German Church ponders reforms, but does she go the right way?

eb_zollitsch_juli2003_700A conference in Germany, held last week, in which the Catholic bishops of that country participated alongside some 300 experts to discuss reform in the Church, led to some worrying developments. Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, president of the bishops’ conference, presented some of this at the conference’s closing.

The first suggestion is to allow women to be ordained as deacons. According to Archbishop Zollitsch, this would be one of the reforms that would  allow the Church to regain credibility and strength. But, as Regensburg’s Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer (the last German bishop to have been appointed by Benedict XVI) rightly commented, the diaconate is inextricably bound to the priesthood, which is only open to men. Allowing women to be deacons would make them different deacons than men: unable to progress on to priestly ordination, it remains to be seen what their duties in liturgy and parish would and could be. Whatever the case, they will not be deacons like men are deacons.

A second suggestion regards the position of divorced and remarried people in the Church. Their rights to sit on parish councils and the like is certainly open to debate, but their partaking of Communion and the other sacraments is another topic altogether. Archbishop Zollitsch said that he doesn’t intend to undermine the sanctity of marriage, but also wants to take these faithful seriously and make them feel welcome and respected.

Personally, I think that much greater progress may be made by the Church, as far as her credibility is concerned, in presenting her faith seriously and acting on it. But in the end, the Church is not in the business of being credible and liked. She is in the business of saving souls, and that purpose is not served by pandering to majority opinion, especially when that opinion does not gel with the faith of the centuries. In that respect, divorced and remarried faithful will be better served by good teaching and compassionate guidance, and not by pretending that there is no problem. Problems are not solved by ignoring them.

Throwing the diaconate open to women, even if this were possible, also will not solve any problem, assuming there even is a problem. Instead, it will only confuse people as to what is true and real; it will be a pretense.

Conferences on reform in the Church are actually bound to fail if they limit themselves to one country. The German bishops, for example, are not able to change the faith and teachings of the world Church. At most, they can create a rift between themselves and the rest of the Church. So what if a conference finds that there is a widespread desire for one thing or another? The standard response of the Church to that should not automatically be to agree and go along. Rather, she should consider it in the light of the faith and then decide of that desire is something she can work towards making reality. If she finds she can’t, her task is to teach, always motivated by love, and present the faith that Christ has given her to protect and communicate.

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incaelo

I'm a 37-year-old lay Catholic from the diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden. I write about the Catholic Church in the Netherlands. I not only enjoy bringing selected developments to the attention of readers, but I also think that it is sometimes important to allow a wider audience to read about the state of the Church in the Netherlands. That's why a fair number of posts about that topic will be translations of Dutch articles, episcopal writings and whatever else.

7 thoughts on “German Church ponders reforms, but does she go the right way?”

  1. You mean, Zollitsch, not the German church, ponders reforms. He happens to be the head of the bishop’s conference, but as far as I can tell from German media, he speaks for himself here.

  2. Excellent post! I agree with your comments since they support and state clearly the Church’s positions. The Modernist Bishops/Priest etc., are all into “feel good” and “political correct” phsyco babble which leads only to confusion and then loss of faith. Catholic in name only they left the Church a long time ago. This problem is world wide and, unfortunately, they get the attention of an eager media. Anything to bash the Church and our own prelates give them all the ammunition they need. Lord have mercy!

  3. As the URL itself shows, the Holy Father’s meeting with the Council members of the Zentral Komitee der Deutschen Katholiken back in September 2011 was itself held in Freiburg-im-Breisgau.

    1. My follow-up comment appears, but not the comment to which it relates in which I pointed out that the conference in question was a purely diocesan event (not a national event as your post implies), and that there were not 300 “experts” attending, but, rather, 300 participants (an undisclosed number of whom were denominated “experts”). See http://www.katholisches.info/2013/04/28/freiburger-diozesanversammlung-erzbischof-zollitsch-will-spezifisches-diakonenamt-fur-frauen/

  4. Why bother staying Catholic if you can become Anglican? It is worrying indeed when one of the most senior German archbishops defends ideas he should have rejected out of hand.

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