A German bishop has decried the murder of a transgender man, saying there should be no tolerance for any form of discrimination and violence, including against LGBTQ+ people.
Bishop Felix Genn of Münster made his comments after a young trans man known as Malte C. was assaulted during Christopher Street Day celebrations, Germany’s equivalent to Pride. The man intervened to defend queer women who were being harassed, but was then beaten by the assailant and later died in the hospital. The Guardian reported that Genn called the murder a “barbaric” and “insane” act, commenting further:
“‘My thoughts and prayers are with the deceased, his family and all who are grieving. But we must not stop at the shock and sadness. We must speak out loud against anyone who does not tolerate, abuse, verbally or physically attack others because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, race, skin colour or religion. Intolerance, exclusion and hatred must have no place in our society.'”
Sven Lehmann, the German Commissioner for Acceptance of Sexual and Gender Diversity, tweeted about the attack: “I’m stunned and sad. My condolences and deep sympathy go to his family and friends. Violence against queer people is a threat that we must all stand up to.” The alleged assailant is now in police custody awaiting trial.
Bishop Genn has taken an increasingly LGBTQ-positive stance in recent years, seemingly developing his position since 2017, when he forbade a pastoral minister from blessing a same-gender couple.
Since then, he has said church workers should not be sanctioned for offering such blessings, encouraged the church to apologize to lesbian and gay people, and affirmed church workers in his diocese would not be fired for their sexual orientation or gender identity. A participant in the 2018 Synod on Youth, Genn said the church must engage young people in conversations about sexuality. Notably, Genn is a member of the Congregation for Bishops, which advises the pope on episcopal appointments.
In an interview earlier this summer, Genn reiterated the need for the church to reassess its teachings on sexuality. Kirche und Leben reported:
“[Interviewer:] You yourself said at the last synodal assembly that it was embarrassing what the catechism said about sexual morality. How realistic is it to hope that this embarrassment will be eliminated – for example with regard to sex before marriage, contraceptives, masturbation and homosexuality?
“[Genn:] Here, too, I can relate to what I just said. Like the MHG study, the study by the University of Münster made it clear once again that rigid sexual morality also made sexual abuse possible in the church. The WWU study shows that it is problematic when sexuality is viewed primarily as sinful and when sexuality cannot be discussed. I would like to counteract this for the diocese of Münster with the new office for sexual education that was set up in June. One thing is clear to me: If I want to prevent sexual abuse, then I have to be able to speak more openly and competently about sexuality and I have to move away from rigid sexual morality. Here, too, the church’s teaching authority must come to new assessments that take into account the findings of modern sex research and science.”
This weekend, the German Church’s Synodal Way is again holding an assembly during which votes on documents related to LGBTQ+ issues will be taken. (Bondings 2.0 will report on any developments.)
When 49 people were murdered at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlalndo in 2016, only a tiny minority of bishops made any statement. Even fewer identified the victims as primarily LGBTQ+ people. Such silence is largely the status quo for church leaders globally when it comes to anti-LGBTQ+ violence. Bishop Genn’s stern condemnation of Malte C.’s murder models an alternative, correct response—one every Catholic bishop and pastoral minister should heed.
—Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, September 9, 2022