A priest celebrating the Mass (illustrative)

German priest comes out of the closet, thanks bishop for opening the door

A German priest who recently announced he is gay has just published a book in which he questions Church doctrine on homosexuality, celibacy for priests and ordination for men only.

Driving the news

Priest of the Archdiocese of Paderborn Bernd Mönkebüscher came out of the closet publicly in February, as German bishops’ website katholisch.de reports.

Mönkebüscher says the inspiration for his brave decision came from Bishop of Essen Franz-Josef Overbeck.

Overbeck, who is also bishop of the German armed forces, called earlier this year for a “de-pathologisation” of homosexuality in Catholic theology that would lead to an “overdue liberation” for gays.

At the risk of an “intellectual marginalization” Catholic moral teaching, “prejudices” against homosexuals in the Church must be “overcome” with the aid of the insights of medical and social sciences, Overbeck argued.

“Finally” a bishop opened a door “so that it becomes possible to speak about something about which one heretofore was not able to speak”, gay priest Mönkebüscher said about Overbeck’s remarks.

“I walk through this door. At 53 years of age. Not proudly, but rather with a limp”, Mönkebüscher added.

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The priest said he has received “consistently positive” feedback from priests and faithful since coming out of the closet.

Related:

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Go deeper

In his new book – To Be Unashamedly Catholic – Mönkebüscher writes that no longer wants to have a complex about his faith.

The priest says he wants “to be proud to belong to a Church who closes herself off to nothing and nobody; who is open to every woman and man, who does not judge, marginalize, and exclude”.

In the Church “one should be able to say what one thinks”, the priest adds, revealing that in Catholic ranks sexual and other minorities “need a face”.

Though Mönkebüscher reveals in his book that he has lived since 2017 with another priest with whom he can talk “about nearly everything”, he says “we know our limits… also about those which are connected with our form of living in the frame of celibacy”.

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Why it matters

That doesn’t mean that in the parishes for which he is reasonable, in the city of Hamm, Mönkebüscher won’t celebrate the love of other gay Catholics.

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After the emeritus auxiliary bishop of Münster, Dieter Geerlings, announced last week that in his personal opinion the Church can bless same-sex partnerships, Mönkebüscher announced he would do just that in the Catholic communities for which he is responsible.

He said he and his pastoral associates “will act accordingly and make possible and work together — with those who ask for it — for blessing ceremonies, if requested”.

Just this week, too, the Bishop of Limburg, Georg Bätzing, announced that Church blessings for gay couples are being discussed also in his diocese.

In January, the Paderborn diocese to which Mönkebüscher belongs announced it would defy Vatican teaching and allow gay men into the seminary as candidates for the priesthood.

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What’s next

Vatican news outlet Vatican News dedicated an article to Mönkebüscher’s book release, highlighting in its title that the priest had come out “and remains in his office”.

In its report, katholisch.de said the gay priest’s book would serve as a “basis” for the German bishops’ “binding synodal path”, the reform process by which prelates are aiming to revise and renew Church teaching on power, sexual morality, and the priestly form of living in the light of the sex abuse crisis.

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Cameron Doody

Director and editor at Novena
PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. Lecturer in ethics at Loyola University Maryland, Alcalá de Henares (Spain) campus. Religion journalist with 4 years experience.