A German bishop has endorsed LGBTQ+ pastoral ministry by suggesting it is “no big deal,” adding theology must be done not in the abstract, but with specific people in mind.
Bishop Peter Kohlgraf of Mainz was interviewed by Kath.ch after launching an LGBTQ+ ministry in his diocese. The bishop said LGBTQ+ people have often approached him with concerns saying, “We are affected, and we ask you to be a voice for us.” He added, “ I can be happy if someone still wants something from the church today.”
As a voice for LGBTQ+ Catholics, Kohlgraf contended that “homosexuality is not a sin,” and that the church should continue to work towards more inclusive ministries:
“‘We must clearly define what is Catholic for us. That can no longer be sexuality. However, we cannot simply say: What happens within the four walls is private. I am not completely indifferent to the private lives of my pastoral workers. I don’t mean sexual orientation. But the behavior. For example, if a family man hits his children and wife, I care.'”
During the Synodal Way, Kohlgraf has worked on efforts that seek a reconsideration of the church’s position on homosexuality. However, the working paper calling for such efforts on sexual morality was rejected by the assembly and is no longer moving forward. Kohlgraf believes that if he and his fellow bishops “had communicated differently beforehand, the result would certainly have been different.”
Kohlgraf did not want to reject the text because he knew it would send the wrong signal: “I said to myself: if I reject the text now, as bishop I will send the signal that I no longer want to talk about it. I can’t send the signal.” What happened in the Synodal Way and in theology generally is not just “theoretical,” Kohlgraf argued. He explained, I talk and think about theoretical issues completely differently when I realize that it’s about specific people.” The interview continued:
“’We didn’t vote on theoretical moral theology, but people felt that we voted on their lives – and they were found negative. When people feel personally very hurt, I can’t say: “Don’t be silly, we talked about lyrics and not about you.” Of course, it is always about specific people.'”
Kohlgraf remarked that a small, but loud group often questions his Catholic faith:
“There are certain groups in the church that aren’t all that big – but very loud. . .I get letters in which people accuse me of not being Catholic anymore or having forgotten the church teachings. They claim that I should represent the true doctrine and remind me of my oath of bishop.”
While much of the Catholic Church remains silent to the violence and marginalization of the LGBTQ+ people, Bishop Kohlgraf is creating a positive an affirming space for LGBTQ+ Catholics to feel safe and at home.
—Bobby Nichols (he/him), New Ways Ministry, December 3, 2022