Christof May was known outside of his Limburger diocese for a homily he gave in 2020 in support of gay marriage and the ordination of women.
A German Catholic priest was found dead of apparent suicide last week, a day after an investigation was launched into accusations of “abusive behavior.”
The body of Christof May, age 49, the head of the Catholic seminary in Limburg, was found in the forest near Eschenau, not far from his car on Thursday. May had been declared missing on Wednesday afternoon, the day after Bishop Georg Bätzing notified the priest that he was initiating an investigation into “accusations of abusive behavior.” At that time, the bishop relieved him of his duties in accordance with the guidelines of the German Bishops’ Conference.
Frankfurter Neue Presse reported on Monday that May left a suicide note, and the public prosecutor’s office in Limburg confirmed that he died of suicide. According to the report, May was seen driving away from his residence in his car, shortly before his suicide note was discovered. The search that followed drew resources from the police and fire departments, as well as the German Red Cross. Authorities were able to locate his remains with the help of the priest’s cell phone.
“The events have shaken us in the diocese of Limburg and far beyond. Death hits us hard, causes dismay and bewilderment and leaves many questions,” the Limburg diocese announced on Friday.
The statement from the diocese added, “The sincere sympathy of the diocese goes to the family of the deceased. At the same time, our thoughts are with those who reported the allegations.”
May was known beyond the Limburger diocese for a homily he gave in 2020, which went viral on social media in Germany. In his homily, he called for the blessing of same-sex couples and remarried couples, for the ordination of women and homosexuals, and for other Christians to take part in Communion.
In addition to his duties related to the formation of priests, May was a member of the seven-priest council advising Limburger Bishop Georg Bätzing. Last week, another priest in the diocese resigned after allegations of sexual harassment were raised against him. Before the pries resigned, Bishop Bätzing faced criticism for having promoted the priest in spite of the accusations against him.
Bishop Bätzing himself has advocated for change in the Catholic Church. He has been a vocal proponent of changing the Church doctrine on homosexuality and women’s ordination, and has said he would consider leaving the Church if he “got the impression that nothing would ever change,” reported Catholic News Agency.