Poland has accused Germany’s justice system of putting European standards at risk after a Cologne court fined a Polish theologian for an article describing gay people in the Catholic clergy as “parasites.”
The court imposed the €4,800 penalty on Dariusz Oko, a conservative theology professor based in Krakow, for inciting hatred through his article in a German magazine on alleged homosexual influence in the Vatican.
In comments to German news agency DPA published Sunday, Polish Deputy Justice Minister Marcin Romanowski said he saw “anti-freedom tendencies in the German legal protection system.”
“The imposition of penalties for scientific activities represents a threat to fundamental freedoms and European standards,” Romanowski said.
The clash over Oko’s broadside in the magazine Theologisches is inflaming a simmering culture war within both the Catholic church and the EU over values and liberal democratic institutions.
Poland itself has come under heavy fire from EU institutions and international experts for reforms widely seen as undermining judicial independence and the rule of law. Polish authorities have also faced international condemnation for anti-LGBTQ+ comments and declaring parts of the country to be zones free of “LGBTQ+ ideology.”
An architect of those LGBTQ+-free zones, the conservative Catholic legal institute Ordo Iuris, is also defending Oko in the German case. In a statement, Ordo Iuris said the article intended to “initiate an academic discussion.”
In Oko’s article published earlier this year, “On the Need to Limit Homosexual Cliques in the Church,” he also called gay clergymen a “cancerous ulcer” and characterized gay rights as “homo heresy.”
A Munich priest, Wolfgang F. Rothe, filed a legal complaint against Oko, leading to the court ruling. Rothe said there should be no place for such hate and incitement within the Catholic church, broadcaster ZDF reported. He said he had been at the center of a storm since filing the complaint, facing hostility and threats from Polish conservatives.
The Cologne district court confirmed the fine to the website Katholisch.de. A spokesperson for the court said an appeal had already been lodged, meaning the case will now likely be the subject of a trial.
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