Whistleblower: Catholics must work together to change church's mindset on homosexuality

by Christa Pongratz-Lippitt

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Jesuit Fr. Klaus Mertes, the German whistleblower who published letters he had received from pupils at a Jesuit school in Berlin who had been abused by teachers for years, has called on all Catholics, "both homosexuals and heterosexuals" to make greater efforts to get the church to change its "deficient" mind-set on homosexuality.

"All of us [Catholics] -- homosexuals and heterosexuals -- must join together to get the church to give up its deficient mindset on homosexuality," Mertes said in an interview in the German daily Taz May 25. "The reason why the Catholic church rejects homosexuality above all is because it [the church] combines sex with fertility, which means that the whole issue of sexual morality is connected with fertility."

A change of attitude was called for, he underlined. Sexual morality must be seen more from the standpoint of unselfish neighborly love "and not purely from a concept of nature which views the sexual act in isolation."

Mertes said that unfortunately, some of the worst homophobes in the church are Catholic priests who are themselves homosexual but deny their own homosexuality. That is one of the reasons why the church has such difficulties in dealing with the issue, Mertes said.

He also said the church must make its influence felt worldwide to ensure that homosexuals are not threatened with death anywhere in the world.

"That would at least be a beginning," he said. "I am appalled that the church is so silent on this issue. It saddens me to see that in some African countries where homosexuals can be imprisoned or even put to death for holding hands in public, the church does not demand that homosexuals at least be given the most elementary human rights."

Ireland is a good example of how after decades of an inner-church struggle against a powerful church influence, it is possible to achieve human rights for homosexuals. Ireland, in May 2015, became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote.

"Such procedures must come from within if they are to have a lasting effect," Mertes said. "That is the only way it works."

Mertes was asked why homosexual Catholics should stay in the Catholic church when the pope's latest exhortation Amoris Laetitia, while celebrating sex within marriage, showed no sign of moving on the homosexual issue.

"I know many Catholic homosexuals who refuse to be ostracized and who remain in the church despite what they have had to and are having to suffer," he said. "This helps me to see that the church has a great deal to offer. Every Catholic who leaves the church at the same time loses contact with their spiritual home in the church community, with their weekly encounter with the Gospel, the Eucharist and the Sacraments. That is a big loss."

It would take a great deal of perseverance to achieve human rights for homosexuals worldwide, Mertes said.

"In Europe it took us 200 years to get as far as we are at present on this issue. Africa and Southeast Asia are still miles from where we are, but the struggle to achieve for gay rights the world over is worth staying in the church for."

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