LGBT Catholic officials stage mass coming-out in Germany

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.

Priest Bernd Mönkebüscher
Bernd Mönkebüscher, priest and #OutInChurch campaigner, speaks to the media in his church in Hamm, North Rhine-Westphalia. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bernd Thissen

Demands for a more liberal attitude to homosexuality within the German church have coincided with uproar over reports of widespread child sex abuse by Catholic clergymen in the country, including allegations of cases where former pope Benedict XVI failed to act.

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

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

“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.

READ ALSO: Grieg, Rachmaninoff, and leather jumpsuits: Berlin church holds concert for fetishists

“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.

The issue of homosexuality has caused a major rift in the Catholic Church between modernisers and conservatives.

Pope Francis is himself ambivalent over the sensitive subject.

OutInChurch campaign

Participants in the #OutInChurch campaign. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/EyeOpeningMedia/rbb | EyeOpeningMedia

‘Ideological project’

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

“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 sticks 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.

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.

The crisis has been exacerbated by a string of reports in recent years that have exposed widespread abuse of children by clergymen.

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

READ ALSO: German former pope Benedict admits giving ‘incorrect’ info to abuse inquiry

Member comments

  1. The consistent teaching of the Christian faith for 2000 years gas been that marriage is exclusively between a man and a women, and that homosexual acts are sinful.
    If you don’t like it, then don’t be a Christian. Simple as that. No one will force you to stay.

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German minister wants equal parenting rights for married lesbian couples

Justice Minister Marco Bushman says he wants to see Germany recognise both partners in a lesbian married couple as mothers.

Two women stand together in Alexanderplatz, Berlin, on the International Day for Lesbian Visibility in 2019.
Two women stand together in Alexanderplatz, Berlin, on the International Day for Lesbian Visibility in 2019. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Paul Zinken

Currently in Germany there is no legal regulation on parenthood for a married female couple. It means that only the biological mother is legally recognised as a parent and her partner has to go through a formal adoption process to become the child’s second parent, even if they are married.

It is a process that can take months or even years. But that looks set to change.

“If a child is born into a marriage between a man and a woman, the man – regardless of biological paternity – is legally the father,” Federal Minister Bushman (FDP)  told Germany’s Rheinische Post and the General-Anzeiger in an interview. 

“The question is: why should this be different in a marriage between two women?”

Buschmann said the decisive factor should be “that two people take care of the child, provide love and security, and also legally stand up for the child as a community”.

He said it should therefore become the norm that in a marriage, the two mothers “are recognised as parents in the sense of joint motherhood”.

“However, we must not lose sight of the rights of the biological father,” added Buschmann. 

Buschmann’s demand is in line with what the traffic light coalition, made up of the Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and FDP, set out as a goal in their coalition agreement at the end of last year.

The agreement stated: “If a child is born into the marriage of two women, both are automatically legal mothers of the child, unless otherwise agreed.”

A reform of the law of parental rights has been in the works for some time in Germany.

Having to go through an adoption procedure “is rightly perceived as discriminatory by lesbian couples”, Buschmann’s predecessor Christine Lambrecht (SPD) had said in summer 2020, adding that “a mother should not have to adopt her child”.

READ ALSO: How gay and lesbian couples are still facing obstacles in parenting rights

But so far, there has been no real movement on legal regulation in parenthood for a married female couple.

The Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe is looking for clarity on this issue. 

Last year, the Higher Regional Court (OLG) in Celle referred a case on the recognition of two mothers to this court.

Judges in Lower Saxony consider it unconstitutional that there is no provision for a married female couple in the paragraphs on parenthood in Germany’s Civil Code.

This issue remains unresolved even though same-sex marriages were declared legal in Germany in October 2017.

Critics said there were errors in the implementation of the new law that meant parental rights were not subsequently changed and the civil registry of births wasn’t established for same-sex partners across the country.