Labor rules for German Catholic-run institutions to be eased

BERLIN (AP) — The Catholic Church in Germany is reforming its labor rules for employees of church-run institutions to allow them to work regardless of “their sexual identity and their way of life.”

The German Bishops’ Conference said that an assembly of diocesan representatives on Tuesday approved changes to the rules that govern the employment of some 800,000 people who work for the church or the Caritas charitable organization, which among other things runs many hospitals.

Until now, openly being in a same-sex partnership or getting remarried after a divorce could cause employees problems or cost them their job.

The bishops’ conference said the new rules center on the character of the institution rather than the employee, and a central message is that “the core area of the private lifestyle is not subject to any legal assessments.”

It said that “all employees can, independently of their concrete duties, their origin, their religion, their age, their disability, their sex, their sexual identity and their way of life, be representatives of God’s unconditional love and thus of a church that serves people, so long as they bring a positive attitude and openness toward the message of the gospel (and) respect the Christian character of the institution.”

The German church has faced mounting pressure for reform in recent years. It is in the midst of a reform process that conservatives and the Vatican view with suspicion.

In January, more than 120 church employees publicly outed themselves as queer, saying they want to “live openly without fear” in the church and pushing demands for it to allow the blessing of same-sex couples and change its labor rules. The church leadership said earlier this year that it planned to change the rules.

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