A German diocese has released new guidelines on sex education that are remarkably LGBTQ-positive, including an appreciation of diverse sexual identities and approval of blessing same-gender couples.
The Diocese of Limburg approved the mandatory guidelines in May 2022, but only now made them public as implementation begins, reported Katholisch.de. The diocese issued ten points by which Catholic institutions should approach sexuality and then elucidated ways each of the ten points should be lived out by church workers and ministers. Some key highlights include (via Google Translate):
- Coming to know and accept one’s sexual identity is important and must be promoted throughout life via the church’s ministries from childhood to older age. It is also important to accept and respect others’ “right to sexual self-determination and the free choice of their own life decisions.”
- “There is diversity in sexual identity and orientation. Handling these differences and diversity appreciatively should be actively promoted in the parishes and institutions. The choice of [how one forms their life] is to be respected as a result of an individual and personal decision. It is to be recognized when partners assume responsibility for one another in mutual loyalty and care. In addition, we welcome it when couples wish to place their partnership under God’s blessing.”
- “Everyone has a different sexuality: For example: there is not only sexuality between man and woman. But also between woman and woman. Or between man and man. Or between people who feel neither as a woman nor as a man. Church workers rejoice when couples have this wish: To get the blessing in the service for their partnership. The Diocese of Limburg would like to fulfill this wish for all couples.”
The guidelines also encourages learning good communication about sexuality, pastoral ministers to have open attitudes in their work, recognition that sex education should be provided at age-appropriate levels for children, as well as adolescents, and more. For the full guidelines in German, click here.
The Limburg diocese is led by Bishop Georg Bätzing, who also chairs the German Bishops’ Conference and has been a key figure in the country’s Synodal Way. Katholisch.de reported further on developments in Limburg:
“The new guidelines mark a ‘huge difference’ from the attitude towards sexuality that has been practiced in the Church so far, said [diocesan family educator Katharina] Döring. Everyone should be able to deal with it openly and feel accepted and cared for in the communities. ‘We want to make it a matter of course to talk about your sexual orientation without having to worry about anything,’ said Döring. ‘You should meet people here who say: It’s good the way you are.’ . . .
“In the Limburg Abuse Report presented in 2020, as well as in the nationwide MHG study [on sexual abuse in the church] from 2018, classic Catholic sexual morality was named as a risk factor for sexualised violence by clerics. According to the diocese, the ten guidelines are intended to ‘strengthen sexual education competence and minimize risk factors for sexualised violence and border violations’.”
The Diocese of Limburg’s new guidelines are exceptional. Sexuality and gender are approached in a positive way that is clearly informed by contemporary knowledge about these issues. The guidelines acknowledge sexuality as a life-giving, yet complex aspect of one’s identity that requires attention as one develops. Such a realistic, science-based approach inevitably leads to a document that is remarkably LGBTQ-positive. Diverse sexual and gender identities are treated not as problems or aberrations. They are normal and worth celebrating. People’s agency and consciences are respected in determining the way they can best flourish, including when it comes to queer relationships or non-binary identities.
The guidelines, however, and perhaps more importantly for Catholic LGBTQ+ advocates, are a witness to something new: a commitment from institutional church leaders (in this case, Bishop Bätzing and the Limburg diocese) to provide meaningful, positive, informed, honest, and caring support to people on the lifelong journey that gender and sexuality entail. That witness may be starting in Limburg, yet it has the power to change the church radically if more leaders would adopt such an approach.
—Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, January 24, 2023