A court in Germany has fined a Catholic theologian in Poland for using derogatory language against gay people in a recent article series, a move that could now have diplomatic implications.
The Cologne District Court issued Fr. Dariusz Oko a €4,800 fine for “inciting hatred through his article in a German magazine on alleged homosexual influence in the Vatican,” according to Politico.
About the disputed articles, Katholisch.de reported (via Google Translate):
“The case concerns an article by Oko in the January/February 2021 edition [of the magazine Theologisches]. Under the heading ‘On the need to limit homosexual cliques in the Church’, the priest complained about the alleged dominance of homosexuals in the Catholic Church and described homosexual priests as a danger to the church. In the article, Oko referred to homosexual priests as ‘a colony of parasites’, ‘cancerous growth’ and ‘homosexual plague’, among other things, and he believes that homosexual rights are a ‘homo ideology’ and ‘homo heresy’. In the March/April issue, Oko published a second part of the article in which a similar judgment was made. In this text, Oko wrote, among other things, that it was necessary in the church ‘to create a whole system for the protection of “defenseless adults” who have or could become victims of homosexual predators in cassocks or frocks’.”
Following the first article’s release, Fr. Wolfgang Rothe of Munich filed a complaint about it with the Cologne public prosecutor with the accusation that it had incited hate under Germany’s criminal code. Rothe rejected the place of such language in society and in the church.
But the implications of this case are not limited to the church. There are potential diplomatic factors, too. Marcin Romanowski, Poland’s Deputy Justice Minister (and alleged member of Opus Dei, an international organization of ultra-conservative Catholics), criticized the “anti-freedom tendencies” in Germany’s legal system and suggested this fine “represents a threat to fundamental freedoms and European standards,” reported ZDF. Romanowski added, “the court trampled on academic freedom and showed that it values the torturers more than the victims. We will not allow such paranoia in Poland.”
Ordo Iuris Foundation, a Catholic institute in Poland which has spearheaded efforts to create “LGBT-free zones” in that country, is also defending Oko, according to Katholische.de. Ordo Iuris released a statement supporting the priest, as well as launched a petition to the Cologne District Court and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to intervene in what is framed as a dispute over academic freedom and free speech. The petition has more than 250,000 signatures to date.
Meanwhile, Fr. Rothe, the priest who filed the complaint against Oko, now faces abuse from Oko’s defenders. ZDF quoted him as saying, “Now I am insulted and slandered in the Polish media and talk shows. Called an abuser even though I am a victim of abuse.” Rothe was among the dozens of pastors in Germany who blessed same-gender couples earlier this year in defiance of the Vatican’s ban on such blessings.
Oko’s lawyer in Germany has appealed the court’s ruling, meaning the case probably goes to another trial soon. Whatever the outcome in legal and diplomatic spheres, however, this incident should prompt Fr. Oko’s religious superiors and editors at Theologisches to reconsider whether a person with such abhorrent views deserves a public platform.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, August 3, 2021