Monastery Investigating Priest for Giving Anti-LGBTQ+ Christmas Homily

Fr. Joachim Wernersbach, OSB

A monastery in Germany has begun investigating one of its members over an anti-LGBTQ+ homily delivered in December, while the local bishop offered his own condemnation of the priest’s remarks.

Preaching at Mass on Christmas Eve, Fr. Joachim Wernersbach, OSB, condemned LGBTQ+ people in extreme language. The priest, who served as temporary pastor at the parish where he gave the homily, referred to “strange modern currents” to which he objected. reported (via Google Translate):

“‘You hear about gender and transgender, about transhumanism and reproductive health, about wokeness and LGBTIQ, about diversity and identity, about multiple genders and gender reassignment, and about this devastating new revelational understanding of the synodal path.’ Even the terms are absolutely strange and they all have one thing in common, because they lack beauty, coherence and naturalness. And further: ‘They are not in tune, not in harmony with the unimaginably beautiful divine order. A great dissonance has broken over our country.'”

Wernersbach also wished “extra-great joy” to opponents of LGBTQ+ families for refusing to follow such “harmful modern currents.”

The priest’s Christmas homily, which for a time was available on YouTube until being removed, prompted backlash from the local community. Theresia Kliemank and Antonia Lippitsch launched an online petition to the parish council, signed by 500-plus people before being closed. In Kliemank’s words, the priest’s statements “have no place in a Christmas Mass” and are “very discriminatory and exclusionary.”

In response, the Benedictine Abbey of Tholey, where Wernersbach is a community member, rejected the priest’s homily in a statement, which reads, in part:

“‘The assessments made by our brother and the lack of pastoral empathy not only contradict social reality, but also discriminate against large parts of society in many respects, for example in the image of women, in the understanding of family and also towards queer fellow human beings and the LGBT community. This also applies without prejudice to valid Catholic teaching.”

Abbot Mauritius Choriol, OSB, also took steps to mitigate the damage caused by Wernersbach. The abbot placed restrictions on the priest’s pastoral ministry, and has opened an investigation into his homily.

Choriol also asked the local bishop, Bishop Wolfgang Ipolt of Görlitz, for an intervention. Ipolt added his criticism of Wernersbach, reported

“‘There is no doubt that Father Joachim spoke in an ill-considered and irresponsible manner. That alienated the faithful and prompted them to petition the parish council,’ said Ipolt. . .There is no reason at a Christmas service to comment critically on questions of sexual morality in the church or on the way of life of individual people. ‘People expect a strengthening of their faith and an interpretation of the Christmas message, especially at Christmas,’ said the bishop.”

Ipolt expressed support for the Benedictines’ rejection of Wernersbach’s homily, while also inviting the priest to meet with the bishop, potentially to discuss an apology for the harm caused.

As 2023 begins, this incident in Germany highlights a trend in the church on LGBTQ+ issues that is worth celebrating. Inevitably, some Catholics, clerics in particular, will continue to act in pastorally insensitive, even harmful ways. Yet, increasingly, there are church leaders intervening positively when harm is done. The strong, meaningful reactions by Abbot Choriol and Bishop Ipolt are two such examples for other church leaders to follow.

Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, January 10, 2023

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