In the politically charged language of the present, Bishop Vitus Huonder is a “conservative” if not an “extremist.” In fact, he is simply a faithful Catholic Christian. And for that he’s being threatened with three years in jail. It’s happening in Switzerland, but the conflict epitomizes a wider phenomenon of anti-Christian secularists on both sides of the Atlantic using the courts to target Christians for simply standing up for biblical truth.
In 2011, Huonder, the Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Chur in Switzerland, supported parents being able to opt out of having children as young as four subjected to mandatory “sex education” which rejected the truth about the dignity of human sexuality, the gift of sexual differentiation, and marriage. In 2013, he issued a pastoral letter to the faithful under his care exposing unbiblical gender identity theories and defending the Christian vision of the human person, the family and a truly just and human social order. He called upon the faithful of the Catholic Church to “use their social rights” to protect “the dignity of man founded on the order of Creation and of Redemption.” Last February, he called for a Swiss priest who had purportedly “blessed” the union of a lesbian couple to step down from his ministry.
Here is the challenge he faces. In Switzerland, there is a wholesale rebellion against the Christian vision of the human person, and of the family and society founded upon it. Leaders of the rebellion abhor the clear and unchangeable teaching of the Bible and the Catholic Church. Included in the ranks of these dissidents are some Catholic clerics. To say their leaders do not like this Catholic Bishop is an understatement.
Now, this bishop is the subject of a criminal complaint filed against him by a homosexual group called “The Pink Cross” for violating Article 259 0f the Swiss Penal Code entitled “Public incitement to commit a felony or act of violence.” The bishop faces up to three years in jail if convicted.
The bishop had crossed a “red line,” said the head of Pink Cross, in a statement reported by Newsweek. “We believe in freedom of expression, and taking quotes from the bible is fine. But then he said the words should be applied to real life, which is the equivalent of calling for the death penalty for gay people. We were worried about that. He is the leader of a big church, and he was calling for people to follow his words, and we thought this could be dangerous.”
Here is What Really Happened
On Friday, July 31, 2015, the bishop spoke at a symposium in Fulda, Germany, entitled “Marriage: Gift, Sacrament and Commission.” In the context of explaining the background of the Christian moral teaching, he referenced two passages from Leviticus (Lev. 18:22, 20:13). He used them as examples of Scripture’s rejection of same-sex relationships and proof that same-sex marriages were an attack on creation.
“There is no plurality of models for marriage and family,” he told the conference. “To even speak of such is already an attack on the Creator, as well as on the Savior and Sanctifier, that is, on the trinitarian God.”
In the presentation the bishop had also explained that “pastoral care must orient itself according to the divine order. Its mission, undertaken in awareness of the salvation of souls, that is, in pastoral love … is to free mankind from the condition of a fallen nature and raise it to life as children of light.”
Showing pastoral care for those who struggle with same-sex attraction, he said, “The Faith is to everyone, even to those with homophile tendencies, a source of comfort and can lead to a redirection of such an orientation, to a governing of sexual urges, and to an ordering of one’s own life according to the divine command.”
Because the second half of the second passage instructed Israel to put to death people who have sexual relations with someone of their own sex, Pink Cross claimed that Bishop Huonder was sowing hatred and inciting violence against homosexual people. He violated both German and Swiss law, they declared, as well as the European Convention on Human Rights.
It should have been obvious to anyone why he quoted those two passages and that he did not endorse the execution of homosexual people. That didn’t matter to Pink Cross, who saw a chance to attack a major Christian figure for his defense of marriage.
The bishop responded to the protests with a statement stressing that he was not endorsing violence against homosexual people. “During the lecture I quoted several uncomfortable passages from the Old Testament to do with marriage, sexuality and family,” he said. “I want to clarify that I would in no way wish to diminish homosexual people.”
The head of Pink Cross rejected the response: “There is no question in this case of what he was talking about — there was no misunderstanding. We don’t need charity or mercy from the Church at all; we don’t accept his apology.”
The Bishop simply expressed the teaching of the Catholic Church he serves. He cited the pertinent sections of the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2357–2359). The actions of the homosexual activists who filed this spurious criminal complaint is one more sign of growing efforts to use the police power to prevent the Church from proclaiming the message of true liberation in Jesus Christ.
The homosexual extremist group bringing this charge misused a passing reference to Leviticus in a scurrilous effort to argue that Bishop Huonder called for the death penalty against self-professing homosexuals. That claim was not only false, it is slanderous and defamatory. Because it has been leveled publicly, it should be exposed, opposed and confronted publicly.
The statute used as the basis of this criminal complaint deals with hate crimes. Pink Cross is essentially charging that the faithful proclamation of the Gospel message about sexuality and marriage is a hate crime. American Christians should watch this case closely. And pray for the brave Bishop Hounder.