Catholic Culture Dedication
Catholic Culture Dedication

The queer pastoral care of the German bishops

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Mar 06, 2024

The story is appalling, yet I can’t help finding a comic aspect to the German bishops’ announcement that Bishop Ludger Schepers “will be the representative for queer pastoral care.”

On first reading that announcement, I assumed that the phrase “queer pastoral care” was an awkward computer translation. But no, the German original uses the term “Queer-Pastoral.” (Der Essener Weihbischof Ludger Schepers Beauftragter für Queer-Pastoral wird.) A news-service story helpfully informs us: “The English word queer refers to people who are not heterosexual or whose gender identity does not conform to social role models.”

Well, thanks for the explanation. But as it happens I am a native English speaker, familiar with both the dictionary definition of “queer” and the current connotation. My question is why an English word is used in the German announcement.

Could it be that the German episcopal conference chose not to use a German term because it might rouse the indignation of the few older loyal Catholics still remaining in the pews? And perhaps an unfamiliar English word would be enough to forestall protests? Probably not, but the phrase does beg for some sort of explanation.

The German language has its own rich vocabulary, which expands steadily as new compounds are created by stringing existing words together to squeeze a concept into one word. Surely the language that gave us Lebensversicherungsgesellschaft (“life insurance”) can come up with a term for “outreach to people with same-sex attraction.” Granted, the word “queer,” as used by the leaders of the sexual revolution, refers to a broader range of people, including all sorts of gender identities and sexual predilections. But I have great confidence in the German linguist’s ability to cover all those bases in one polysyllabic word.

But the German bishops’ conference didn’t even try. Instead they used an English word. Is that because the entire concept of fluid sexual identity is an import from the English-speaking world? I doubt it. The Weimar Republic was testing the limits of public acceptance long before the appearance of Brokeback Mountain.

Then there is the curious choice to use that particular word: queer. Originally a derogatory term, it has now been adopted by the more militant homosexuals (et al.), in defiance of conventional opinion. (“We’re here; we’re queer.”) And now it is this term—the term of defiance—that the German bishops have chosen to use.

And here is where my amusement dries up. Because it is obvious the German bishops have deliberately chosen a word that signals defiance—defiance not only of social conventions but of Catholic moral teaching and God’s law. The episcopal conference has embraced the language, and thus with it the logic, of those who reject the Christian understanding of human nature (“Male and female he created them”). The term “queer pastoral care” is funny; the concept is not.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Lucius49 - Mar. 09, 2024 9:43 AM ET USA

    The language indicates that the care will not be pastoral because it's a surrender to the so-called LGBTQ etc movement. "Courage" is a movement of pastoral care because it seeks to enable those with homosexual inclinations to live in accord with the teachings of the Church not against those teachings and it does not adopt the language of defiant rejection of the teachings of the Church. Shepherds (most?) in Germany have become heretical (apostate?) wolves to the detriment of the Faith.