A German cardinal has likened so-called gender ideology to Nazism as the country outlawed gay ‘conversion therapy’ for minors.

– Cardinal Brandmüller questions whether Bishops’ apology for complicity with National Socialists was appropriate: “People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones”

Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, one of the signatories to the dubia accusing Pope Francis of causing “grave disorientation and great confusion” with his 2016 apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia, wrote an article in Die Tagepost criticising the German Bishops for their April 29 apology for the complicity of their predecessors in World War II.

The German prelates were widely praised for that declaration of guilt, in which they acknowledged that “hardly a voice was raised” in the wartime episcopate “against the monstrous crimes committed against people who were persecuted because they belonged to an ‘alien race’, especially the Jews”.

But Brandmüller – the president emeritus of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences – questioned whether the apology was “at all necessary, useful [and] sensible”, especially given the dearth of similar initiatives by other national episcopates also complicit in the war.

For them bringing up the war again, Brandmüller compared the German Bishops to a “scrupulous person who is nevertheless constantly tormented by the feeling of guilt, never coming to rest”.

But even more controversial was the cardinal’s prediction that just as with the wartime bishops and their relationship with the National Socialists, “there will be… no small number of embarrassing questions to be answered by our generation”.

Accusing recent German bishops of a lack of opposition to the use of contraceptives by Catholics and of a lukewarmness in defending the life of the unborn, Brandmüller alleged that within the German episcopate today “there is an eloquent silence about the gender ideology”, while bishops talk “loudly and clearly about the recognition of homosexual practice – and other such things”.

“What will people say about this in the year 2100? Our generation is truly sitting in a glass house itself. It should not throw stones”, the cardinal warned.

– Fines of up to 30,000 euros and prison terms of up to a year for practitioners

Despite Brandmüller’s comparison of Nazi crimes to “gender ideology” and “homosexual practice”, the German parliament went ahead last week and banned gay ‘conversion therapy’ for under-18s, becoming the fifth country in the world to do so at a national level after Malta, Ecuador, Brazil and Taiwan.

Under the new German law, practitioners of ‘conversion therapy’ – which can involve psychotherapy, hypnosis, electric shocks and other extreme physical treatments designed to ‘cure’ homosexuality – will face fines of up to 30,000 euros or jail terms of up to a year if they advertise those cures or try them on children.

Conversion therapists will also be punished if they use treatments on adults between 18 to 26 years of age by means of “coercion, threats, or deception”.

Though left-wing parties largely voted against the new law – arguing that it should have encompassed a total ban on ‘conversion therapy’ on adults as well as children – Health Minister Jens Spahn, a gay man himself, said it was important that the new measure hold up to future legal challenges.

“Homosexuality is not an illness, therefore the term therapy is already misleading… Where there is no illness, there is no need for therapy”, Spahn said in his presentation of the new law.

“[Young people] should feel strengthened when the state, when society, when Parliament makes it clear: we do not want that in this country”, the politician continued.

Speaking to German Bishops’ news agency katholisch.de, member of the German ecumenical working group on gays and the Church, Thomas Pöschl, welcomed the new legislation as a good first step but was critical of the fact that ‘conversion therapy’ can still be legally practised on adults after they give their consent.

Pöschl also recalled that gays are often bullied into ‘conversion therapy’ out of social pressure and the manipulation of their conscience, and for that reason called on the German Churches to take a tougher stand on therapy practitioners in their ranks.

The German Catholic Bishops declared in December last year that both heterosexuality and homosexuality “belong to the normal forms of a sexual predisposition that can not be changed or changed by any specific socialisation”, and insisted that “any form of discrimination against homosexuals must be rejected”.

More stories on Novena on gay ‘conversion therapy’:

German ‘conversion therapy’ victim: “It is essential that the Churches speak out loudly that homosexuality is not a disease”

French lawmakers denounce gay ‘conversion therapy’ “based on false conception of homosexuality”

French expert denounces “very deeply destabilising” Christian gay ‘conversion therapy’

Novena interview: Meet the British lesbian fighting gay “conversion therapy” with the Gospel


PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.