Christmas peace was over for Bishop Stefan Oster of Passau on the Sunday after the holidays. He gave a sermon on the subject of the family – which is now causing heated debate. Especially in the queer movement.
It began on the Feast of the Holy Family and became quite unholy in the days that followed. "Defaming LGBTIQ* is not part of religious freedom, even if it's in your fucking Bible, we won't allow it anymore and we will hold you filthy Catholics accountable for it!" Comments like this appear since the 27. December on the website of Bishop Stefan Oster of Passau. The occasion: a sermon by Oster on the Sunday after Christmas, the feast of the Holy Family, on which the Catholic Church honors Jesus, Mary and Joseph as role models for Christian family life.
Debate about sermon for the feast of the Holy Family
What got parts of the Internet community excited included statements by the bishop that he considered it an impairment if people did not have a clear biological assignment to the male or female gender. These people are not a third sex. "Rather, they are human beings – endowed, of course, with all human dignity and all personal rights – but who simply lack this assignment to one of the two sexes."
Where intersexuality occurs, Oster explained, "nature has produced the variant of a human being who is missing something". Almost always these people could not reproduce. In creation, deviations from normal processes occur, "which leave us wondering". It happens, for example, "that people are born suffering a deficiency, such as when someone is born blind or with a heart defect or with some other impairment".
Also to transidentity and homosexuality the bishop expressed itself. The latter considers the church not in relation to the inclination, but to live out in the sexual act as a sin. Oster emphasized that he believed the Church's teachings on family, gender and sexuality to be true. Nevertheless, believers should be "open and accepting in the encounter with people who think and live differently about these things". Because God wants the salvation of every human being, regardless of their sexual orientation.
The reactions were not long in coming, especially since Oster published the sermon on his Internet and Facebook page. True to the appeal made at his 2014 episcopal consecration, "Let's stay in dialogue," the conversation turned controversial. A minority is being put down, it was said. Oster seems to "suffer from the impairment of lack of empathy". And: "This constant fixation on sexuality is really annoying."
Others pointed out that the bishop "definitely respects the dignity and personal rights of ALL people". Another statement said it was a pity that one could no longer openly express one's opinion on the topic of "marriage and family" without being insulted and put in the "right-wing corner". The Viennese biblical scholar Ludger Schwienhorst-Schonberger praised: "I am not aware of any sermon or text on the part of Catholic theology and the Church that so precisely presents the teachings of the Catholic Church in this matter in the context of the critical inquiries of our time, and at the same time addresses some open questions."
The portal Queer.de, on the other hand, accused the bishop of violating the dignity of queer people. In addition, he had already previously "strictly opposed any recognition of homosexual partnerships". The Bavarian branch of the Lesbian and Gay Association in Germany (LSVD) and the association "Queer in Lower Bavaria" also reminded of this. Both wrote open letters to Oster. Tenor: The formulations are exclusionary, degrading, even misanthropic.
Bishop Oster takes a stand and remains "ready for dialogue"
Oster responded. He published the letters on his website and commented in detail, also discussed on Twitter and Facebook. He told the Catholic News Agency (KNA) on Tuesday: "There is everything in the comments, from the greatest approval to massive abusive language against me. I am happy when I get into a reasonable and respectful conversation with some people. With others, as I sense in many comments on social media, it is basically not possible to argue objectively. And that worries me."
The media-savvy bishop – who used to be a journalist – has certainly learned from recent events, as he says. Namely, that he could have spoken more empathetically, more sensitively, with regard to some people. Oster does not want to withdraw: "I am ready for a personal dialogue – and hope that it will come about. Corona does not make it easier, of course, because even a video conference does not replace personal contact."