Polish theology professor Dariusz Oko, 61, was fined €4,800 by the Cologne District Court for an article in which he described gay people in the Catholic clergy as “parasites” and “cancerous ulcers”. The article was published in the German magazine Theologisches.
The article, titled “On the need to limit homosexual cliques in the church”, claimed the Vatican church was paralysed by an “internal homo mafia”.
Mr Oko, a theology professor at the Pontifical University of John Paul II in Krakow, was ordered to pay the fine for inciting hatred.
But Poland hit back at the decision, igniting a simmering culture war between the two European nations over liberal values and democratic institutions.
Marcin Romanowski, the Polish deputy justice minister, said the decision “trampled on academic freedom and showed that [Germany] values torturers more than victims”.
Mr Rothe said he has received threats from Polish conservatives since the complaint became public.
A spokesperson for the court said an appeal had already been lodged, meaning the case will now likely be the subject of a trial.
Poland has come under intense scrutiny from EU institutions for offences 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 “LGBT ideology-free zones”.
One of the masterminds behind these zones, the conservative Catholic legal institute Ordo Iuris, has also defended Mr Oko.
In a statement, he said the article intended to “initiate an academic discussion.”
Earlier this year, the European Parliament declared the whole of the European Union as an “LGBTIQ Freedom Zone” in response to Poland’s zone idea.
Same-sex relationships are not legally recognised in Poland, and the country already bans same-sex couples from adopting children together.
The EU resolution declared that “LGBTIQ persons everywhere in the EU should enjoy the freedom to live and publicly show their sexual orientation and gender identity without fear of intolerance, discrimination or persecution”.
It adds that “authorities at all levels of governance across the EU should protect and promote equality and the fundamental rights of all, including LGBTIQ persons”.
The resolution was supported by 492 MEPs, while another 141 voted against it and 46 abstained.
The resolution added that discrimination not only needed to be addressed in Poland, but that it was “an issue across the EU”.