“Something self-evident”

Wunibald Muller © CBA

Wunibald Muller is a theologian, psychologist and director of the Recollectio House, an institution of the Benedictine Abbey of Munsterschwarzach. It is financially supported by several dioceses. His offers are directed at priests, religious and church employees in personal and professional crises.

The Catholic psychotherapist Wunibald Muller sees no contradiction between homosexuality and a priestly vocation – as long as the priest is celibate. Muller looks at ex-footballer Hitzlsperger's coming out in interview.

Interviewer: A person openly confesses his most intimate things. Would you have expected the coming out of a former footballer to cause such a furor?

Wunibald Muller: Actually not. I thought, after mayors and ministers came out, that this was no longer such a big sensation.

Interviewer: So what does the media frenzy mean: Is there a sense of homophobia in society?

Muller: Obviously it does, at least subtly. Because one thinks, for example, after a foreign minister or a governing mayor has come out, that this is then nevertheless something where the population reacts rather calmly. But there is obviously still subtle homophobia. Homophobia means, for example, that people have an irrational fear of coming into contact with their own homosexual impulses. Or that they see the family in danger. Or in a theological context: the conviction that homosexuality cannot be reconciled with the order of creation.

So subtly there are still these reservations. If you think about the carnival, for example, when jokes are made about homosexual foreign ministers, that is often borderline. At this point you can already feel that many still think very clumsy and stupid and very primitive about homosexuality.

Interviewer: Could it not also be because it was precisely a footballer who triggered the echo?

Muller: Of course, because a well-known soccer player is very idealized and it is difficult to associate homosexuality with such an idealized person. Especially since in the case of the athlete there is also: there is everything that is attributed to masculinity, which one is often not able to reconcile with homosexuality.

Interviewer: After the World Youth Day in Brazil last summer, Pope Francis had said: "If a person is homosexual and seeks the Lord and is of good will – who am I to judge them??"What does this mean for the theology and teaching of the church??

Muller: That means that one should always, also with the homosexual person, first of all see the person, and that one should not reduce the homosexual person to his homosexuality. Well aware that of course homosexuality is an important part of his life. It means, for example, that the Church is quite strongly in favor of treating homosexual people with respect and friendship. And that a homosexual person should be accorded respect and friendship in exactly the same way as a heterosexual person.

It is basically called. Of course, I don't know if the church is ready to deal with the consequences of this.

Interviewer: The statement of Pope Francis at that time at the press conference in the airplane has also already caused a great media hype. Is it possible for a priest who is celibate to admit his homosexuality??

Muller: Actually, it should be possible for a priest who is celibate to say that his sexual orientation is homosexual. Because the Church itself distinguishes between homosexual orientation and homosexual behavior, saying that homosexual orientation in itself is objectively disordered, but that is something that basically does not need to be hidden.

I would like it if priests were far more open than is the case at the moment, could also admit with a matter of course that they have a homosexual orientation and are celibate. Which, after all, is also possible for someone who is heterosexual and a priest.

Interviewer: But why do priests not do this in your opinion?

Muller: Because of course they are still afraid. The ie of homophobia is of course also pronounced in the church. They are afraid of people possibly treating them like second-class persons, they have the fear of being ostracized. And the fear that an important part of me could lead other people to treat me with restraint.

Interviewer: You yourself have been dealing with this topic for a long time. Even when they were students, homosexuality in the Church was already one of their themes. How do you experience this debate in recent years? Has something changed there? At least the pope is giving a press conference and talking about the ie.

Muller: Clearly, he did use the word "gay," which already means that he is more open to the topic of homosexuality at that point. I think it goes hand in hand with the fact that overall in the church can be discussed more openly. Then homosexual people can also come out of themselves more. It may also lead to the fact that more and more homosexual priests also have the courage to stand by their homosexuality, no longer have the fear that was there before and that kept them from standing by an important side of their lives.

Interviewer: So do you think this debate will go on, and the media frenzy is not over in two weeks?

Muller: The media frenzy will be over, but the debate will continue. Hopefully, it will lead to homosexuality being seen more and more as something to be taken for granted, about which one might not have to be so upset anymore. The more you talk about homosexuality as a matter of course, the better it is for the homosexuals themselves and the less you have to make it a big ie.

The interview was conducted by Matthias Friebe.

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