Maike Hickson

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Dr. Markus Büning

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Former seminarian who was unchaste calls on Church to uphold teachings against homosexuality

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October 26, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) –  Dr. Markus Büning, a German lawyer, theologian and book author, has published a very personal account of his own past as a homosexually active seminarian. He did so in order to show how true happiness can only be found in following God's moral law. At the same time, Büning calls upon the German bishops to repent for their lax moral teaching.

Dr. Büning's personal witness was first published on 18 October on the German Christliches Forum website and the next day it was picked up by Katholisches.info. As the author writes, the reason for this witness “is the increasingly bold perfidy that questions the Church's sexual morality in its foundations, especially concerning the moral-theological assessment of homosexual acts as grave sin.” As an example, the German theologian refers to a recent document published by the German bishops in response to the sex abuse crisis. Cardinal Reinhard Marx stated that “there should be no taboo topics” when dealing with sex abuse. The German bishops' document itself claims that “questions concerning celibacy as a form of living for priests and different aspects of the Catholic sexual morality” should be discussed.

What these words mean “is clear,” according to Büning: “It is very obviously about the liberalization of homosexuality in the [Church's] moral theology and, accordingly, thus in the Church's discipline.” Here, the author refers to the recently published abuse report of the German bishops which claims that “homosexuality is not a risk factor for sexual abuse.” Additionally, this German abuse study (about which LifeSiteNews reported here) states that “the fundamental rejection of the ordination of homosexual men should urgently be reconsidered.”

In the wake of this study, explains Büning, there followed an article on the German bishops' website Katholisch.de, in which the author, Björn Odendahl, promptly proposes to “welcome homosexual priests and to recognize them as being equal.” Büning sees here “an undermining of the Church's teaching on the part of the bishops” to be at work, which aims at getting rid of “the Catechism of the Catholic Church, especially numbers 2357-2359 (on chastity and homosexuality).”

Furthermore, Büning praises an article written by a German Catholic laywoman, Felizitas Küble, who herself commented on the German bishops' response to the abuse crisis and their attempts at downplaying the homosexual aspect of this scandal. Her article is titled: “Homosexuality, abuse, and pederasty: shall the offenders now be turned into victims?”

After this introduction, Dr. Büning begins to speak about his own past, saying: “as someone who himself is a victim of abuse, I can only be surprised at such a shabby way of instrumentalizing this topic; yes, even more: it wounds me anew!”

“Now,” the author continues, “the grave sin is to be made reputable in order to fight the crimes of abuse. This defective logic does not convince me, yes, I find it almost shameful and a renewed act of wounding the affected people [the abuse victims].”

As an example of this “alarming” debate in Germany, Büning refers to Father Ansgar Wucherpfennig who – as rector of the German Jesuit Graduate School of Theology and Philosophy in Frankfurt – has thought “to assess homosexuality in a completely different way than Holy Scripture and Tradition have for good reasons always done it.” Wucherpfennig is following here “Pope Francis' agenda,” explains the author. Troubling for him is the fact that “many theologians, yes, even bishops have declared their unrestricted solidarity with this theologian,” who for some weeks was thought to have been censored by Rome for his heterodoxy. (As it seems now, Rome might make a compromise and just let him keep his position as rector without having to recant publicly his previous statements on homosexuality.) In the context of this Wucherpfennig conflict, one female theologian has even claimed that “the entire Holy Scripture does not contain any testimony condemning homosexuality.” Bishop Kohlgraf, of Mainz, similarly comes to the rescue of Wucherpfennig, welcoming his statements and the subsequent debate which could help the Church “to mature her understanding.” Kohlgraf has also questioned whether one should take each and every passage from Holy Scripture literally.

In light of “this newly emerging tendency to wish to approve of sin,” Dr. Büning felt the urge to “speak about my own history of sin.” “Only this way, can it become clear, in a trustworthy manner, how wrong this tendency is that wishes to downplay sin,” adds the German theologian. “Had I listened to such voices as a young man, my life would have completely gone off the right path. For, here now also speaks a man who is not only himself a victim, but also an offender, a great sinner who is especially in need of God's mercy.” 

Even though Dr. Büning had had girlfriends in his youth and felt attraction only to women, he fell into a serious sin during his time at the seminary. He describes how he, as a seminarian, had “fallen very deep in the field of sexual morality,” and this over a long period of time. During his time as a seminarian on the way to the priesthood, “I made homosexual experiences with some fellow seminarians who were also candidates for the priesthood.” Having been “insecure about my own sexual identity,” he fell into an abyss which he “never would have imagined.”

As Büning explains, he could not accommodate both his desire to become a priest and his attraction to women, and unfortunately his parents, priest counselors, and friends tried to help him to persevere on the path to the priesthood, against his obvious inner yearnings and sinful actions. Looking back, the German author sees that some of his motives to become a priest were good, some were less good. But because he still had the yearning for physical closeness, “this terrible sin of the lived-out homosexuality” came into his life. 

While he assures his readers that he will not name the names of his complicitors in this sin, he admits that “it was not a singular problem” at the seminary. But he himself should “have drawn consequences after the first experience and stopped the path to the priesthood.” The advice of his counselors to persevere as a seminarian was “a big mistake,” the author explains. “Because in my soul, something happened that I considered to be a plain deformation of my own self.”

In the middle of his confusion, Dr. Büning then fell in love with a woman and started a clandestine relationship with her, and “this secrecy was terrible,” even though he was glad that he saw himself able to have a relationship with a woman. But even now, his counselors told him to persevere, another grave mistake. Further confusion and even more followed while Dr. Büning made further studies in order to postpone the final act of his priestly ordination. An attempt to become a monk in a Cistercian monastery led to similarly discouraging experiences. “More I will not say about it,” he comments. He left the monastery, a decision that he now considers to have been the “first right step.”

However, after all these different experiences of sin, Dr. Büning still did not know who he was and what his future would hold. He felt helpless. Thankfully, he was able to turn to his parents who were very understanding and loving. “That was an hour of grace,” comments the theologian. “I will never forget with how much love they responded.” His father, being shocked at how little the Church did to help his son in his distress, turned to a bishop who was a friend. That bishop innocently recommended that Dr. Büning meet with an elderly priest as a confessor. However, unfortunately that priest had himself homosexual inclinations! “I told him everything, truly everything. I opened myself in order to start a process of purification. And what happened? One can barely believe it: this old priest told me about the beauty of the male body. I was to learn to accept this feeling in me. And then his offer: it would be good if the two of us would go for a swim one day.”

For Dr. Büning, this was a “new experience of abuse.” For quite some time, he was unable even to talk about it. “One suppresses such a traumatic experience for decades, because one cannot otherwise live with it.” There was, then, “yet another space in the soul where one had to hide 'dung'.”

After all these experiences with the Church, Dr. Büning then turned his back on the Church and became a Protestant while working in the field of law. But his inner suffering was not alleviated, nor was his insecurity about his own sexual identity. He did not want to “use” a woman “in order to rectify my own life” and he thus decided to remain alone. “The topic of marriage and family was off the list; the topic of priesthood was off. Much in my life seemed senseless.” Work became the center of his life.

However, then something happened that Dr. Büning now calls his “miracle of Helfta.” Helfta has an old monastery which is now a retreat center, and that is where he met, during a retreat as a Protestant, Susanne, with whom he has now been married for ten years. Soon after he met her, he fell in love with her, and they walked and talked together. “This great feeling really to be able to love a woman, grew in me. And now I turned to Maria, the Mother of Jesus.” He prayed in front of a glass window with Mary on it, each day an hour. “Mary, I am not a member of the Catholic Church, but I am still your child! Please help me now and show me the way how I could open up my love to this woman,” these were his words. “And then everything went by itself.” It did not take long and they were married. “Before our wedding, I openly told my wife my whole previous history. That was a difficult hour, but it was necessary. Otherwise, I could not have given my 'yes'. After I told her the story, she only smiled at me lovingly and said: 'And now you really believe that I love you less? – no, on the contrary!' And it is this mutual openness and honesty that are the foundation of our relationship until today.”

Through his Susanne, Dr. Büning became “finally again a man, a whole man. For the first time, I was able to experience human sexuality as something truly good. Why? Because it can only be lived out faithfully in a marriage between a man and woman, and only there, entirely and according to creation. This is not a dry theology, no, this is my deepest life experience which made me happy, an experience which I was permitted to make with the help of Mary,” the author explains. “And through this turn in my life, I also found my way back into the Church. Thank you, Susanne! Thank you, dear Mother of God!”

It is with this personal background that Dr. Büning is now understandably so shocked about the new lenient developments in the Church: “And now what do I have to experience: bishops who fell into the hands of the Zeitgeist and very obviously do not possess anymore the discernment of spirits. To them I call: Convert! Yes, as one who has been converted, I call to you: Convert! Let go of all slippery paths to water down and falsify the teaching on sexuality as it is wanted by God.” “Do not use the crimes of cover-up in your ranks,” the theologian continues, “in order to find a legitimation for the softening of sexual morality. If you do that, you are on the path of damnation, because you violate God's order of creation with your own proclamation which is adapted to the Zeitgeist.”

It is here that the author extensively quotes Albino Luciani, the future Pope John Paul I, who as archbishop of Venice wrote “prophetic” words about the then-appearing “moral relativism which aims at destroying the order of the natural law, with the help of theological tricks.” In his imaginary letter to St. Luke, Luciani regrets the rejection of laws and norms which were “to be rejected as mere suppression and alienation. One even feels joy when one can mock the laws,” comments Luciani. Even in ecclesial circles, one law after another is being abolished. After making polls, one then proposes to change everything, explains the prelate, purportedly “in order to be happy.”

“Then, one even also introduces psychology, the science which explains human facts. The adulterers, the sadists and homosexuals are nearly always being excused by depth psychologists: the parents are guilty, they did not love as they should have their tender and angelic offspring.” A whole genre of literature seems to say: “Always against the father!” “The father is responsible for nearly everything,” comments Luciani. “Another genre of literature wishes to abolish all laws. It demands unlimited birth control; the permission of abortion according to the will of the mother; divorce on demand; premarital relationships; homosexuality; free abuse of drugs. It is a storm flood, a kind of tornado, that now approaches us, dear Saint Luke. What can a poor bishop do against it?” (Albino Luciani, Illustrissimi).

After quoting these longer passages written by the future Pope John Paul I, Dr. Büning says “one could think that he describes our own society, which has been spoiled by genderism and libertinism, and which has now found, in part, acceptance even among many Church leaders.”

“Yes, the storm flood has swept over us,” the author continues, “but only a few want to, or seem to, realize it. You bishops, please let yourself be again enkindled by this glow that was obviously inside this saintly bishop and pope,” Büning writes. “Listen to his prophecy and finally become yourself again prophets of our time!”

Returning to his own sinful past, the author says: “I am glad and grateful that I, too, am now in the situation to publish the history of my guilt. I do not do this with a light heart, but I can also do this because there is one thing that I am not: open to blackmail! My family is informed. And I wish to tell everybody who has given up on himself because of his guilt: conversion is always possible! Turn to Mary, the ever-pure Virgin! She surely will help you, to set your life back on the track to her son. I hope and pray that the Church will be freed from these many corrupt clergymen who now try to go the path of error and thereby bring many people into temptation, to risk the salvation of their souls.”

Dr. Büning is to be praised for his courage and witness. He is an example of how God uses even our own sins and turns them into a tool of conversion – as long as we cooperate with His graces.

May this personal witness help many Church leaders to reconsider their own recent positions and promiscuously lenient attitudes. May they realize that to help someone effectively remain in his sin is not an expression of true mercy and love. 

God's love and God's laws are inseparable. They belong together. Or, as my husband likes to say: “The Laws of God are acts of love.”

May Dr. Büning's witness be now a powerful example to make all men of good will realize that deep truth. This truth will truly help set us free.

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Maike Hickson

Dr. Maike Hickson was born and raised in Germany. She holds a PhD from the University of Hannover, Germany, after having written in Switzerland her doctoral dissertation on the history of Swiss intellectuals before and during World War II. She now lives in the U.S. and is married to Dr. Robert Hickson, and they have been blessed with two beautiful children. She is a happy housewife who likes to write articles when time permits.

Dr. Hickson published in 2014 a Festschrift, a collection of some thirty essays written by thoughtful authors in honor of her husband upon his 70th birthday, which is entitled A Catholic Witness in Our Time.

Hickson has closely followed the papacy of Pope Francis and the developments in the Catholic Church in Germany, and she has been writing articles on religion and politics for U.S. and European publications and websites such as LifeSiteNews, OnePeterFive, The Wanderer, Rorate Caeli, Catholicism.org, Catholic Family News, Christian Order, Notizie Pro-Vita, Corrispondenza Romana, Katholisches.info, Der Dreizehnte,  Zeit-Fragen, and Westfalen-Blatt.