Thursday, September 23, 2021
“There will be no special ways”
The old men’s club is loyal to the pope
A group photo from the German Bishops’ Conference shows black men over the age of 50 dressed in black with gray hair: for many it is a symbol of the “ever-widening gap” between the Catholic Church and society. The Pope has already rejected possible reforms.
The German Bishops’ Conference is an old white men’s club. This is not a controversy, but a description of a group photo he shows at a fall public meeting Thursday in Fulda. More than 50 men dressed in black, mostly with silver-gray hair, and some with beards, recently appointed Secretary-General Pete Gilles. The photo clearly illustrates the main problem facing the Catholic Church in Germany: in the eyes of many citizens it is hopelessly outdated.
George Betsing, President of the Conference of Bishops, took this sentiment to heart in his sermon at Fulda. In it he describes how he recently walked through the pedestrian zone of Wisden and passed a young couple through an alley. The person made a comment: “Do you want to redeem us from our sins now?” Without waiting for an answer, the couple moved on. “This scene is exemplary for me in some ways,” Betsing said. They illustrate the “always deep gap” between church and community. If the reality of people’s lives is not taken seriously, the message of the church must inevitably go away. “We talk and really pass each other.”
The answer to this crisis is the current reform process of German Catholics, the Synodal Way. Betsing reiterated in Bulda that this is not about a PR campaign, but about real updates, real reforms. The Synodal way has four points: the status of women in the church, Catholic sexual morality, the use of power, and priestly celibacy.
“Maintain Unity with the Pope”
If the Germans could decide alone, the matter would be settled soon. But there is no German Catholic Church, only the Catholic World Church. It also includes countries where homosexuals are openly discriminated against. The blessing of homosexual couples is questionable, the Vatican recently clarified. Roman headquarters has already rejected the abolition of celibacy and is opening up the priesthood to women. So many wonder what the Germans can do on their own.
The pope’s ambassador to Germany, the Apostolic Nuncio Nikola Ederovich, sent a message of congratulations to Fulda, as if to finally clarify again who is in the lead here. The text is adorned with very sacred notes that may not be immediately apparent to outsiders, but Munster canon advocate Thomas Schuller explains: “If you take the loud voice and the many dismissals in the text, two messages are read: ‘Keep unity with the pope’ – of course a Catholic thing – secondly: ‘ There will be no German special ways’.
The Catholic Reform Movement demanded the withdrawal of “We Church” Vatican Eterovic. Its spokesman Christian Weissner criticized his congratulatory message as “threatening news”. It does not contain hidden threats to German bishops to block reforms. Eterovich’s regular reports on the situation in Germany intensified the situation of distrust in Rome. Representatives of the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK) were not received at the Vatican at the Synodal Way Presidium, nor asked. “It’s a failure, it can be blamed on the current Nancio,” Weissner said.
The story will continue next week: The Synodal Assembly, the decisive body of the reform process, will meet in Frankfurt am Main from Thursday to Saturday. Rome events should be followed by eagle eyes.