as church taxes paid by members have made German churches the richest in the world.
When the Archdiocese of Cologne first published in 2015, it was richer than the Vatican at 3.35 billion euros - although the churches in Germany are spending money Most of their income goes to institutions such as schools, kindergartens and nursing homes.
Petition from the clergy
Bilgri, who ran the brewery in a Munich monastery and was prior or deputy head of the 900-year-old Andechs Abbey on the Bavarian “Holy Mountain”, said he never fully adjusted.
It was consecrated in 1980 by Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict, and remembers that he scolded his brother monks about the church's refusal to modernize itself.
"When I was reading the paper at breakfast and saw a report from Rome, I hit the table and said I was leaving the church," he said. "It was a joke - but also a sign of disappointment."
He's not alone: ​​hundreds of clergy signed a petition saying they would still bless same-sex unions despite the Vatican.
"When people love each other, they deserve a blessing," says one priest.
Bilgri left the church last year and joined the Old Catholic Church, which originated in the Netherlands in the 19th century and allows priests to marry and same-sex relationships.
In the 16th century, it was a German, Martin Luther, who broke out of Rome and began the Protestant Reformation, which forever weakened the Pope's authority.
This example plays a big role for many German Catholics, says Bilgri.
(Reporting by Thomas Escritt in Berlin and Ayhan Uyanik in Munich; editing by Giles Elgood)

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