[Note: Urban Federer, as Father Abbot of Ensiedeln, Canton Schwyz, Switzerland, one of the greatest abbeys in Europe, and one of the last territorial abbeys in the world, is also a permanent member of the Swiss Bishops' Conference./ August 11, 2015]
While browsing through the e-mails and letters which have been accumulating during my recent vacation, certain concerned letters immediately caught my attention. For example: “Why does the Catholic Church condemn homosexuals?” asks one female author. Thanks be to God, concerning those homosexuals one can read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church this simple sentence: “One must be careful not to discriminate against them unjustly in any way.” I therefore can – and therefore do – give an initial answer to this concerned woman: It must not at all come to a condemnation of homosexuals within the Church.
Then I started reading on the Internet what has been happening in Switzerland in the last days concerning this very topic. Does that which I see there have anything to do with what I like to talk about, namely why I am convinced that Christianity has much to tell and to give to the society? In this whole discussion, was there not a false [mathematical minus-] sign placed? I as a representative of the Church am not against, but in favor of something! I do not want to be against men, but I want to be available for them, because God also has given everything for man, even His life; that is what the Cross stands for. That is why I do want to add a plus-sign in front of the Bible passages which are now being intensely discussed: admittedly, they are opposed to sexual commerce among people of the same sex (and not to homosexuality, as such, which was not yet known in those ancient days; therefore such Bible passages can barely be quoted with reference to a judgment of today's questions!). Thus, in spite of the language which is today barely understandable any more, I can at least see in these Bible passages that there is the intention to support the family and a sexuality which is lived in it [in the family]. As a matter of fact, for the Catholic Church marriage and the family are still the foundations of human society and count among the most precious goods of humanity. That is why the Church puts a plus-sign in front of a sexuality which is lived in a partnership, in fidelity and with responsibility, and which is also open to children – and that is why she has difficulty with the assessment of homosexuality because of this openness to the giving of life.
Which is the right way, without setting a wrong [a negative] sign in front of it? This question of homosexuality will occupy the Church still for a much longer period of time, both at the Synod on the Family this coming Autumn in Rome, and far beyond. The path which the Church in our country has chosen shows this, too: The Swiss Bishops first made a positive statement in 2002, saying that homosexual couples ought to receive the justice of certain legal regulations in order to protect them from discrimination. Here, also a positive sign was placed.
I then read the open letter composed by the Rapper Gimma [asking Bishop Vitus Huonder to resign for his supposed proposal to implement the death penalty for homosexuals, thereby using himself coarse and obscene language] and I am shocked. May the Church at all, and so loudly, put a minus-sign in front of homosexuality [as Huonder had allegedly done]? Should she then not consequently take certain Bible passages about which I have read on the Internet, and then use them against people in her own ranks? Gimma's reaction is a provocative question put to the Church: Should she not be engaged for people, for example for the dignity of lesbians and male homosexuals, instead of turning against certain people? The open words of Gimma make me pensive, and they challenge me to be more modest. Gimma's letter asks serious questions concerning the signs of the Church!
And then I come to find a letter from Bishop Markus Büchel of St. Gallen, who is also the President of our Swiss Bishops' Conference. He has now officially put forth a positive sign. That is to say, each person has the same dignity before God, independently of one's sexual orientation. He also writes about respecting the conscience of each individual and about a new language that is to be used in dealing with homosexuality which does justice to people. Here I may therefore give a second answer to the above-quoted inquiring woman: The Church may rejoice about homosexuals as children loved by God! Did not Pope Francis already show the Church how to deal with homosexuals in the right manner? In his first press conference as the head of Roman Catholic Church, he promoted the idea not to discriminate against male and female homosexuals. Verbatim, the Pope had then asked: “When a person is homosexual and seeks God and is of good will, who am I to judge?”
[Kindly translated by Maike Hickson.]