Church has “utterly gambled away” people’s trust

Catholic church gambled trust

German Bishop Heiner Wilmer has claimed that the Catholic Church “utterly gambled away” people’s trust in the institution by the way it has mishandled the clergy sex abuse crisis.

“Protecting the institution and the perpetrators was always the most important factor for the Church. (Protecting) the victims, on the other hand, simply did not occur,” said the 60-year-old head of the northern German Diocese of Hildesheim.

Bishop Wilmer, who is reportedly close to Pope Francis, made his remarks to some 200 representatives of religious, social and political groups. They were gathered for an annual diocesan-sponsored reception in Hannover.

In his speech the bishop commented, “Nowadays, people trust a used car salesman more than they do a bishop”.

Wilmer, whose address was titled “SOS – It is no less a matter of saving our souls”, warned that the Catholic Church would no longer be able to play a dominant role in society.

“The Church as an institution will shrink and will be far more modest. It will just be one voice among many offering to explain the sense of life on earth,” he said.

“While it will be smaller, it will be ecumenical. Our faith will cover a smaller area but will grow in-depth and in its Biblical roots,” he predicted.

The bishop concentrated on three key questions during his address in Hannover: How much say do bishops still have today? What are people looking for? And are the Churches still of any use today?

Bishop Wilmer said the times when bishops could treat people condescendingly “from above” in a patronizing way, “let alone consider themselves above the law”, are now over.

The bishop went on to insist that the distribution of power within the Church must change.

“There must be an end to above and below in the usual clerical manner,” Wilmer emphasized.

He argued people are more than ever looking for orientation and stability. He said the coronavirus pandemic and climate change had exacerbated this feeling of being lost.

But the bishop lamented that at the very moment people were looking for a point of reference, the Catholic Church was facing a pile of ruins.

However, he acknowledged there was still a demand for the Church to act as a mediator and bridge-builder when interests clashed on ecological or social matters.

“A new view of sexuality is called for. We must think again about the role of the priesthood,” he said. “We need gender-just participation in the Church.”


La Croix International


Additional reading

News category: World.

Tags: , ,