Theologian says much of clergy is gay


WIDESPREAD HOMOPHOBIA in the Catholic Church stems from its large number of closeted priests, a German theologian has said.

David Berger, an expert on St Thomas Aquinas and former publisher of a Catholic magazine, has called for Rome to own up to the gay priests in its midst and alter its attitudes and teaching on homosexuality.

“It must be acknowledged that a large number of Catholic clerics and trainee priests in Europe and the United States are homosexually-inclined,” Mr Berger told Der Spiegel magazine.

“The worst homophobia in the Catholic Church comes from homophile priests, who are desperately fighting their own sexuality,” he said. “Obviously, those who follow their urges are repudiated more fiercely when one is so painfully repressing that disposition oneself.”

He said he spent his life trying to reconcile his homosexuality with his beliefs. As a teenager, he found himself drawn into conservative Catholic circle that included German aristocrats and industrialists. “I had to listen to despicable remarks, praising Hitler for having homosexuals imprisoned and murdered in concentration camps,” he said.

As a former correspondent for the Pontifical Academy of St Thomas Aquinas in the Vatican he watched his writings on homosexual themes being censored, with “fornication-partner” used rather than life-partner; the word homosexual was taboo, he said, though “perverse sodomite” was not.

Mr Berger “came out” in April after the Bishop of Essen, Franz-Josef Overbeck, described homosexuality as perverse and a sin during an appearance on a television chat show.

As a gay man in a long-term relationship, he said he had suffered for years under the homophobic atmosphere in the church.

Mr Berger, who works now a secondary school teacher near Cologne, has written a book being published this week about his experiences with the church, Der heilig Schein(The Holy Illusion).