„For a church without fear“ is the slogan of a campaign by German Catholics that went viral on 24 January. Under the hashtag outinchurch, more than 100 people who work for the Catholic Church on a full-time or voluntary basis came out as queer in a historically first-time event for the Catholic Church. I am one of those people.
In addition to my studies for a teaching degree in Catholic religion, I have been working on the inner-Catholic reform process of the Church in Germany since 2020 and advocate for the rights of queer people in my church.
As part of this process, I already came out to church officials two years ago. Since I am not yet working full-time for the church, I only risked my future job opportunities by coming out. For many others who have participated in outinchurch, it was and is associated with the risk of dismissal by the church body. Not to mention the social uncertainty about how colleagues and superiors will react. Or how Catholic friends who have been kept in the dark for years will react. We are still living in a church full of fear.
This fear was impressively portrayed in the accompanying ARD documentary „Wie Gott uns schuf“ [eng: “How God Created Us”]. The title is a statement against the pathologisation of queer people. Where the Catholic Church claims that we are a deviation from the divine plan and deeply disordered, we invoke the image of God, that queerness and diversity are part of creation.
The film now has over 1 million views in the media library. Some bishops have already committed to abolishing sexual identity and gender orientation as grounds for dismissal. Many statements remain vague, some remain dismissive, some remain silent. Much remains to be done and achieved.
I assume that very few people here today are Catholic. It is perhaps difficult to understand why many queer Catholics, like members of other discriminated groups such as women, remain in the Catholic Church.
Like many members of outinchurch, I am asked almost daily but at least weekly why I still put myself through being Catholic. I always find the question irritating as well. Yes, being a member of the church is a decision – at least in Germany and from the age of 14. I make this decision almost every day. But we don’t do the suffering to ourselves, which #outinchurch also wants to point out. The Catholic Church does it to us.
The Church, which is at the same time a spiritual, religious and social home for many of us. The church by whose God we know ourselves unconditionally loved and accepted by. The church into which most of us were baptised as babies.
Much needs to change in this church and this church is guilty of many people’s suffering. That is why we demand, among other things:
The amendment of church labour law. An open life in accordance with one’s sexual orientation and gender identity, even in a partnership or civil marriage, may never be considered a breach of loyalty or a reason for dismissal.
Defamatory and outdated statements of church doctrine on gender and sexuality must be revised based on theological and human-scientific findings.
We expect the bishops to take responsibility for the suffering caused in the course of church history in the name of the church, to come to terms with the institutional history of guilt and to work for the changes we demand.
For me, every day that I remain an activist in the Catholic Church is a decision to fight so that those who come after me will no longer know this suffering.
I believe nothing is more Christian than standing up for the oppressed. My God pushes the powerful down from their thrones and lifts up the low-standing. God knows: every day in the Catholic Church is a feminist day of struggle.