In Germany, tens of thousands of people have signed a petition supporting the #OutInChurch initiative, while at the same time the LGBTQ church workers involved keep speaking out. Support from Catholic groups around the globe is growing, too.
More than 63,000 people endorsed #OutInChurch’s manifesto seeking greater justice for LGBTQ people in the church, particularly in the area of employment discrimination. The initiative launched last week with the coming out of 125 LGBTQ church workers, and its petition (available by clicking here) now shows incredibly broad support.
Another part of the #OutInChurch project is a documentary film produced by Das Erste, the leading public television station in Germany. Titled “How God Created Us: Coming Out in the Catholic Church,” roughly 100 LGBTQ church workers in Germany tell their stories. The videos, all in German, are available here. These church workers are also speaking more broadly to other media outlets. Crux reported:
“‘I would like to be part of the change,’ Jesuit Father Ralf Klein of St. Blasien Parish in the Black Forest region of Germany said in the film.
“‘In our employment contracts, the ecclesiastical employment law is declared to be valid. The possibility of dismissal hovers over all employees like a sword of Damocles,’ Klein said.
“Theologian Monika Schmelter and Catholic religion teacher Marie Kortenbusch, from Lüdinghausen in North Rhine-Westphalia, spoke in the film about how stressful it was to hide their 40-year relationship from colleagues and create a parallel world about how they spent holidays and private time. Even in retirement, Kortenbusch feared her pension could be scrapped after the couple married in 2020. . .
“The filmmakers said they wrote to all 27 German bishops asking them to appear in the film. Only one, Bishop Helmut Dieser of Aachen, agreed to be interviewed saying he welcomed the movement in the ‘name from the German bishops’ conference as a sign that we are working to ensure that such a climate of fear and freedom no longer prevail in our church.'”
Moritz Findeisen, a German gay Catholic, explained in Katholisch.de his decision to participate in #OutInChurch. A journalism student, Findeisen said he could never seek to be an academic theologian or pastoral minister. Church permission was frequently needed for such jobs, including at state-run universities, and he could never obtain such authorization as a partnered gay man.
“Such injustices and the many personal injuries in dealing with queer people in the church must finally stop. If [the church] wants to proclaim a loving God even halfway believably, it must no longer undercut the social ideals of freedom and equality. The Christian faith offers all conceivable starting points: At its core is a message of liberation. We can confidently leave heartless biblicalism and dogmatic incrustations to the religious fundamentalists.
“The church is diverse, countless queer people fill it with life every day. To give a face to this diversity, I am part of #OutInChurch.”
The reaction to the church workers’ coming out has been quite positive, even from church leaders. Sven Diephaus, a gay youth minister in the Diocese of Osnabrück who signed the statement, described it as “almost exclusively positive feedback” with many expressions of gratitude. In return, Diephaus made clear in an interview with Katholisch.de that his coming out was possible because of a supportive bishop and pastor, as well as the community. He said:
“I’ve been wondering if my place is really in the Church. But I’ve made up my mind who I’m doing my job for. The answer: the people here in the church community. I stayed because they accept me and value my work. Also, I would find it very unfortunate if everyone who is queer left the church. Then there would be no one left to represent sexual diversity in the Church. That would be fatal, because the Catholic Church is actually characterized by diversity. Many queer people like to work in the church because of the gospel message, even though they are often discriminated against there. This usually happens less on site than on the part of the church leadership.”
More widely, a number of Catholic groups in Germany and internationally have expressed their solidarity with #OutInChurch. New Ways Ministry’s statement was released on the day the campaign went public. Some 30 German Catholic organizations, including the Central Committee of German Catholics, the Catholic German Women’s Association, the Association of German Catholic Youth, and others, issued a joint statement, which reads, in part:
“The Catholic Church is as diverse as society itself and home to everyone. No one should be discriminated against or excluded because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.”
The Global Network of Rainbow Catholics issued a supportive statement. Co-chair Christopher Vella said, in part:
“We’ve become used to see fired LGBTIQ workers from Church institutions. . .and how they engage in long trials, fighting for their right to work. So, this proactive initiative is also a light of hope for those who feel currently threatened in their job positions while shows to the world that other way is possible.”
In addition, a number of German church leaders have welcomed #OutInChurch and called for a revision of the church’s employment policies such that discrimination against LGBTQ people is eliminated. You can read more about bishops’ responses here.
To read Bondings 2.0’s full coverage of the #OutInChurch initiative and responses to it, click here.
—Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, January 31, 2022