125 German priests and Catholics publicly assume LGBTQI status

OutInChurch manifesto page, with photos of some of the protagonists who assume their LGBT condition

A total of 125 people, including several priests, full-time workers or volunteers in the Catholic Church in German-speaking countries, announced at 00:00 on Monday. 24 (Sunday 23:00 in Lisbon) your LGBTQI+ status. The initiative is entitled #OutInChurch – For a Church without fear and is accompanied by the broadcast of a television documentary. It is the first time in history, in the whole world, that a group of believers collectively assumes themselves in this way in the public square.

“We, as LGBTIQ+ people, want to live and work in the Church without having to feel fear,” reads the manifesto, to which 7MARGENS had early access.

The list includes people working in the fields of education and teaching, care, social work, liturgical music and pastoral animation, including priests, pastoral assistants, teachers of religious education and administrative staff. And they themselves identify as “homosexual, bisexual, trans*, intersex, queer and/or non-binary”.

The #OutInChurch initiative (which, from the play on words in English, can be translated as “Outside, inside the Church”, in the sense of visible or exposed) was inspired, say its promoters, by the #ActOut action, in which numerous actors and actresses came out last year as being LGBTQI+.

The manifesto is released ten days before a plenary session of the German Synodal Way. Between the 3rd and the 5th of February, the assembly will discuss, among others, themes of Catholic sexual morality, including the homo-affective issue. And if the manifesto does not speak directly to the assembly, it will not be surprising that it is referred to and discussed at the synodal meeting.

Jens Ehebrecht-Zumsande, Consultor of the General Vicariate of the Archdiocese of Hamburg, justifies the reasons for this initiative: “Too often, people affected [pela condição LGBTQI+] are only vaguely mentioned. With #OutInChurch, the protagonists are making themselves seen and heard in the Church itself.”

In the ecclesiastical context, consider the 125 in a statement sent to 7MARGENS, this step is still a considerable risk, because its implementation can lead to consequences such as dismissal and professional marginalization. Therefore, this manifesto is “an adventure with an existential risk”, they admit.

“THE modus operandi deeply rooted ecclesiastical policy of condemning and shaming people who find themselves in the service of the Catholic Church makes it difficult for them to ‘come out’.” Therefore, this revelation initiative wants to contribute “to the renewal of the credibility of the Catholic Church and to its respect for human beings”, they add.

In their presentation, they say that some have experienced situations in which they were forced to “keep secret” their sexual orientation or gender identity. “And only in this condition were we allowed to remain at the service of the Church. This has created a system of concealment, double standards and hypocrisy, a toxic, harmful and shameful system, which even harms our relationship with God and our spirituality”, they say.

Experiences of discrimination and exclusion

Father Burkhard Hose is one of the signatories of the manifesto; last year he had challenged the Vatican rule that prohibited blessings for same-sex couples. Photo © All rights reserved

Among the subscribers are some outstanding names of German Catholicism: Father Burkhard Hose is one of them. Chaplain of the university ministry of the diocese of Wurzburg (centre, between Frankfurt and Nuremberg, north of Bavaria), Hose has several books published. It was he who led less than a year ago, in March 2021, the initiative to collect signatures from pastoral workers who spoke out in favor of blessing homosexual unions (against the norm of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which had just forbid).

With Hose, Bernd Mönkebüscher, priest of the Diocese of Paderborn, also facilitated this collection of signatures. Father Bernd is also the author of several books and in the last one, from 2019 (“Being a shameless Christian”), he revealed his homosexual identity in 2019.

Among the remaining 125 names, there is also that of the Jesuit priest Ralf Klein, superior of the community of St. Blasien and collaborator in the parish pastoral unit of St. Blasien, in the diocese of Freiburg (southwest of Stuttgart) and Pierre Stutz, author very known in Germany, with 14 books on spirituality that have sold more than one million copies. Ordained a priest in 1985, he asked to leave the ministry in 2002.

In addition to people who are known or who are active, the list includes, however, those who only say a name. The manifesto itself assumes this incomplete or fearful revelation: “We are a diverse group of courageous people who, in an ecclesiastical context and individually, have already come out of the closet. But we are also people who are in the process of making that decision – and those who, for various reasons, are still unable or unwilling to do so. What unites us is that we have been part of the Catholic Church for a long time and we continue to live in it.”

In the manifesto, the signatories present their intentions, calling for a review of “defamatory or obsolete positions” in the Church’s teaching on gender and sexuality “based on current knowledge of theology and human sciences”. The signatories say that this is all the more important as “the Church must finally assume its responsibility in the fight for the human rights of LGBTQI+ people around the world”. Along the same lines, they add: “A Church that claims to be based on Jesus and his message must fight all forms of discrimination and promote a culture of diversity.”

The text also says that the majority of the signatories “suffered numerous experiences of discrimination and exclusion – also in and by the institutional Church”. He gives examples: “The magisterium proclaims that our condition ‘seriously hinders a correct relationship’ with other people, that due to our ‘objectively disordered inclination’ we cannot fulfill ourselves as human beings, and that a same-sex relationship ‘cannot be recognized as objectively ordained to God’s revealed designs’.

The amendment of the Church’s labor legislation “so that living in accordance with sexual orientation and gender identity, also in a civil union or marriage, does not lead to exclusion from jobs and positions or dismissal” is another of the requirements of the document, along with access to all services and vocations in the Church.

Don’t Deny God’s Blessing

Nuptial Blessing of Two Catholic Women: The Church “must not deny God’s blessing or access to the sacraments to LGBTQI+ individuals or couples,” the manifesto reads. Photo © Rights Reserved

The manifesto also states that the Church “must not deny God’s blessing or access to the sacraments to LGBTQI+ individuals or couples.” And he concludes: “The Church has caused a lot of suffering in the way it treats LGBTQI+ people.” They therefore hope “that the bishops will take responsibility for this on behalf of the Church, begin a process of reflection and reconciliation on the history of institutional guilt and work towards the changes we demand.”

Calling on all such persons, who work full-time or on a voluntary basis in the Catholic Church, to join the initiative, the declaration also asks all other persons to express their solidarity with it. It appeals to all bishops, religious leaders, parishes, associations and religious congregations to publicly declare their support for the Manifesto.

The document also states that understanding the “life experiences of people queer it is a way of deepening the faith and discovering the hand of God in our world”. He adds: “We are convinced that diversity makes the Church richer, more creative, kinder and more alive. As people committed to the Church, we want to contribute our experiences and charisms on an equal footing and share them with all Christians and non-Christians alike.”

Accompanying the disclosure of the manifesto is the broadcast of the television documentary Wie Gott uns schuf (“How God Created Us”), which will be available from 5:00 am on the 24th of January (Lisbon time) on the ARD Mediathek website.

The documentary will also be shown on Monday night on the first channel of German public television, highlighting five of the protagonists and adding 100 more interviews on the digital page. All materials will be available, for now, in German.

The underwriters also say they decide to take this step for themselves “and in solidarity with others who (yet) do not have the strength to do so”, such as people who are victims of sexism, anti-Semitism, racism and other forms of discrimination.

On the initiative’s digital page – https://outinchurch.de – as well as on the Facebook (OutInChurch) and Instagram pages (@outinchurch) the manifesto and other documents are available in several languages, including the text of the manifesto in Portuguese.

On Tuesday, the 25th, a group of large and small Catholic lay associations will publish a common declaration in solidarity with this manifesto, adds information from Out In Church.

This text was contributed by Joaquim Nunes, in Offenbach (Germany)

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