August 20. 2022. 6:45

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German Catholic priests out themselves in protest at teachings on LGBTIQ+ people

Aachen archbishop Helmut Dieser said that it was time for the Catholic church to embrace a ‘climate of freedom from fear’ and revise its interpretation of homosexuality based on modern science. Photograph: Patrik Stollarz/AFP via Getty

Germany’s Catholic church, already rocked by child abuse cover up claims against Pope Benedict, now faces a second challenge – this time from its LGBTIQ+ members.

Some 125 priests, religion teachers, theologians and other church employees have all come out simultaneously as part of a high profile campaign to demand reform of how church authorities view and treat them.

“The church has caused much suffering through its history in how it deals with LGBTIQ+ people,” the #outinchurch group says in its manifesto, which was accompanied by an hour-long documentary on German public television. “We expect bishops to take responsibility for this on behalf of the church, to work through the institutional history of guilt and to work for the changes we are calling for.”

The campaign calls for a “church without fear” that shuns discrimination – or threat of discrimination – towards people in same-sex relationships, and acceptance that “LGBTIQ+ people, whether living alone or in a relationship, are blessed by God”.

In concrete terms it demands a fundamental revision of “defamatory” Catholic teachings on homosexuality and non-binary people that reflect modern scientific and sexuality research, as well as an overhaul of church labour law.

As the operator of kindergartens, care homes and other facilities, the Catholic church is one of Germany’s largest employers. But it exists in a parallel legal reality to the German state with its own labour law that allows it fire people whose lifestyle is not considered in keeping with church teaching.

Among those who outed himself is Jan Korditschke, a 45-year-old Jesuit priest based in Dresden. Last year he organised one in a series of special services across Germany to bless same-sex couples, in a campaign called “Love Wins”.

That was in response to a Vatican document last March, restating its teaching that homosexuality is a sinful disorder.

“I don’t find it easy to talk about personal things in public but the ‘Love Wins’ campaign showed me how important it is to be visible,” he said. “I wish for a culture of openness and honesty in the church, which is hindered at the moment by the repression of LGBT people.”

From the outset, the campaign has won some prominent support. Aachen archbishop Helmut Dieser told the ARD documentary that it was time for the Catholic church to embrace a “climate of freedom from fear” and revise its interpretation of homosexuality based on modern science.

“No one should be discriminated against, devalued or criminalised because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” he said, speaking on behalf of the German Bishops’ Conference. “I apologise in the name of the church for people, injured in their pastoral encounters with the church.”

The #outinchurch campaign was launched with an eye on next week’s latest meeting of the “Synodal Path”, a consultative reform process in the German Catholic church.

German church affairs commentator Doris Reisinger suggested the positive reaction of some bishops to #outinchurch was attempt to show their progressive side amid the latest clerical abuse cover-up claims in Munich.

“If theology professors and high school priests dare to out themselves,” said Ms Reisinger, “then things have developed a dynamic that can’t be stopped.”

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