German Bishop: Gays ’Condemned to Hell’

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday June 16, 2010

The bishop of Essen, Germany--an epicenter of the clerical sexual abuse scandal now rocking Europe--has targeted gays with a declaration that homosexuals are headed to Hell.

Blog The Eponymous Flower posted a German news item on June 15 about the words of Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck. The original June 10 article appeared at German Catholic news site Kreuz.net ("Cross.net") reported the Overbeck had appeared on a televised talk program in April, where he declared, "Homosexuality is a sin. We know this very clearly and unambiguously, and that's that. It contradicts nature." Added the bishop, "Human nature is fulfilled in the conjoining of man and woman."

The Eponymous Flower elaborated on the bishop's anti-gay message. "Whoever dies as an unrepentant homosexual, goes to Hell," the posting's framing comments read. "The Bishop of Essen can not abolish the 10 Commandments: homosexual perversion is a mortal sin."

The Kreuz.net article was similarly floral in its prose, with one sub-headline reading, "The Horror of Gay Perversion is a Deadly Sin."

The article said that on June 9, during a public discussion at the Essen Cathedral, the bishop "clarified" his stance, saying that "expressed homosexuality"--i.e., sexual contact between members of the same gender--was a mortal sin. Catholic believe that there are different classifications of sin. Venal sins do not condemn a person's soul to damnation if they are unforgiven at the time of death; mortal sins, however, consign one to Hell if not forgiven through absolution and penance. The article said that the bishop's comments were grounded in the tenets of the "Catechism of the Catholic Church."

Furthermore, Kreuz.net reported, the bishop viewed a "tension" as existing between the Catholic church and Western culture, which the article referred to as "degenerate."

The article went on to claim that "anti-democratic gays" had staged a riot in the Cathedral, seeking to drown out the bishop's words as he spoke so as to "rob him of his freedom of speech." The article referred to those who gave voice to their protest as "gay fornicators."

A moderator told those raising objections that the Cathedral was a poor place for a public discourse because of the acoustics. The bishop extended an offer to meet with those who objected to his comments at a later date.

Essen is the location of the archdiocese headed by Pope Benedict XVI in the early 1980s, when an accused pedophile priest, Peter Hullermann, was the subject of letters and oral testimony by a psychiatrist who warned that the clergyman had to be kept from youngsters.

A Mar. 18, 2010 article in the New York Times reported that the psychiatrist, Dr. Werner Huth, urged Catholic officials at the archdiocese to shield children from contact with Hullermann, to no avail. The cleric was sent into therapy after parents complained about alleged sexual misconduct targeting children, but he was allowed to resume contact with children even as his therapy was ongoing, despite the Huth's warnings. The decision to allow that contact with children was approved by then-Archbishop Ratzinger, who today is known as Pope Benedict XVI, the article said.

The archdiocese of Essen is a relatively recent archdiocese, established in 1958 in the wake of World War II, as the population in the area increased along with industry. The cathedral at which Bishop Overbeck issued his condemnations of gays was converted in the year 858 from an abbey.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.