Polish Priest Loses Appeal in Anti-Gay Hate Speech Trial, Ordered to Pay Fines
A hate speech trial against two priests in Germany has ended after one of the priest’s appeal failed, and fines were issued in exchange for ending the case.
Fr. Dariusz Oko lost his appeal in Cologne District Court, which issued an initial €4,800 fine last year for inciting hatred against LGBTQ people through an article published by a German theological magazine. Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on the Polish priest’s court hearing:
“Oko had lodged an appeal against the penalty order, which is why the main hearing took place. Also accused was the 91-year-old publisher, editor-in-chief and priest Johannes Stöhr, in whose German-language magazine Theologisches Okos the article had appeared. Wolfgang Rothe, priest, abuse victim and canon lawyer, had reported Oko and Stöhr, was also in the audience. . .
“For more than three hours, Judge [Sophie] Schwartz read Oko’s two texts, which deal with the alleged existence of powerful gay networks within the Catholic Church (‘Jesus did not found the church as a gay club’), which Oko describes as a ‘lavender mafia’.
“Oko explained himself verbosely at the hearing in Cologne, [saying] he and his text feel misunderstood , [and he] feels like an advocate for victims of abuse. ‘I only write about homosexual priests who commit crimes and destroy the Church.’ His defense attorney criticized the ‘edgy, rough’ German translation of Oko’s text. After speaking with his defense attorney, Oko says he regrets his comments and apologizes to those he has offended. Stöhr had previously asked for forgiveness. The judge recognizes ‘insight’ in the two priests and discontinues the proceedings barring payment: Oko has to pay 3,000 euros to a victim protection organization, Stöhr 4,000 euros.”
In the disputed article by Oko, the priest referred to gay priests as ‘a colony of parasites’, ‘cancerous growth’ and ‘homosexual plague’ in the church. He also called the gay-affirming movement a “homo heresy.” Having failed on appeal, the case is ended without a conviction or further prosecution.
The prosecution of Oko and Stöhr prompted strong reactions from some church and civil leaders. Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the former head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, compared the court case to Nazi persecution. In Poland, where Oko is from, the country’s deputy justice minister said the case threatened fundamental freedoms. According to news reports, supporters of Oko tried to disrupt the most recent court proceedings, too.
—Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, May 21, 2022