In Germany, the pressure on the Catholic bishops to reform the labor law provisions for dealing with queer people is growing. “It can no longer be accepted that people in church contexts 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,” says a joint statement by more than twenty Catholic associations that was published on Monday.
In it they demand “that discrimination and exclusion, especially in church labor law, be fundamentally prevented”. They condemn homophobia and call for “a culture of diversity” in the Catholic Church. In addition to the presidium of the Central Committee of German Catholics, the signatories also include the Catholic Women’s Community in Germany, which has around 400,000 members.
The reason for the declaration was an unprecedented initiative by 125 full-time, volunteer and former church employees on Monday under the title “#OutInChurch. For a Church Without Fear” on a website as queer. According to church labor law, employees who work in pastoral care or in catechesis, i.e. imparting the faith, are threatened with dismissal as soon as they enter into a same-sex marriage. In such a case, religion teachers must reckon with the withdrawal of their church teaching license, the so-called missio canonica.
“Church employers would lose processes”
“The basic order of ecclesiastical labor law cannot endure in this form,” said Tübingen labor lawyer Hermann Reichold of the FAZ. “Secular courts are becoming more and more critical. Church employers would lose more and more lawsuits,” said Reichold, who advises the Association of German Dioceses on the planned reform of church labor law. “The previous condemnation of homosexuality will in all likelihood be dropped with the reform of labor law. You will probably just ignore it,” Reichold said. The presentation of a reformed labor law is planned for this year. The German Bishops’ Conference did not want to confirm this when asked by the FAZ.
The dioceses usually do not want to comment specifically on how they deal with employees who have entered into a same-sex marriage. When asked by the FAZ, the Archdiocese of Munich said that there were “of course also queer employees”, but they generally did not comment on personnel matters. From the Archdiocese of Hamburg and the Diocese of Münster it was said that there are no automatisms in such cases, it is always a case of individual decisions. Of the five dioceses asked, only the diocese of Essen came out on top. Pastoral officers or teachers who entered into a same-sex marriage would not have to fear any consequences under employment law, the local press office said.
“Church must not discriminate”
The bishops had last reformed labor law in 2015 in the face of growing pressure from within the Church, but also increasing questioning by civil courts. Up until then, the mere cohabitation with a same-sex partner was punishable by dismissal in a number of cases; In addition, these provisions also applied to employees outside of pastoral care and the transmission of faith, for example in church hospitals.
Federal Minister of Justice Marco Buschmann (FDP) said on Monday: “No one may be disadvantaged because of his or her sexual identity. With all due respect for the church’s right to self-determination, especially in the area of proclamation – the church, as one of the largest employers in Germany, must also take this into account.” The Federal Government Commissioner for the Acceptance of Sexual and Gender Diversity, Sven Lehmann (Greens), said he hoped to a constructive dialogue within the Catholic Church in order to achieve equality and acceptance for all employees.