Church under pressure after outing

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From: Markus Hofstetter

The Catholic Church adheres to its conservative sexual morality. Queer workers are pressuring the institution to change that. The time is favourable.

Berlin/Hamm – The Catholic Church is currently sailing in particularly stormy waters. Benedict XVI is accused of lying in the abuse scandal, in the meantime the Pope Emeritus has admitted a false statement*. Now another conflict-laden topic is boiling up: the institution’s conservative sexual morality.

Under the motto “#OutInChurch For a Church Without Fear”, 125 priests and other employees of the Catholic Church have come out as queer. This happens almost a year after nearly 200 actors came out. People who are not heterosexual or who do not identify with the traditional role model of men and women or other social norms relating to gender and sexuality describe themselves as queer.

Catholic church workers come out: a lot of approval from inside and outside the church

“#OutInChurch For a Church Without Fear” found a lot of approval after a short time. “What courage!” tweeted Sven Lehmann (Greens*), the Federal Government Commissioner for the Acceptance of Sexual and Gender Diversity. 20 Catholic associations and organizations, from the Central Committee of German Catholics to the Catholic Workers’ Movement in Germany and the Catholic German Women’s Association, showed their solidarity with the demands.

The 125 priests and other Catholic Church workers who have come out as queer are receiving church and political support. (Iconic image) © Ralph Peters/imago

“We expressly oppose homophobia and call for a culture of diversity in the Catholic Church,” said a joint statement. “It can no longer be accepted that people in church contexts – whether full-time in church service or volunteers in associations – have to lead a shadowy existence out of fear of church representatives if they do not conform to the gender image standardized by the church.”

Catholic church workers come out: the evangelical church is already ahead

Individual bishops also supported the movement. “A church in which one has to hide because of one’s sexual orientation cannot, in my opinion, be in the spirit of Jesus,” said Archbishop Stefan Hess of Hamburg. The Bishop of Aachen, Helmut Diese, who is known as a reformer, said that homosexuals had been “devalued and criminalized” by the church. “A guilty plea is also due here,” said This in the Cologne Review (Monday). That’s what you’re working on.

The evangelical church has come a long way. The Evangelical Church in Berlin-Brandenburg-Silesian Upper Lusatia has asked forgiveness for years of exclusion and discrimination against queer people.

Catholic church workers come out: reform of church labor law required

With their coming out, the participants in the campaign are also demanding a reform of labor law. “The community officer who wants to marry her girlfriend loses her job,” said Pastor Bernd Mönkebüscher from Hamm German press agency. It is impossible for this to remain the case in 2022. According to the church’s online magazine, Mönkebüscher has church+life already outed as homosexual in February 2019.

The chance for a change is good. Thomas Schüller emphasizes that the German bishops can change ecclesiastical labor law without the consent of the Vatican. According to the canon lawyer, Catholic labor law is currently being revised, with a clear trend. “The majority of the bishops and above all the large number of vicars general, who have to struggle every day with the unsuitability of this right, want all duties of loyalty that affect personal conduct to be canceled without replacement,” says Schüller.

Catholic church workers come out: Old pigtails that should be cut off

Support for a reform also comes from politics. “Ecclesiastical labor law is an old braid, it should be cut off,” writes Lars Castellucci (SPD), member of the Bundestag, on Twitter. This would also suddenly give countless employees time for the tasks for which the church actually has to be there, namely for serving others. “In contrast, the conduct of private life within the framework of law and legislation must be and remain a private matter. That is why the review of church labor law is also included in the #traffic light coalition agreement.”

Catholic church workers come out: Queer people have to play hide and seek

The Catholic Church’s adherence to the traditional family image has serious consequences for queer people. This is shown by the example of Monika Schmelter from Lüdinghausen in Münsterland. The 65-year-old, who worked at Caritas*, hid a relationship with her current wife, a religion teacher, for 40 years. They both had to travel long distances to their work in order not to be discovered, said Schmelter German press agency. Even at their place of residence, they only appeared “discreetly” – never as lovers. “It was very stressful.”

When it finally leaked out and she confided in her boss, he said: “If I keep it secret, then I can keep my job. But if I had made that open at my duty station, it would have resulted in my resignation.”

Monika Schmelter retired in 2019, and a year later she and her partner Marie Kortenbusch married. Now they want to work to ensure that others are spared such a path of suffering. The opportunity for this seems good to them: “The church is under a lot of pressure, especially since the publication of the Munich report,” says Schmelter. “They can’t really afford another scandal. * is an offer from IPPEN.MEDIA

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