Letter from German Catholics Calls for “New Start on Sexual Morality”

Fr. Ansgar Wucherpfennig, S.J., one of the letter’s signatories

Leading Catholics in Germany have released an open letter calling for a “new start with sexual morality” that includes a call for a re-evaluation of the church’s approach to homosexuality.

The letter, directed to Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising who heads the German Bishops’ Conference, was written in advance of the Vatican’s summit on the clergy sexual abuse scandal happening in Rome at the end of this week. The German signatories largely focused on the question of abuse, but included an appeal for a larger reform agenda, too. Katholisch.de reported (via Google Translate):

“[N]ine theologians and Catholics in leadership positions have called for reforms within the church. They call for a ‘new start with sexual morality’, including a ‘reasonable and equitable assessment of homosexuality,’ according to the letter in the Frankfurter Allgemeinen Sonntagszeitung (FAS). ‘If you put yourself at the head of the reform movement, you have us determinedly behind you,’ says the appeal, which is also addressed to all other bishops. ‘Open a new page, write “2019” on it, and start,’ write the signatories. . .

“Furthermore, the theologians demand a ‘genuine separation of powers’ in the church: ‘This fits better with the humility of Christ and within the framework of the laws that apply to all.’ They also call for an opening of the ordination office for women and the abolition of compulsory celibacy for diocesan priests. . .The theologians also urged Marx to point out at the [Vatican] conference that abuse in the church ‘also has systemic reasons’. . .They also speak of a depressed mood in the parishes: ‘The sun of justice is no longer possible, and under a leaden sky the joy of faith withers away.'”

The letter’s nine signatories include theologians, clergy, politicians, and lay leaders. They are:

  • Fr. Johannes zu Eltz, dean of Frankfurt, who last year called on the Church to bless the unions of couples who could not have a Catholic marriage, including same-gender couples, for in such partnerships he identified the moral goods of “loyalty, care, responsibility, obligation” which deserve to be recognized;
  • Gaby Hagmans, director of Caritas Germany’s Frankfurt branch;
  • Bettina Jarasch, a Greens politician;
  • Claudia Lücking-Michel, vice-president of the Central Committee of German Catholics;
  • Dagmar Mensink, political and ethical issues spokesperson for the Central Committee of German Catholics;
  • Fr. Klaus Mertes, S.J., an advocate for survivors of clergy sexual abuse;
  • Jörg Splett, a religious philosopher, and his wife, Ingrid;
  • Fr. Ansgar Wucherpfennig, S.J., rector of the Jesuit College Sankt Georgen in Frankfurt.

The finally signatory, Fr. Ansgar Wucherpfennig, made headlines last year when his re-appointment to his college’s rectoship became a controversy when the Vatican initially denied him the post over his views on homosexuality and women’s equality. Facing tremendous support for Wucherpfennig from German Catholics, including several bishops, the Vatican later reversed its position.

LGBT-positive developments in the German-speaking Church have been happening with notable frequency. Already in 2019,  Essen’s Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck recently wrote that the Church must change its understanding of homosexuality and stop harm presently being done to people. Vienna’s Cardinal Christoph Schönborn defended civil marriage equality and recognized goodness in same-gender relationships. A handful of church leaders have seemingly defied the Vatican by saying they would welcome gay men to seminary. This latest letter is evidence that the faithful are ready for such reforms and willing to support bishops who take a stand.

Want to experience spiritual gems of Germany and Belgium? Join Sr. Jeannine Gramick for an LGBT-friendly pilgrimage this April 22-30, 2019. The itinerary includes sites of spiritual, historical, and cultural significance, as well as daily Mass and times for sharing, including a Mass and social with LGBT Catholics. Participants on previous pilgrimages have praised them for not only the amazing places visited, but for the spirit of community and friendship which develop on each journey. For more information, visit www.newwaysministry.org/pilgrimage or click here.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, February 19, 2019

DW.com, “German Catholic Church ‘needs urgent reform‘”

Crux, “Open letter to German cardinal urges changes to Church teaching on sexual morality

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