LGBT Catholic officials stage mass coming-out in Germany

Pope Francis has stirred controversy with his relatively liberal attitude towards sexual orientation, which is at odds with the beliefs of many conservatives in the church.  


More than 100 Catholic church officials in Germany came out as LGBT, queer or non-binary on Monday, adding to calls for reform within the crisis-hit church.

The issue of homosexuality has caused a major rift in the Catholic Church between modernisers and conservatives, with Pope Francis himself appearing ambivalent over the sensitive subject.

The 125-strong group, which includes priests and education and administration workers, published an online statement demanding an end to the “discrimination and exclusion” they had experienced in the church.

“I don’t want to hide my sexual identity any more,” Uwe Grau, a priest in the diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart, was quoted as saying on the group’s website.

“We are part of the church,” added Raphaela Soden, who works in pastoral care for young adults and identifies as queer and non-binary. 

“We always have been. It’s time to finally make it clear that we exist and how wonderfully queer the body of Christ is.”

The statement called for “free access to all pastoral vocations” and an end to what the signatories called a “system of concealment, double standards, and dishonesty” surrounding LGBT issues.

“Entering into a non-heterosexual relationship or marriage must never be considered a breach of loyalty and, consequently, an obstacle to employment or a reason for dismissal,” they said.

– ‘How God Created Us’ –

Stephan Schwab, 50, a clergyman who last year took part in an initiative to bless gay couples in defiance of the Vatican, said: “I am firmly convinced that I am doing a good job as a gay priest.”

Many of those featured on the website have also contributed to a TV documentary called “How God Created Us”, set to air on the ARD broadcaster on Monday evening.

“I am gay and no one knew that until today,” Frank Kribber, a 45-year-old prison chaplain in Lingen, northwestern Germany, told the Bild daily. He called for “something to change” in the church’s attitudes.

The archbishop of Hamburg, Stefan Hesse, voiced his support for the campaign. “A church in which people have to hide because of their sexual orientation cannot, in my opinion, be in the spirit of Jesus,” he said.

The question of homosexuality has caused major tensions in the Catholic Church.

Pope Francis has stirred controversy with his relatively liberal attitude towards sexual orientation, which is at odds with the beliefs of many conservatives in the church.  

– ‘Ideological project’ –

“If a person is gay and seeks the Lord with good will, who am I to judge him?” Francis said soon after he became pope in 2013. 

Yet the pope has also frustrated modernisers by sticking firmly to Catholic teaching that marriage is the union between a man and a woman in order to procreate. 

He has repeatedly criticised “gender theory” as an “ideological project” that “denies the natural difference between a man and a woman”. 

And last year, the Vatican reaffirmed that homosexuality was “a sin” and confirmed homosexuals were unable to receive the sacrament of marriage. 

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), the powerful Vatican office responsible for defending church doctrine, has said same-sex unions cannot not be blessed despite their “positive elements”.

While some prominent German bishops have supported the Vatican’s stance, others accused the CDF of seeking to stifle theological debates which have been active among Catholics in recent years.

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In Germany, calls for a more liberal attitude to homosexuality have formed a central pillar of appeals for reform in the church.

Catholics remain Germany’s biggest religious community, with 2.2 million members, but church pews are increasingly empty during services.

Monday’s accusations of discrimination came just as the church is facing a new bout of soul-searching over widespread abuse of children by clergymen in the past and alleged cover-ups.

Last week, a damning report on the archdiocese of Munich and Freising found that former pope Benedict XVI knowingly failed to take action against four priests accused of child sex abuse in the 1980s.

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