A German theologian has blasted “right-wing” Catholics and some Vatican officials for spreading the myth that homosexuality increases the risk of child abuse.

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Rather than gay priests, the real “risk group” of abuse-prone clerics are those living a “cynical” because self-denying celibacy, the rector of Frankfurt’s Jesuit Sankt-Georgen Graduate School of Philosophy and Theology, Ansgar Wucherpfennig, warned in a lecture December 2 at the Faculty of Catholic Theology in Vienna.

That cynicism priests suffer from with their celibacy comes from the pressure the Church puts on clerics to deny their sexuality but which leaves them immature in that affective dimension of their lives, the Jesuit explained.

Too many clergy members have become “terrifyingly gray and impersonal” because, in their celibacy, they have agreed “not to be themselves”, Wucherpfennig decried.

For this reason, the academic added, the Church must rethink its attitude to LGBT+ people.

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Wucherpfenning insisted it is a mistake to quote the Bible to condemn homosexuality.

That’s because the Sacred Scriptures only contain a few ambiguous references to same-sex activity and, in any case, don’t establish by any means a link between any particular sexual orientation and sexualised violence, the Jesuit said.

The Bible can only be read in any age in dialogue with lived reality, the academic added, urging the Church to a revision of its sexual morality in the light of both the modern human sciences and the experiences of the faithful.

For the record

Wucherpfennig attracted controversy in 2018 when the Vatican withheld permission for him to continue as rector at Sankt-Georgen, where four German dioceses – Hamburg, Hildesheim, Limburg and Osnabrück – train recruits for the priesthood and lay pastoral care assignments.

The reason for the Vatican’s veto of the Jesuit was his support for women in the priesthood and his opposition to Church discrimination against LGBT+ people.

Thanks to an outcry from German laypeople and many of Wucherpfennig’s theology colleagues, however, the Vatican finally reversed its position and granted the Jesuit its confirmatio.

That was after Wucherpfennig promised the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education to take the “relevant Church teaching” on women and homosexuals “into consideration and convey it correctly and fairly”.

However, the Jesuit also pledged to continue to “pose my own questions on both topics and discuss them with my students”.

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