“We must put an end to the standstill”

In debate over Frankfurt university rector Ansgar Wucherpfennig, German theologians call for protest. Cologne theology professor Hans-Joachim Hohn calls for a "Catholic #MeToo" in the "Kolner Stadtanzeiger" newspaper.

Wucherpfennig was re-elected in February for a third term as rector of the University of St. George. Because of liberal statements on homosexuality, however, a declaration of no objection ("Nihil obstat) by the Vatican for the Jesuit is pending.

Hohn said he knows of a number of cases in which the Vatican is taking similar action to that taken against Wucherpfennig. The main problem, he said, is the lack of clarity on the criteria for rejecting "nihil obstat".

Probably high number of unreported cases

In addition, he said, there is the shame of those affected, who do not talk about it publicly. The number of unreported similar cases is likely to be high, they say. In the event of possible opposition to the Vatican, however, not only those affected but also their students would suffer, Hohn said. "A Catholic #MeToo campaign would therefore be risky, but necessary."

Wucherpfennig himself had declared that he did not want to retract his statements. "I see my statements on homosexuality and the blessing of same-sex couples on the ground of Catholic teaching," the theologian said.

Concern about resignations

Approval for Hohn came from Thomas Schuller, an ecclesiastical law expert in Munster. The Wucherpfennig case is "an attack on theological science as a whole," he told the newspaper. "We have to stop the stagnation."

The vicar general of the Essen diocese, Klaus Pfeffer, told the paper that it was now time to talk openly. "Intransparency, denunciation, abysmal mistrust and abuse of power must be uncovered and overcome." Otherwise, he said, he has "the greatest concern that even the most faithful Catholics will turn away from such a church".

"Expression of fundamentalism"

The president of the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), Thomas Sternberg, also expressed his displeasure. The pope speaks of liberalism and decentralization while the curia tightens the reins. This could not go on.

The emeritus Tubingen dogmatist Peter Hunermann spoke of an expression of fundamentalism. Rome's notion of homosexuality ignores recent research, he said.

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