A German teacher-in-training who recently came out as transgender has received permission to continue teaching religious studies.
Theo Schenkel was granted “unlimited teaching permission” by the Archdiocese of Freiburg and will continue to teach Catholic studies and French at a local state school, Archywordlys.com reported.
Schenkel participated in the #OutInChurch campaign earlier this year with 125 other employees of the Catholic Church who came out as queer and called for reforms to labor laws that discriminated against LGBTQ+ employees. The 27-year-old was also part of a documentary, “How God Created Us,” that aired on German television as part of the campaign.
“For me, religion means trust and strength,” Schenkel told local newspaper Die Oberbadische, explaining his decision to study theology. “The church is to a certain extent home for me. Much of my life took place here.”
A spokesperson for the archdiocese reiterated confidence in both Schenkel’s abilities and his faithfulness:
“‘Despite or precisely because of his personal situation, Mr. Schenkel has shown a deep identification with the Catholic Church and a personal approach to faith. The Archdiocese of Freiburg is convinced that Mr. Schenkel will also be a personally convincing, authentic religion teacher.'”
The archdiocese, however, did not commit to overhauling discriminatory policies against LGBTQ+ church employees. At this point, decisions continue to be made on a case-by-case basis, even as the German Bishops’ Conference continues to support pro-LGBTQ+ reforms, such as repentance for discrimination, reform of labor laws for church employees, and blessings for same-gender couples.
For Schenkel, participation in #OutInChurch and his recent approval from the archdiocese bring relief as well as motivation. Schenkel is grateful for the solidarity with other queer employees of the church as well as the authorization to continue teaching:
“Before, I always had to be careful and think about what I was saying to whom. I admire the other participants, some of whom have managed to do this their entire working lives. Before, it was like a blanket over me, weighing me down.”
The feedback from the television documentary inspired him and his fiancee, Daniela Güntert, to launch a podcast about their journey together. They also vow to keep working for reforms on LGBTQ+ issues in the church. These are positive signs, he agreed, “but the goal of reducing discrimination against queer people in the Catholic church and in particular in labor law has not yet been achieved.”
—Angela Howard McParland (she/her), New Ways Ministry, July 4, 2022