Monday, August 8, 2011

Dialogue and reconciliation, the German church is put to the test

Vatican Insider
A personal decision: As the President of the German Bishops Conference, the Archbishop of Freiburg, Monsignor Robert Zollitsch, closed the Conference’s plenary session in September 2010, he announced a comprehensive “process of dialogue and reflection” that would haul the Catholic Church in Germany beyond the crisis sparked by the story of abuse, without first holding consultations or a vote in this regard within the plenum.

Many of the prelate’s fellow brothers were bewildered at first but later complied. For the first time since the Synod of Würzburg which took place between 1971-1975, abandoned by the disappointed then theologian Joseph Ratzinger, the Catholic church in the land of Luther finds itself in a synodal process: Bishops and representatives of Catholic Lay Associations propose to hold consultations until 2015 to find a way to overcome the credibility and trust crises related to the abuse scandal that emerged in January 2010.


It soon became clear that the fundamental issue was not the abuses. On January 21, 2011 leading Catholic politicians, in an open letter to the German Bishops, urged the viri probati, or rather “married men tried in the faith” to enter the priesthood. Just ten days later, on 4 February, more than 150 Professors of Theology in Germany, Austria and Switzerland signed a Memorandum on the reforms which they hope for in the Church.

In the statement entitled “Church 2011: a necessary turning point” the aforementioned support, among other things, greater participation of the faithful in the appointment of high ecclesiastical figures, priesthood for married men as well, a better position for women in the Church, and great respect for same-sex couples. Then at Easter, the ZDF (Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen, the second largest German broadcaster) published the results of a survey according to which 80% of German Catholics ask for Church reforms such as the abolition of celibacy and women’s access to be priesthood. The abuse crisis was the occasion to fight for so-called “reforms”, which the Protestant Church in Germany already implemented some time ago.

On 13 August, Monsignor Zollitsch, the Cardinal of Munich Reinhard Marx, as well as Bishops Franz-Josef Overbeck of Essen and Franz-Josef Bode of Osnabrück will be at Castel Gandolfo to brief the Pope of the dialogue process in Manheim. And in a few weeks Benedict XVI will travel to Germany.

If on that occasion, something important is not said with regards to the four-year dialogue process of the Church in Germany, the reaction of Catholic reformers will be tough. But even if a position is taken, with respect to the requests made by the reformists, that reaffirms the traditional Catholic doctrine, people’s anger will be focused on the Pope himself. Never before has Benedict XVI found himself taking a trip with the prospect of having to use all the talent of internal diplomacy. The journey that awaits him could be a mission impossible.

Full article at the Vatican Insider

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