A German priest has gone viral with a sermon backing the ordination of women and the blessing of gay couples and blasting Catholic “bouncers”.

– Gay Catholics seeking blessings “verbally beaten up, turned away”; women called to leadership “”eyed suspiciously”, “excluded”

Christof May, the rector of the Limburg diocesan seminary, gave a powerful homily October 4 in which he took aim at the Church’s attitude to Eucharistic hospitality, divorcees in new relationships, LGBTIQ+ people and women.

In the Church, “instead of opening up space for everyone, we see ourselves far too often as bouncers”, criticised the priest, who is also a member of the Limburg cathedral chapter and the vicar for Church development of Bishop Georg Bätzing, the chair of the German Bishops’ Conference.

May gave the example of how the Church treats people living in a new relationship after a divorce. “The two of them don’t want to marry, they want a blessing. I am not allowed to say to them: ‘That’s fine'”, the priest denounced.

He also deplored that he is not allowed to bless people in a same-sex relationship, even though they might contribute in many ways to the Church. “I am not allowed to bless them. Instead, such people were and are verbally beaten up, turned away”, May decried.

Not only that, but women too who “rightly want to share in the power of the Church” are “eyed suspiciously” and “excluded”, the priest criticised.

Like many others, those women are turning their backs on the Church – as evidenced by the growth of alternative, non-official formats for group prayer during the coronavirus crisis – and in the meantime theologians who argue for the ordination of women are silenced by the hierarchy, May complained.

– Disapproval of the Church’s veto of gay priests: “Isn’t the question whether the person is honestly trying to stand up for the Kingdom of God?”

The rector of the Limburg seminary also came down harshly in his sermon – which as of this Tuesday has been shared over 750 times just on Facebook – against the Church’s refusal to admit gay men to the priesthood.

“Isn’t the question whether the person is honestly trying to stand up for the Kingdom of God?”, the priest asked.

Likewise, May also voiced support for the Catholic reforming impulses that are finding an outlet in the German Church’s ‘synodal path’ renewal process. In that regard, he said that the argument against reform from the need to move in sync with the universal Church does not convince him.

“If Church is to be a beacon and a ray of hope for the times, then we sometimes have to raise points that are still irritating in other countries”, the priest explained.

– A matter not of mere tolerance of marginalised groups, but of active encouragement

Overall, May said that his experience as as a Missionary of Mercy during the 2015-16 Year of Mercy taught him that the Church’s attitude to groups it has traditionally marginalised must move from one of looking down to instead become a meeting at eye level, on equal terms.

That is at least how the priest said he personally approaches encounters with “the people who still want to talk to me at all, the people who at best are still knocking” on the Church’s door, amid widespread disappointment in the institution over its refusal to be more welcoming.

May insisted that it’s not even a matter of the Church becoming more “tolerant”, as such. “I don’t want to have to bless the remarried divorced couple, the same-sex couple, off to the side. I want to see them in the middle. I don’t want to tolerate a woman in a position of power, rather I want to see her encouraged” to hold such a role, the priest stressed.

More stories on Catholic reformers, on Novena:

French laypeople decry “huge damage” done by clericalism, demand say in much-needed “rebirth of the Church”

Young theologians denounce discrimination in Church: “How could a loving God want that?”

German Catholic women demand bishops address Church power imbalance: “We are still a long way from being where we belong”

Priest urges Church to shed “ballast” of “hindering” tradition: “Why don’t we take the Holy Scripture and look at what is really in it?”


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