A top church official in Germany has rejected claims that gay priests are a cause of clergy sexual abuse, saying such ideas are discriminatory. He also said the church can no longer be hypocritical by preaching its sexual morality while knowing few practice it.
Monsignor Peter Beer, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, made his remarks in an interview posted on the archdiocesan website. While the interview largely focused on clergy sexual abuse, Beer was asked how the church should deal with homosexuality and if any changes are needed on that topic. He replied:
“Homosexuality exists in the middle of the church. There are gay clerics, as well as gay employees and lesbian workers in all areas of church life. This fact must be acknowledged and clearly stated. Homosexual priests and staff, like many other non-gay members of our service community, provide an important ministry and good work. The reports that most of the abuses in the church are committed by men against boys are true. Based on these reports, it is not true that there is a clear link between homosexuality and abuse. Making such an uncritical connection is irresponsible discrimination against homosexuals. Experts believe that abusive sexual acts by men can hardly be classed as genuinely gay-motivated, but as an expression of immature, unexplained sexuality.”
Beer was also asked about the church’s teachings on sexual morality generally with the questioner noting that even many priests do not follow the church’s regulations. The monsignor commented:
“Greater sincerity would help a little bit. If more or less everyone knows that certain rules and regulations are hardly respected, but is still done as if they are being respected, that’s a nuisance, an almost unbearable hypocrisy. This harms everyone: the people who are fleeing into a double standard and the institution, which as a whole becomes implausible. You have to face that. In concrete terms, this means naming the situation honestly and then positioning itself clearly. Do you want to abolish, modify or advertise certain rules or standards, develop them and maybe even support them with certain sanctions? Of course, we can not throw overboard world church regulations so easily, but in their practical implementation we can define, justify and clearly communicate pastoral, labor law-related scope.”
The Archdiocese of Munich-Freising is led by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, a close papal advisor and president of the German Bishops’ Conference. In a Q&A about the recent leaked study of the German bishops on clergy sexual abuse, the archdiocese likewise rejected the idea gay priests were a cause of sexual abuse. Rather, it stated:
“The study clearly states that homosexuality is not itself a cause of sexual abuse of minors. However, ambivalent statements and attitudes of Catholic sexual morality to homosexuality are mentioned as possible risk factors. The Catholic Church as a whole faces the challenge to pay more attention to sexual maturity and personal aptitude in its personnel selection, especially among priests, and to reconsider attitudes to sexuality. In concrete terms, the Archbishopric has already promoted events aimed at open discussion and the reduction of discrimination. In the Archbishop’s Ordinariat, there is a regular round of talks for gay and lesbian staff, which is also in exchange with the Vicar General. The goal is to overcome taboos and discrimination.”
Earlier this week, Bondings 2.0 reported on the words of French bishop Emmanuel Gobilliard who, during his intervention at the Synod on Youth, said, “We mustn’t be afraid of sexuality!” Beer’s forthright manner of addressing homosexuality is precisely what is needed to answer Gobilliard’s call. Not only does Beer reject the false conflation of gay priests and abuse, but he goes on to rightly denounce such thinking as discriminatory. Without caveat, he affirms the good which lesbian and gay church workers are performing but also says the church must support them. He is honest that the institutional church has been deeply hypocritical and clear that change is needed. Beer’s words are a refreshing example of what church leaders’ engagement with LGBT issues could look like, if only they chose to do so.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, October 11, 2018