So what did Cardinal Marx say about gay unions? Let your Ja's be Yes

“German Cardinal Endorses Homosexual Heresy” states the headline of a Sunday story in the Daily Caller.

It is a wonderful headline crafted to drive readers to the religion section of the online political news portal. But is it true?

Written by the Daily Caller’s religion reporter, the article appears to deliver on the claims made in headline. The lede states:

A German Catholic cardinal publicly approved heresy Saturday, declaring that priests are permitted to bless homosexual unions despite official church doctrine to the contrary.

Working from Catholic media reports, the article cites Cardinal Reinhard Marx’s words, translated into English, and then places them against the formal teaching of the church to substantiate the charge of heresy.

Cardinal Reinhard Marx said that “there can be no rules” concerning the question of whether a priest can bless a homosexual relationship in the name of God and such a decision should be made on a case by case basis and left up to priests, according to Crux Now. Despite Marx’s assertion that there can be no rules, his approval directly contradicts the Catholic Catechism’s teaching on homosexuality and marriage.

The article offers further quotes from the interview, sourced through the English-language newsite Crux Now, to hammer home the claim of false teaching, and then notes recent statements by two other prominent German Catholic clergy. The article then moves in for the kill with this quote.

When asked to clarify whether he was in fact approving the idea of blessing homosexual couples, Marx simply replied “yes.”
“It’s about pastoral care for individual cases, and that applies in other areas as well, which we can not regulate, where we have no sets of rules,” Marx added.

The reporter closes out the article by placing the cardinal’s remarks in the context of the teachings of the Catholic Catechism, citing the church’s belief that “under no circumstances can” same-sex sexual relations “be approved” for homosexual relationships are “intrinsically disordered.”

An open and shut case, it would appear. If the cardinal said what he is alleged to have said he appears to have drifted far from received teachings of the Catholic Church. Intrigued by these statements I looked up the interview in its English translation and found it printed on the website of the Catholic News Agency -- a well respected independent Catholic news portal.

The English translation of the cardinal’s interview with Bavarian state radio matches the claims in the Daily Caller report.

Step two, was to listen to the interview in the original German. And, here a problem arises. While the cardinal was imprecise in his language, he did not say “yes” when asked if he was saying he approved the idea of blessing the relationships of same-sex couples. He said, “Ja."

Is not “Ja” yes in German? Yes, and no.

“Ja” can mean yes, or affirmative, but its meaning is found in the context of the sentence. “Ja” can be modified by a suffix. “Jawohl”, is an emphatic yes -- beloved of stage Germans -- comes with the clicking of heels and a Mein Herr. An unmodified or unaccented “Ja” serves as a modal adverb, and connotes “surely,” or “I know." Its unmodified or unaccented presence at the beginning of the sentence in conversation does not indicate agreement with the point made by the previous speaker, but merely affirms that you are listening.

If we listen to the Marx interview then through German ears, rather than through the filter of English print, the story is turned on its head.

Continue reading "Let your Ja's be Yes," by George Conger, at The Media Project website.

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