Interview With Gay Theologian David Berger 'A Large Proportion of Catholic Clerics and Trainee Priests Are Homosexual'
Part 2: 'I Hope that the Church Will at Last Confront the Issue of Homophobia'
SPIEGEL: Did you feel this pressure yourself?
Berger: I published the magazine Theological Issues and was summoned by the sponsors every time a faintly liberal view was espoused. Opus Dei people were always there to observe. They said I wasn't allowed to write "life partner;" it should instead be referred to as "fornication partner." "Homosexuality" was too neutral, they said. One had to refer to it as "unnatural fornication."
SPIEGEL: What finally triggered your departure?
Berger: The appearance of the bishop of Essen, Franz-Josef Overbeck, on Anne Will (a prominent Sunday night political talk show broadcast on German public television station ARD), when he described homosexuality as unnatural and a sin during a debate about sexual abuse.
SPIEGEL: Did that make clear to you that you'd been part of the church too long?
Berger: Instead of standing up for my rights and those of my partner I supported anti-democratic and anti-liberal groups that fight against these rights and in which some people dream of a fundamentalist Catholic religious state or seriously call for a Catholic jihad. I joined in this playing with fire and was then naively appalled when the whole house was ablaze. I regret that.
SPIEGEL: It sounds as if your book is a confession. But your former colleagues are not prepared to grant you absolution.
Berger: A reputable theologian loyal to the pope put it clearly: He said I was given the opportunity to discreetly distance myself from the "scene." I was offered the chance to continue this hypocrisy and go on climbing up the career ladder. Because I didn't want to take part in this ecclesiastic "crisis management," I was accused of "shamelessly seeking the public spotlight."
SPIEGEL: What impact do you hope your book will have?
Berger: I hope that the church will at last confront the issue of homophobia. It must recognize that a large proportion of the Catholic clerics and trainee priests in Europe and the United States are homosexual.
SPIEGEL: Can one really apply your experiences with peripheral right-wing groups to the whole church?
Berger: Ever since the rehabilitation of the Pius Brothers with a Holocaust denier among its leaders, it has become evident how much influence extreme conservative circles have won in just a few years. The views that used to be exchanged discreetly at gentlemen's evenings or in the editorial conferences of newspapers and magazines have now been declared part of the official doctrine of the Catholic Church by leading clerics.
SPIEGEL: Where do you think this development will end?
Berger: The fear of the world, of a spoiled, godless civil society, from which the Catholic Church wants to seal itself off in a bastion, will lead into isolation. There is no longer much sign of the open spirit, the sense of renewal that emanated from the Second Vatican Council. In order to defend itself, the Vatican is instead relying increasingly on reactionary troops. It is closing ranks with evangelists, bible fundamentals and extremely reactionary forces. But a fundamentalist parallel world will turn the people's church into a sect.
Interview conducted by Anna Loll and Peter Wensierski
- Part 1: 'A Large Proportion of Catholic Clerics and Trainee Priests Are Homosexual'
- Part 2: 'I Hope that the Church Will at Last Confront the Issue of Homophobia'