A group of 125 German LGBTQIA+ Catholics denounced this Monday (24) what they call the church’s discriminatory policy. In the document, they reveal their sexuality, “so they don’t hide anymore”.
Priests, former priests, theology professors hired by the institution, parish volunteers and practitioners of the religion wrote a manifesto published on the internet and on social networks with the hashtag #OutInChurch and the message “for a church without fear”.
In the text, the faithful oppose Catholic doctrine and say that sexual orientation, gender identity or a non-heterosexual relationship should not be “an obstacle to employment or reason for dismissal”.
The group calls for “a change in the Catholic Church’s discriminatory labor code” and the elimination of “degrading and exclusionary wording” from the institution’s regulations. According to the document, a “system of cover-up, double standards and dishonesty” surrounds the LGBTQIA+ issue in religion.
“We want to be able to live and work in the church openly as LGBT+ people without fear.”
The Minister of Justice of Germany, Marco Buschmann, was one of the authorities to support the initiative. “No one should be disadvantaged because of their sexual identity,” he said, noting that Catholic institutions are “one of the most important employers in the country.” According to the government, the Protestant and Catholic churches employ around 1.3 million people — making them the biggest employers after the public sector.
“I don’t want to hide anymore,” Uwe Grau, a gay priest from the diocese of Rothenburg-Stuttgart, in the south of the country, told AFP news agency. Stephan Schwab, 50, also revealed his sexual orientation on the collective’s website. “I firmly believe that I do a good job even though I’m a gay priest.” A year ago, he did not hesitate to celebrate a mass for homosexuals at his church in Würzburg.
The issue of LGBTQIA+ identity has been debated in the Vatican, with the current pontiff having made a statement that was considered the strongest by a pope in defense of the rights of these populations.
In a documentary released in 2020, Francis said same-sex couples should be protected by civil union laws — echoing a position when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, when he cited the need for some kind of legal protection for gay couples. “Gay people have a right to be in a family. They are children of God and have a right to a family. No one should be discarded [dela] or be made miserable because of it”, he said, in the documentary “Francesco”.
Still, with the approval of the pope, in March of last year the Vatican ruled that priests and other ministers cannot bless same-sex unions and that, if done, it must be considered illegal. At the time, a note from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stated that “God cannot bless sin”, but did not exclude the possibility that blessings be granted to “people with homosexual inclinations who manifest the will to live in fidelity to God’s plans”. “.
The document released this Monday in Germany also calls for defamatory statements about gender and sexuality to be removed from religious teaching and for LGBTQIA+ people to have access to Catholic sacraments and all professional fields of the Church.
The Archbishop of Hamburg, Stefan Hesse, supported the initiative of the collective #OutInChurch. “A church in which you must hide your sexual orientation cannot, in my opinion, be in the spirit of Jesus.” The cleric said he was a supporter of a change in “the church’s sexual morals and labor law.” The manifesto follows this logic by maintaining that derogatory statements about same-sex relationships are no longer acceptable in the light of scientific knowledge. “This is a betrayal of the gospel.”
To the German newspaper Bild Monika Schmelter, former director of a center of the Caritas association, and Marie Kortenbusch, professor of theology, said they had hidden their relationship for 40 years, for fear of losing their jobs. “I think it’s wonderful that I can now speak on behalf of people who still live in fear,” Kortenbusch said.
The initiative wants to mobilize the public to create a form of pressure on the Vatican and aims to garner more support among bishops. According to the DW network, around 30 Catholic associations and organizations have already expressed solidarity with the manifesto. According to Father Bernd Mönkebüscher of Hamm, who had previously spearheaded blessing services for same-sex couples last year, the campaign was inspired by a similar action taken by 185 German actors. Professionals criticized the fact that many artists were unable to speak openly about their sexuality for fear of professional disadvantage.
The Catholic Church authorizes marriage only between a man and a woman and has historically been opposed to other forms of union. Catholic teachings consider same-gender sexual acts a sin, while indicating that LGBT+ people should be treated with dignity.
Francis, who has led the church since 2013, has not changed dogmas and has criticized what he called “gender theory” as an “ideological project”, but has adopted a more open stance on the subject – otherwise criticized by conservatives. He said he could never judge a gay man, signaled that Catholics should welcome children of same-sex couples and welcomed transgender and abortion advocates at hearings.
One of the main opponents of gay marriage in the church is Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. In an authorized biography, he likened the practice to “antichrist.”