Catholic Laymen Speak Up in Defense of a Persecuted Swiss Bishop

On August 10, as reported (, a Swiss umbrella organization of homosexuals, Pink Cross, has sued Bishop Vitus Huonder for defending the Catholic Church’s traditional teaching on homosexuality. Bishop Huonder has since then made a public statement where he repeats his apology for not putting the quotes from the Old Testament in a sufficient context — namely, that he did not intend to invite violence against homosexuals while still upholding the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on homosexuality. Bishop Huonder said:

I wanted to show that in [the book of ] Leviticus, there is to be found a drastic rejection of homosexual acts and that we as Christians have to be aware of it. When within the Church there is now a search for a “pastoral change,” then it is appropriate to reflect – and without censorship – upon this question in the context of the Old Testament – at least also in order to make sure that we see what Christ, what the New Testament, and what the Tradition of the Church had brought to us.

In spite of his humble acknowledgment of his own deficient commenting upon the quotation of the Old Testament and his apology for having presented some passages from the Old Testament without sufficient explanation, the Swiss media — including the Swiss Bishops’ Conference’s website itself — are harshly criticizing his statements. even published a link to a report with a photo which shows a spraying on the wall next to the Bishop’s residence, saying: “Dear Vitus, I am done with you! Your Jesus.” (

One member of the Swiss Bishops’ Conference, Abbot Urban Federer, distanced himself from Bishop Huonder and made his own troubling statement while referring to an Open Letter by the Swiss Bishop Markus Büchel (

And then I come to find a letter from Bishop Markus Büchel of St. Gallen, who is also the President of our Swiss Bishops’ Conference. He has now officially put forth a positive sign. That is to say, each person has the same dignity before God, independently of one’s sexual orientation. He also writes about respecting the conscience of each individual and about a new language that is to be used in dealing with homosexuality which does justice to people. Here I may therefore give a second answer to the above-quoted inquiring woman: The Church may rejoice about homosexuals as children loved by God!

In the face of such a harsh rejection by the public and even by some of his fellow bishops, Bishop Huonder has received some courageous and touching support by Catholic laymen — coming from Switzerland and even from Germany.

On August 11, the Austrian Catholic website published the above-mentioned Open Letter to the President of the Swiss Bishops’ Conference, Markus Büchel, who had publicly rebuked Bishop Huonder for his defense of the Faith ( The letter is written by Michael Hageböck, member of the conservative lay-initiative Forum Deutscher Katholiken (Forum of German Catholics) and the headmaster of a Christian school in Freiburg (Breisgau), in Germany. He has also displayed an heroic act by moving his whole family into France in order to home school his own six children with impunity

Hageböck’s Open Letter is entitled: “I Wish that You Apologize to Bishop Huonder!” and he shows how inappropriate Büchel’s response was:

As you must have heard, with the help of the media, political decisions [in Germany] are right now demanding from all pupils and from all teachers our personal profession in support of sexual diversity. I am, however, firmly against thus being forced and specifically ordered by the State to have and hold any such convictions.

In the midst of the pressures coming from the State to accept varieties of purportedly moral behavior which actually contradict God’s Commandments, the Swiss Bishop himself now seems to defend these promiscuous forces, rather than the loyal Catholic ones fighting the deeper cultural battle. The teacher continues:

The Federal Government has now written down in its own coalition-agreement that it considers the fight against homophobia to be part of the fight against right-wing extremism. Moreover, a binding “meta-consensus” – the acceptance of homosexuality – shall now be implemented, regardless of any political or religious-confessional borders.

In the midst of this turmoil, this German layman expects from the bishops a strong defense, and that they place themselves “in a protective way — in front of the children, and thus contradict this planned and forced ideologization! To force everybody to accept such a super-dogma in a pluralistic-liberal society is, in my view, also a scandal.” Hageböck bemoans the sad fact that, today, it is hard to find Catholic bishops “who even defend the Church’s [moral and doctrinal] positions, instead of [dubiously] re-interpreting them.”

This courageous father of six children challenges this liberal-minded Swiss bishop, asking him what he meant when he publicly said that it does not matter what sexual orientation one has, as long as one deals with it in a responsible way:

I find it astonishing what you have written in your open letter. Please explain to me what it should now look like when heterosexuals and homosexuals are [allegedly] dealing with sexuality in a responsible way outside of a valid marriage? Since a responsible sexuality can take place only in marriage, and since marriage is an institution only for a man and a woman, there cannot, consequently, exist such a thing as a responsible sexuality of homosexuality – except in chaste continence. Do you seriously believe that couples who live together will be able to live continuously in chaste continence? Here I do not only speak of homosexuals, because [unmarried] heterosexuals are also called to chaste continence.

Hageböck also challenges the claim of Bishop Büchel that the Church has to respect the individual’s own conscience, thereby giving a free hand to one’s illicit moral behavior.

Please also explain to me what you understand by the word “conscience”? According to Rom. 2:14 and following, it [the conscience] accuses all who act against the Commandments of God. As you certainly know, the conscience can also be put to silence or can be in error. Do you speak in your letter to your faithful co-workers about an erroneously formed conscience when [as you write] “we especially as Catholic faithful […]” shall rejoice “in each relationship” – consequently also by rejoicing in homosexual relationships?

Importantly, this Catholic layman also puts into question the claim — which is being spread far and wide in the context of the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the Family — that one’s sexual orientation is biologically determined:

Finally, please explain to me why you call homosexuality, in a generalizing way, “a not freely chosen sexual orientation,” even though there are family fathers who became homosexuals – and homosexuals who became heterosexuals? There exist, as I hear, even bi- or transsexuals. Moreover, according to the gender theory, one is supposed to be able to chose – and even to change – one’s own identity and orientation. How does this go together with your deterministic approach [to the homosexual condition]?

Hageböck insisted that Bishop Huonder himself, during his highly criticized talk in Fulda, Germany, did not at all speak in a harsh way about the question of homosexuality. For, he was there, himself, and listened to the talk. And he has remembered the talk well, saying:

He proclaimed, in a fatherly and loving way, the words of Holy Scripture. That the media would stab him in the back, was to be expected. However, that you, Your Excellency, would have the need to secure the applause from the false side, is sad! Nobody needs such an adapting Church. She would thereby make herself become superfluous.

Hageböck also reminded the readers of the fact that the shepherds are called to lead the sheep away from sin, and not to be pandering to their vices; and thus he said: “Jesus forgave and said: ‘Sin no more, so that something worse will not happen to you!’ (John 5:15). Does a shepherd take his duty seriously any more, if he calls after the lost sheep, and then tells them that the wrong path is anyway the best choice? Or by telling them that, anyway, they are not able to choose differently and otherwise?”

The Catholic layman concludes his Open Letter with the request that Bishop Büchel apologize to Bishop Huonder and even take him as a good example for “how one should today proclaim the Catholic Faith with love and clarity, without being cramped, and without any false and obsequious ingratiations.”

Dr. Gerd Weisensee, a Swiss pro-life activist and President of the Swiss Association of Journalists of Francis de Sales, also came promptly to the defense of Bishop Vitus Huonder. In his press release as President of his journalists’ organization (soon to be published), Weisensee defends Bishop Huonder and insists that he did not call for violence against homosexuals. The idea that it is forbidden to quote from the Old Testament “which is a Holy Text also for the Jews,” is in the eyes of Weisensee “nearly absurd, even if one rejects the content and its interpretation.” Weisensee sees in the law suit against Bishop Huonder — as initiated by the Swiss umbrella organization for homosexuals, Pink Cross — to be “a problematic development.” And he wonders: “When will an organization of homosexuals sue the Opera house of Zurich because it displays the “Magic Flute,” where Papageno and Pamina praise man and woman as the most noble, even divine bond?” And Dr. Weisensee concludes: “Pink Cross conducts itself in just the same unjustly fundamentalist and anti-liberal manner as those circles against which the organization ostensibly fights.”