Over 1.5 million German Catholics reiterate urgent need for change

Groups representing over 1.5 million German Catholics have again said there is an urgent need for change in the Church.

The Church must change if it is to reverse its loss of credibility, they say.

“Constructive dialogue and debate on necessary reforms are absolutely essential” at this point in the life of the Church.

In this way the Church will be able “to be able to rebuild trust” in the institution, the leaders of five of Germany’s largest Catholic organisations said in a joint statement.

The organisations are the: German Catholic Youth Federation; German Catholic Workers’ Movement; German Catholic Women’s Association;  Catholic Women’s Association of Germany; German Kolping Society.

The leaders of all five organisations are stressing the need for “an evangelisation which reaches people and conveys to them that the Good News and a life of faith can be enriching.”

Beyond this, they say it is necessary for the German Church to continue unfailingly along its Synodal Path.

The German Church committed to the Synodal Path in 2019. Its multi-year plan aims to critically examine Church structures.

Of particular interest are issues concerning compulsory clerical celibacy, the marginalisation of women, strict sexual morality and the harsh exercise of power and authority. All these issues have been implicated as contributors to clergy sex abuse.

In June 2019 Pope Francis wrote a letter to Catholics in Germany on the Synodal Path.

He said he shared their “concerns for the future of the Church in Germany.”

He said he recognised this “turning point in history” raises “new and old questions” on Church life “in the face of which a debate is justified and necessary.”

Rather than viewing the Pope’s criticism of the Synodal Path negatively, the German Catholic associations said the Pope’s letter contained “orienting and encouraging” motivation.

They say he was encouraging them to work to make the Church “a strong spiritual and pastoral force which communicates the gospel into society and proclaims it in a credible way.”

That goal of the Pope’s “requires a spiritual orientation, theological expertise, a new way of listening to one another and open dialogue,” they added.

The Catholic groups say the reason the German Church set out on the Synodal Path was triggered by a 2018 MHG Study.

In this university researchers that found 3,677 children and young people were abused by 1,670 clerics between 1946-2014.

The huge number of cases of priestly pedophilia underlines the urgent need for change in the Church that must be “at the centre of the Synodal Path.”

The Path must also take account of “pandemic-related developments in Church life,” the association says.

They closed their statement with a reminder of what the more than 1.5 million German Catholics they represent “expect”.

They expect the topics and questions raised by the findings of the MHG Study “will be seriously taken up, discussed and decided upon” in the Synodal Path.


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