German Catholic Church opens labor law more to divorced and gays
By Tom Heneghan
PARIS (Reuters) - Germany's Roman Catholic Church, an influential voice for reforms prompted by Pope Francis, has decided lay employees who divorce and remarry or form gay civil unions should no longer automatically lose their jobs.
Catholic bishops have voted to adjust Church labor law "to the multiple changes in legal practice, legislation and society" so employee lifestyles should not affect their status in the country's many Catholic schools, hospitals and social services.
The change came as the worldwide Catholic Church debates loosening its traditional rejection of remarriage after a divorce and of gay sex, reforms for which German bishops and theologians have become prominent spokesmen.
"The new rule opens the way for decisions that do justice to the situations people live in," Alois Glueck, head of the lay Central Committee of German Catholics, said after the decision on new labor guidelines was announced on Tuesday.
Over two-thirds of Germany's 27 dioceses voted for the change, a Church spokesman said, indicating some opposition.
There is no worldwide Catholic policy on lay employees. German law allows churches to have their own labor rules that can override national guidelines.
But German courts have begun limiting the scope of Church labor laws and public opinion reacts badly when a Catholic hospital's head doctor is fired for remarrying or a teacher is sacked after her lesbian union is discovered.
Munich Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the bishops conference and a senior adviser to Pope Francis, has been a leading proponent of making the two-millennia-old Church more open to modern lifestyles that its doctrine officially rejects. Continued...