Recently, I came across a remarkable paper about the German ‘Association of Catholic Doctors’ and homeopathic conversion therapy. Its author is Yannick Borkens from the College of Public Health, Medical and Veterinary Science, James Cook University, Townsville, QLD, Australia. I think, it is worth reading in full, but here I have just a few excerpts for you:
Even in modern Germany of the 21st century there is still homophobia and other intolerances towards different sexualities and genders. These are also evident in the presence of so-called conversion therapies, which are still offered although there are already legal efforts. Among those groups, the Bund katholischer Ärzte (Association of Catholic Doctors) is a unique curiosity. Although this group is no longer really active, it is currently moving into the German focus again due to criminal charges and reporting in the tabloid press. The aim of this paper is to bring the Bund katholischer Ärzte not only into a more scientific but also into a more international focus. Furthermore, it is an ideal example to show what strange effects homophobia can produce…
The Bund katholischer Ärzte was founded in the year 2004 as the katholische Ärztevereinigung (catholic medical association). In 2010, the name was changed to BkÄ—Bund katholischer Ärzte. The BkÄ was founded by Dr. (I) Gero Winkelmann, a general practitioner and homeopath based in Unterhaching (the second largest municipality in the district of Munich—Bavaria) (Winkelmann, 2013)…
Nowadays, the BkÄ is best known for its conversion therapies and its general homophobic attitude. On its website, the BkÄ describes these topics as special forms of therapy from a Catholic medical point of view (“allgemeine wie auch besondere Therapieformen aus katholischer-ärztlicher Sicht”) and to the extent to which certain forms of therapy are harmful or even acceptable to Christians (“[…] inwiefern gewisse Therapieformen schädlich oder für Christen überhaupt annehmbar sind”). The term therapies (“Therapieformen”) does not actually describe medical therapies, but rather actions, measures, character traits and sexualities like homosexuality. Other topics addressed by the BkÄ are abortions, the prohibition of contraceptives (condoms and birth control pills), but also medical and biologically ethical topics such as stem cell research (Winkelmann, 2020d). However, The BkÄ is primarily concerned with homosexuality and conversion therapies. But these differ from the classic and well-known therapies, which are mostly psychotherapies. On his online presences, Gero Winkelmann describes not only his therapeutic approaches but also scientific backgrounds, which however do not stand up to modern scientific knowledge and can (and should) be called pseudoscientific.
… Dr. (I) Gero Winkelmann is a German general practitioner with the additional title Homöopathie (homeopathy)… Nowadays he is best known for his homophobic and comparable views. He describes himself as a doctor who also practices his Catholic faith at work (Winkelmann, 2019). According to him, this is achieved through three pillars: Christian ethics, especially at the beginning and the end of life (“Christliche Ethik, insbesondere am Lebensanfang und Lebensende”), prayers and visits to church services (“Gebete und Besuch von Gottesdiensten”) and to participate in church services on public holidays and also on working holidays, especially as a doctor on call who works at untimely times (e.g. holidays, at night) (“Gerade als Bereitschaftsarzt, der zu “Unzeiten” tätig ist (feiertags, nachts) […] die Gottesdienste an Feiertagen und auch an Werktagen (z.B. Rorate-Amt) zu besuchen”) (Winkelmann, 2019).
The point of Christian ethics, in particular, requires a closer look. “Christian ethics, especially at the beginning and the end of life” results in a pro-life view. In the United States, this pro-life view, also known as pro-life movement, results not only in demonstrations and political petitions but also in violence, sometimes with death consequences. Since 1993, at least 11 people have been killed in attacks on abortion clinics, mostly doctors and physicians who perform abortions. The perpetrators can often be assigned to a radical Christian spectrum (Stack, 2015). In Germany, Winkelmann is both an opponent of abortion and contraceptives as well as an opponent of medical euthanasia. Before he became known throughout Germany through the establishment of the BkÄ, he founded the European Pro-Life Doctors (2020) association, which campaigns against abortion, but also against contraceptives and research such as stem cell therapy. The foundation was in the year 2000. However, there is neither an official establishment of the EPLD as an official association nor an official entry in the German association register. This also applies to the BkÄ (European Pro-Life Doctors, no publication date; Winkelmann, 2016b). In addition to the rejection of abortions and euthanasia, Winkelmann uses the EPLD webpage also to spread the view that condoms do not work and also do not help against AIDS. He explains this with the fact that the latex skin of the condom is too thin and the HI-Virus could penetrate it without any problems. According to him, this made condoms reflect a pseudo-security (Winkelmann, 2016a). Furthermore, he also defended the statement of Pope Benedict XVI, that condoms could not help against AIDS. Pope Benedict XVI stated that on his Africa trip in 2009 (Welle, 2009). Especially for men who have sex with men (MSM), the condom is an important means of protection against AIDS infections (Wirth et al., 2020). This is especially true in African countries that have a high AIDS rate. In some parts, the AIDS rate is 100 times higher than in the United States (with a similar sexual activity) (Epstein and Ashburn, 2004).
On his website, Winkelmann not only describes the scientific background of homosexuality and his conversion therapy (which, however, does not stand up to modern scientific findings) but also defends the use of conversion therapies in general. He describes that every bad state needs a reversal (conversion). Furthermore, users of those therapies should not be afraid of a reversal, inner maturation and strengthening of self-healing powers. In addition, users should not let themselves be deterred from improving the situation. Those statements prove that Winkelmann considers homosexuality to be an evil condition that requires conversion, which in turn leads to inner maturation. According to Winkelmann, there are various causes for homosexuality. The causes include hormones, liver damages, epigenetically transmitted syphilis or abuse in childhood (Lau, 2018; Psiram, 2019). Thus, he contradicts not only biological-medical but also socio-behavioral knowledge. However, his conversion therapies differ from the classic conversion therapies, which are often psychotherapies. In contrast to these, Winkelmann uses homeopathy in his conversion therapies. He himself does not call his therapy conversion therapy but constitution therapy. This constitution therapy is a whole-body therapy that is primarily intended to stimulate physical and emotional self-healing. In that therapy, he combines homeopathy with psychotherapy and religious care. At the beginning, the body is detoxified with sulfur globules and nosodes, globules made from pathological material. Winkelmann says that the therapy has already been successfully completed for many after this detoxification. It should be noted that there is no information available on the number of people who accepted Winkelmann’s offer. If the detoxification is not enough, a lengthy homeopathic therapy begins, which also includes psychological and religious support. In this therapy, Winkelmann uses Calcium Carbonicum and Clacium Phosphoricum globules. Religious support includes prayers, sacraments, anointing of the sick and the holy communion (Lau, 2018).
The article left me speechless. I don’t know what to say other than thank Dr. Borkens for publishing the paper. Therefore, I will leave this here without further comment