Pope should punish 'heretical' German bishops, cardinal says

Pope Francis meets with participants in the annual course of the Internal Forum at the Vatican

ROME (Reuters) - Pope Francis should take disciplinary action against German bishops who support same-sex unions and hold other "heretical" views, a top conservative cardinal said in an interview published on Friday.

The German Catholic church is discussing a series of reforms, including on homosexuality, women priests and priestly celibacy, as part of its so-called Synodal Path.

Speaking to La Repubblica newspaper, Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Mueller said some of the bishops taking part in the process have approved "heretical texts" and should be tried under canon law.

"The pope has the responsibility of asking for explanations, of correcting or - in extreme cases - of firing bishops over doctrinal issues," Mueller said.

The cardinal, himself a German bishop, said allowing gay couples to have their union blessed by a priest goes "directly against Catholic faith".

"Blessing homosexual couples is a blasphemy," he said.

In November, after talks with Vatican officials and the pope, the head of the German Bishops Conference said the debate on reforms could not be suppressed.

On blessings for same-sex unions, Bishop Georg Baetzing also said: "I will not deny God's blessing from those in committed relationships who are seeking it".

In July, the Vatican tried to slam the brakes on the German Synodal Path movement, saying it risked causing a schism in the universal Church.

The Catholic Church teaches that priests should be celibate, that women cannot be priests because Jesus chose only men as his apostles and that while same-sex attraction is not sinful, homosexual acts are.

(Reporting by Alvise Armellini, editing by Robert Birsel)