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OSNABRÜCK, Germany (ChurchMilitant.com) - German Franciscans have voted in a prior provincial who, weeks before the election, revealed he was homosexual.
Sixty friars of the German Franciscan province elected Markus Fuhrmann, a priest and a supporter of the radical German Synodal Path, at a chapter meeting in Ohrbeck near Osnabrück, the order founded by St. Francis of Assisi announced Wednesday.
"I would like to promote seeing this as an opportunity that we as a church are colorful, that the church is also queer, that this is what God wants, that this corresponds to the diversity of creation and is therefore quite normal," Fuhrmann told MK-Online.
"I personally stand behind the efforts of the Synodal Path, I am in favor of a critical rethinking of celibacy in the priestly way of life and I am in favor of women having access to ordained ministries," he emphasized.
Claiming the way Catholic sexual morality "has been officially taught up to now does not serve life," the prior provincial called for a "gender equitable" Church that is "sensitive to issues of sexual morality."
Asked how he felt about being "the first outed Franciscan brother in this office," Fuhrmann said his coming out of the homosexual closet before he was elected was "very positive for the confreres."
"I get a lot of encouragement, and maybe this spark of appreciation can spread to other areas of the Church. I think that's nice," he added.
The new prior provincial, who claims to be celibate, explained why he outed himself:
For me personally, it was a question of my own truthfulness. If I live and am active as a religious in this Church and also have leadership responsibilities, then I would also like to be able to make it clear who I am and what I stand for.
If I'm gay myself, then I want to show that I can also be part of the Church in this ministry. That's important because it's not supposed to be like that in the Church. Unfortunately, there is far too much institutional hypocrisy in our Church.
The time is long overdue to reject specious arguments like those that undergird the right-wing political and ecclesial agendas promoting the boogeyman of "gender ideology."
There is no better time to begin such a spiritual and pastoral practice of conversion than during June, as the world over commemorates LGBTQ Pride Month.
Meanwhile, in his new role as prior provincial, Fuhrmann acknowledged the German Franciscan province was getting "older and smaller" and that "old structures and large houses" would have to be downsized. While noting a "big change is imminent," Fuhrmann did not link the declining order to its heterodoxy.
An observational analysis study by professors Jack P. Oostveen and David L. Sonnier demonstrates how the "dramatic decline" in religious orders coincided with the post-Vatican II period of illicit liturgical experimentation in which "the most active experimenters" were religious congregations.
Pointing to the Netherlands as a case study, the academics note that diocesan seminarians were also forced to attend and participate in liturgical experimentation, and "many vocations were lost due to these liturgical experiments."
"Similarly, in France, a correlation has been made between the growth or decline of the religious institutes by the way they manifest themselves as religious, especially the way they are recognizable by their dressing as religious," the study finds.
"The liturgical crisis sets the stage for the doctrinal crisis," the authors observe, since "weakening of prayer will be followed by a weakening of the seriousness of Faith" that leads "to a vicious spiral that can result in an eventual loss of Faith."
"The superiors of those congregations that are in continued decline have a heavy responsibility in this, and will be called to account for it," OostveenI and Sonnier lament.
In their book Acts of Faith: Explaining the Human Side of Religion, secular sociologists Rodney Stark and Roger Finke trace the decline in vocations in male and female religious orders to a "causal event" — the aggiornamento (updating) of Vatican II.
"Almost overnight, core doctrines and liturgical practices that had stood for centuries were abandoned or greatly revised. And no one felt these changes more acutely than the religious," write Stark and Finke.
"Many of the most distinctive aspects of Catholic liturgy, theology and practice abandoned by the Council turned out to have been crucial for generating and sustaining vocations, especially vocations sufficient to meet the high costs of Catholic religious life," they note.
"Vocations are the primary spiritual fruit of a congregation," Oostveen and Sonnier conclude, quoting Jesus' words in Matthew's Gospel: "Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit shall be cut down and shall be cast into the fire" (Matthew 7:20).