"fact sheets": The Catholic Church in Germany at its turning point
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Fact sheets: The Catholic Church in Germany at its turning point
1. Crisis: Dramatic changes in the tradition of pastoral care
2. Church and State – separation to only some extent
3. Distinct laity – but the gap between clergy and lay people continues to grow
4. Church and money: The Catholic Church in Germany – Still one of the richest churches and an important supporter of the Vatican
5. Reformation and ecumenism in Germany
6. Opinion polls show: The people in the church are ready to start reforms
7. Alarming study: the Chatholic Church reaches only a minority of Germans
8. Reform Movements within the Church in Germany
9. The Bishop of Regensburg: Outrider or outsider? Protest vigils during the Pope's visit
10. The first year in office for Pope Benedict is over...
11. Ratzinger and the Catholic Church in Germany
12. The early Joseph Ratzinger
13. Cardinal Ratzinger and We are Church
14. Ecumenical program in Berlin during the Pope’s visit to Bavaria
15. Book recommendations
Translation: Manon Vollprecht
With a quota of 32 % of the German population(26 Mio. Catholics) the Roman-Catholic Church is currently the biggest non-governmental organization in Germany, closely followed by the Protestant Church.
Since 1990 the number of Catholics in Germany has decreased by 8%.
The Roman-Catholic Church finds itself in a dramatic structural, personnel and religious crisis, but the effects will be evident not until the future.
The pastoral care in Germany like in the Catholic Church in general is at a crucial turning point. There are less and less young men who wish to become a priest and therefore having to live a celibate life. A lot of parishes will have to exist without a priest in the future, if they are not closed at all. There is also a dramatic decline in people joining religious orders.
- The number of priests between 1992 and 2004 decreased by 29%(from 19,2266 to 13,681). In 2004 only 112 priests were ordained. This trend exists worldwide: During the long pontificate of John Paul II, the number of Catholics increased by 40 percent whereas the number of priests receded by 4% during the same period. Already nearly half of all Catholic parishes in the whole world do not have an own priest anymore.
The reform movement We Are Church criticizes that the dioceses in Germany do not meet the lack of priests and the alarming financial situation with the right structural means (McKinsey etc.). In contrast to France and Switzerland the current beginning of reform focuses especially on the priest and leave out the general priesthood of all baptized.
Translation: Manon Vollprecht
Formally, state and church are separated in Germany. But the special status of churches under public law (church tax collection by the State, religious education at schools, pastoral care in the military, presence in the media, etc.) draws a special picture of the churches: Despite the receding number of service attendance and a general secularization of life, the Church still receives substantial attention.
More than in other countries, Germany offers a certain participation of the local churches in bishop appointments. According to the Prussian concordat the respective chapter has a say in choosing between three bishop candidates elected by the pope. In Bavaria the Pope chooses a new bishop from non-public lists of candidates.
In view of some controversial bishop appointments by Rome, the reform movement We Are Church and the Central Committee of the German Catholics as the official agency for lay people plead for a stronger say of the local churches.
Translation: Manon Vollprecht
In contrast to other countries, Germany has a distinct structure of Catholic organizations and councils.
The most important meeting of the Catholic lay people is the „Deutsche Katholikentag”. The Central Committee of the German Catholics as well as the respective local bishop organizes this event every two years.
For some years, reform groups like the reform movement We Are Church have had the possibility to contribute to the „Katholikentag” (e.g. with French bishop Jacques Gaillot and Professor Dr. Hans Kueng) and receive large approval.
In April 2005, the Central Committee demanded rights of codetermination for lay people on all church levels instead of an advisory right to vote in a resolution to the German Bishops Conference. But Rome refuses to let lay people contribute to a diocese.
The reform movement We Are Church watches with great concern how established structures are being smashed and how committees with lay people are newly organized in the diocese Regensburg. The bishop Dr. Gerhard Ludwig Mueller is implementing these strategies against strong protest of the lay people and other bishops, but with the approval of the Vatican.
Translation: Manon Vollprecht
Germany belongs to the very few countries having a church tax system. Due to the church tax the Catholic Church in Germany is one of the richest in the world, having collected by taxes in 2004 the amount of € 4.15 billions (4.150.000.000).
But the taxes are not the only income of the churches. According to the subsidiary principle the state finances the main part of social and cultural functions of the church such as the maintenance of confessional hospitals and old people's homes, confessional schools and kindergardens.
Due to agreements between state and church (concordats) a great part of church employees as teachers of religious education, priests for prisoners, pastors for police and military, partly also bishops and their secretaries are paid by the state.
According to information by the Vatican Germany, the United States of America and Italy are ranking on top financing the Vatican. It is estimated that Germany is meeting about a third of the Vatican’s expenses.
However in the last years the churches have had to suffer from a dramatic loss of income, caused by state tax reform, high unemployment, demographic development and people leaving the churches, that means far less people paying church tax. The answer of the churches' administrations is now a strict strategy of reducing costs: Parishes are being put together, the running of well known and well accepted services as kindergardens is being scrutinized or given up, even employment contracts, originally considered safe, are terminated due to operation causes.
But the lay people have only few possibilities taking part in decisions about the churches' finances. As reform movement within in the church „We are church“ therefore is urging the church management and administration to grant more transparency and participation.
Translation: C. Rinneberg
Germany is not only the country of the Reformation but also the country of ecumenism between the Protestant and the Roman Catholic Church, supported by the orthodox churches of the immigrants, by so-called free churches and the Old-Catholic Church.
It was an outstanding event when the Vatican and the Lutheran world association signed the common declaration concerning the doctrine of justification at the end of October 1999. Besides the official agreements there is vivid ecumenical cooperation in local parishes and churches.
The first German Ecumenical Church Convention („Ökumenischer Kirchentag“) in Berlin in 2003 has been the biggest meeting of lay people so far. The most controversial matter has been and still is the negative attitude of the Roman Catholic Church towards any form of community of confessions in the Holy Communion.
On the edge of that first Ecumenical Church Convention („Ökumenischer Kirchentag“) the Catholic refom movement „We are church“ and the ecumenical „initiative church from below“ (Initiative Kirche von unten) have a Catholic and a Protestant service, the confessions respectively inviting each other in good ecumenical hospitality ("eucharistische Gastfreundschaft").
These two theologically well founded services enjoyed great approval by the people of the church. However the Catholic priests engaged in those services have been seriously punished by their bishops. Prof. Dr. Gotthold Hasenhuettl has been suspended from his official duty as a priest and has lost the permission to teach at the faculty of theology („Missio canonical“) early in 2006.
The second Ecumenical Church Convention („Ökumenischer Kirchentag“), demanded by church reform groups already in 2003, has been now fixed for 2010 in Munich/Germany. It would be great indeed, if the third event of this kind would take place in 2017 – 500 years after Martin Luther had made his 95 theses public.
Translation: C. Rinneberg
Active Catholics' potential for reforms
The study of the well-noted Prof. Dr. Andrew Greely shows the following results for Germany :
- a. The pope should be more interested in the people's lives - 79 %
- b. Priests should be allowed to marry – 83 %
- c. Bishops should be elected by the people, not by the popes appointment – 75 %
- d. Representatives of lay people should have more rights to say within the church – 81 %
- e. The pope should grant more competence to the bishops in their respective dioceses – 75 %
- f. Women should be allowed to become priests – 71 %
- g. The pope should be more open-minded for changes in the church – 76 %
A public survey shortly after the death of Pope John Paul II (April 2nd, 2005) found similar results regarding the opinion of the German Catholic people:
- 78 % recommend a relaxation of the church's law which prohibits priests to marry or to have sexual contact.
- 77 % have the hope and the expectation that the pope will admit female priests.
Catholic people want the holy communion to be taken together
Before the first Ecumenical Church Convention („Ökumenischer Kirchentag“) in Berlin in 2003, 88 % of the active Catholic people were in favour of the Lord' supper to be taken together with Protestant Christians.
The big churches are sustaining a considerable loss in trust and image
The world-wide biggest socio-political public survey „Perspective Germany“ – www.perspektive-deutschland.de – is documenting a dangerous loss of trust into the churches. On a scale of trust into the most important institutions the churches are to be found near the bottom of the lowest third. Only 11 % of the people interviewed do trust the Catholic Church, while the Protestant Church is in the favour of at least 17 %. The loss of image concerns the church's own members as well: Only every fourth Catholic thinks his own church credible
Translation: C. Rinneberg
In April 2006 the study about religious and ecclesiastical orientation (provided by the Research Institute Sinus Sociovision – commissioned by the German Bishops’ Conference) deliverd alarming results: the religious teachings of the Catholic Church is heard by only a minority of the German population. The Church can reach merely three, at most four different social groups out of ten representing the German society.
This result is astonishing: The acceptance of the Churches is diminishing even in traditional social groups. In spite of the crowds of pilgrims during the change of Popes and the World Youth Day in Cologne it’s not correct to talk of „admiration or even awe of the Catholic Church“. Social institutions are not even recognised as parts of the Church.
Translation: Maria Conlan
The Church Referendum started in Austria in 1995 and received more than 1.8 million signatures just in Germany. The reform movement We are Church, which evolved from this referendum, involves many active members from parishes and church organisations and it is committed to the renewal of the Roman Catholic Church on the basis of the Second Vatical Council (1962-1965) and the theological spirit and practice based on this council.
Goals and demands by the Catholic reform movement are the creation of a brotherly and sisterly church of clergy and lay people, the fully equal status for women in ecclesiastical functions and the giving up of compulsory celibacy for priests. Further issues are sexual ethics based on the freedom of conscience and ecumenical issues which are very important in Germany.
We are Church supports the pastoral reconstructions with statements and working papers and it helps developing new concepts for lay people's independent work in the parish even without priests.
The German Reform Movement is a member of the international movement We are Church, founded in Rome in 1996, and of the European Network Church on the Move. In the meantime the international movement We are Church is represented in all continents and connected to similar reform groups in more than 30 countries. We are Church as a reform movement within the Church represents theologically sound the „Voice of the people in the pews“ as international studies of renowned religion sociologists have confirmed again and again.
Translation: Maria Conlan
(For more information: www.wir-sind-kirche.de and www.we-are-church.org)
The Pope is currently confronted with the biggest dispute within the Catholic Church in Germany in the diocese of Regensburg, his former home. Last year the Bishop of Regensburg, Dr. Gerhard Ludwig Mueller, dismissed two important committees of lay people (Dioezesanrat and Dekanatsrat) and disciplined on several occasions priests and lay people criticizing the Church.
The Pope’s visit to Germany in September 2006 will show the position of the Pope concerning lay commitment in general and specially the outsider position of the Bishop of Regensburg within the German Bishops’ Conference. The Pope is already well informed about this situation in the diocese of Regensburg because of his close connection to this town. In 1969 the theologist was appointed professor of Dogmatics at the University of Regensburg where he became vice-president later on. Since then he has visited Regensburg very often and is in very close contact with several people living there.
Protest vigils in Regensburg
The newly founded "Lay Committee Regensburg" will protest against Mueller’s line by vigils on the 2nd and 9th of September starting at 11.55 a.m. in front of the main entrance of the Cathedral in Regensburg. On Sunday 10th of September there’ll be an information stall from 2-6 p.m. at the Neupfarrplatz in Regensburg
(further information: www.laienverantwortung-regensburg.de) Translation: Maria Conlan
In spite of many newly placed and hopeful indicators, the pontificate Pope Benedict up to this point in time can in various aspects not be rated as mildly and positively as it appeared in many assessments of the first year which is borne out by the following examples:
- The "Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church" as issued by Pope Benedict in June 2005 - a substantially unchanged synopsis of World Catechism", published under Ratzinger in 1992 - does not meet with today's views of catholic theology, exegesis and theological ethics.
- At the Synod of Bishops on the Holy Eucharist in October 2005 at first a new openness in the style of discussions could be observed, yet reform oriented positions did not find their way into the minutes.
- Particularly disappointing, not only for those directly concerned, was the fact that one of the first documents approved by the new pope, the Vatican Instruction on Homosexuality and Ordained Ministry, discriminates against homosexual men with respect to ministry.
- With great hope received many the report when it was said the pope had ordered a study reconsidering the church-position on the use of condomes in aids-prevention which was then denied.
- The cardinal appointment of the archbishop of Bologna, Carlo Caffarra, who as director of the Papal Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family compared contraception with murder, is extremely hurting for many catholic who are following their conscience.
- The announcement that there should be deeper reflection how to give women more impact and stronger participation in church is in contrast to the disappointing statement repeated again and again that ordination can be received only by men. But there is no clear argument for this in the Holy Bible.
- At the beginning of his pontificate Benedict XVI said that he wants to work for the unity of the churches with all his energy. But while there are ecumenical efforts towards the orthodox churches there is a stillstand in ecumenism with the Protestant Churches, which are not yet recognized as churches as such by Rome. More sharply than his predecessor Benedict XVI demands the acknowledgment of the papal primacy also by the other Christian churches (Pope’s speech in the general audience on June 7, 2006).
- His first encyclical „Deus Caritas est” has no persuasive power, as long as it lacks love as a basis for acting within the Catholic Church.
- The surprising meeting with the critical theologian Professor Dr. Hans Kueng in September 2005 was seen by many as a proof for Joseph Ratzinger’s openness and willingness for dialogue. But in fact reform topics were excluded from this talk from the beginning. - On the repeated requests of the International Movement We are Church for a discussion Rome so far didn’t react in any way.
The student unrest of 1968 must have been a drastic experience of uncertainty for Ratzinger, since it was also directed against the young progressive theologian himself.
In March 1977 Joseph Ratzinger – who did not have pastoral practice – was nominated archbishop of Munich and Freising.
It remains unforgettable that for more than 23 years Ratzinger, in his function as prefect of the Roman Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, gave orders against teaching. The consequences are still perceptible.
A particularly hard test for the Catholic Church in Germany were the debates for years over the advice in case of conflict during pregnancy. Cardinal Ratzinger is said to be one of the leading responsible persons for the pressure exerted on the German bishops to withdraw from the legal system of counseling (in German law abortion is not legal but goes unpunished under the precondition of previous official advice.)
Current issues of conflict with the Catholic Church in Germany that are at least tolerated by Pope Benedict, especially concern the position of the laity within the Church.
The next Ad-limina-visit of the German bishops in Rome is due in November 2006. They already see themselves exposed to great pressure.
Translation: Hildegard Thies
List of all persons who were directly or indirectly investigated, disciplined or excommunicated by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under Joseph Ratzinger.
Catholics for a free Choice: Appendix of Moving Forward by Looking Back: Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's Preparation for the Papacy. How "the Vatican's Enforcer" ran the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (1979-2005) PDF 148 KB
The young theologian Joseph Ratzinger essentially shaped the second Vaticanic Council (1962 – 1965) in his function as official adviser („Peritus“) of Cardinal Josef Frings of Cologne. As he has „remained identical in all essential points“ (own statement in the TV-interview on August 13, 2006) his current work may also be measured by his earlier statements.
For a deeper analysis of Joseph Ratzinger’s theology please refer to: Hermann Häring: Der Glaube der Kirchenväter? Zu den Grundlagen von J. Ratzingers Theologie (The faith of the Church Fathers? About the basis of Jospeph Ratzinger’s theology)
(published in Dutch in Tijdschrift voor Theologie 40 (2000), 358-380; translated by Ted Schoof) English Summary imprimatur Nr. 8, 2005 and Nr. 1, 2006
Translation: Hildegard Thies
In his book “Salt of the Earth” (1996) Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger dealt in great detail with the errors of the Church, the cannon of the criticism, and, critically, with the Church petition (KirchenVolksBegehren). In his function as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith he intervened several times in the following years against the Church petition. But Ratzinger then, at least temporarily, swung around by a letter preceding the “Dialogue for Austria”.
Under consideration of the catastrophic situation in Austria, it is most remarkable that the Vatican consented to the participation of the Church petition (KirchenVolksbegehren). Originally the Vatican had refused any dialogue. In view of the affair Groer/Krenn on one side and the forthcoming visit of the Pope to Austria on the other side it probably was not so much a real dialog but appeasement. This is also evident by the fact that the “Dialogue for Austria“ was soon broken off.
Translation: Hildegard Thies
No willingness for dialogue with reform groups The international Catholic reform movement “We Are Church” having asked repeatedly for a dialogue with Rome – and the first letter to Pope Benedict XVI after his election not having been replied –, the Vatican Secretary of State notified through the Apostolic Nuntiary “that your reqest can unfortunately not be met” (letter of August 23, 2006). The letter, however, says also: “At any time, you and the other members are encouraged to enter into a constructive dialogue with the bishops and priests of your dioceses on current questions and problems in the church.”
(Highlightings by We are Church)
LETTER 1: Letter to the Bishops in German speaking countries (1996)
Recently more and more groups that call themselves "We are Church" have spread beyond the German speaking countries. [Those groups"> appeal to the faithful for signatures to so-called „Kirchen-Volksbegehren" [Petitions of the people of the Church">. While these initiatives [appear to"> be addressed to the Catholic [note comment above"> people as a whole, they are in fact intended for the Pope and the bishops. The rapid proliferation of these initiatives in many countries of Europe and beyond is cause for grave concern.
As you know, the content of these "Kirchen-Volksbegehren" consists of a series of demands, several of which deny Catholic [see previous note"> teachings and are in flagrant opposition to Church discipline [kirchliche Ordnung">. It is self-evident that such initiatives cannot be condoned by the Church in any manner.
Hence, this Congregation requests that you continue to remain close to these groups in order to observe their development and if necessary see to it that the faithful – and especially the priests – do not become active participants. These groups far exceed the bounds of legitimate concerns; they contribute to a division between the People of God and Church leadership; [and"> they propagate among the faithful an unacceptable democratic model of the Church as well as an understanding of morality which directly contradicts Catholic teaching on several points.
In shared concern for the unity of the Church I continue to remain,
Yours in the Lord, (signed: Joseph Card. Ratzinger)
Translation: Prof. Ingrid Shafer
LETTER 2: Letter to the Austrian Bishops (1996)
As you may surely know, the movement "We are Church" which originated in the German-speaking countries has now also taken hold outside of Europe and sparked so-called "Kirchenvolksbegehren" [literally: „Petition drives of the people of the Church," often referred to in English as "Catholic Referenda"">. While these initiatives are addressed to all Catholics [lit.: "Christian"--">, they are really intended for the Pope and the bishops. As you know, the demands of the Catholic Referendum are in part irreconcilable with Catholic doctrine and stand in flagrant opposition to Church discipline.
Since the movement "We are Church" has decided to become an active participant in the Second European Ecumenical Assembly at Graz, 23-29 June, 1997, the dicastery ["court of justice""> considers it necessary to point out that this initiative is not recognized as legitimate by the Catholic Church and should, therefore, not be given any role either as one of the organizers or as a participant in the Austrian assembly.
With friendly greetings and blessings,
Yours in the Lord,
(signed: Joseph Card. Ratzinger)
Translation: Prof. Ingrid Shafer
LETTER 3: Letter to the Chair of the Austrian Bishop's Conference, Bishop Johann Weber of Graz (March 7, 1997)
Diese Kongregation ist von Bischof Dr. Kurt Krenn über verschiedene Vorgänge im Zusammenhang mit dem „Dialog für Österreich“ informiert und um Klärungen gebeten worden. Sie erachtet es für angemessen, die Antwort auf diese Bitte Ihnen als dem Vorsitzenden der Bischofskonferenz zukommen zu lassen und Sie zu ersuchen, die Mitglieder der Bischofskonferenz darüber zu unterrichten. Dieses Dikasterium ist der Auffassung, daß es ein Gebot der Stunde ist, den „Dialog für Österreich“ mutig und zielstrebig weiterzuführen. Ein Dialog, der dem Heil der Menschen und der Ausbreitung des Reiches Gottes dienen will, wird sich einerseits allen Menschen guten Willens öffnen und vor keinem wichtigen Anliegen zurückschrecken, er wird aber andererseits den Schutz des Evangeliums und der Überlieferung sowie die missionarische Sendung der Kirche nicht aus dem Auge verlieren. Papst Johannes Paul II. schreibt in seiner Enzyklika „Redemptoris missio“: „Denken wir, liebe Brüder und Schwestern, an den missionarischen Schwung der ersten Christengemeinden. Trotz der Armseligkeit der damaligen Transport- und Kommunikationsmittel erreichte die Verkündigung des Evangeliums in kurzer Zeit die Grenzen der Welt. Und dabei handelte es sich um die Religion eines am Kreuz gestorbenen Menschen, ›für Juden ein empörendes Ärgernis, für Heiden eine Torheit‹ (1. Korintherbrief 1,23)!
Zugrunde liegt diesem missionarischen Dynamismus die Heiligkeit der ersten Christen und der ersten Gemeinden“ (Nr. 90). Wenn dieser missionarische Geist, der ein Geist der Wahrheit und der Liebe ist, den Dialog beseelt, werden die geplanten Fachtagungen sowie insbesondere der Delegiertentag in Salzburg gute Früchte hervorbringen. Die konkrete Gestaltung dieser Initiative wird der Bischofskonferenz überlassen. Es sei aber darauf verwiesen, daß die Bischöfe die geplanten Veranstaltungen in ihrer Verantwortung als Lehrer und Hirten des Gottesvolkes klug begleiten mögen. Auch gegen eine eventuelle, genau zu umschreibende Beteiligung der Gruppe „Wir sind Kirche“ beim Delegiertentag bestehen keine grundsätzlichen Einwände. Allerdings müßte in diesem Fall öffentlich klargemacht werden, daß damit keine offizielle kirchliche Anerkennung der Gruppe verbunden ist. Diese propagiert nämlich Auffassungen, die in einigen Punkten nicht voll mit der Lehre und der Disziplin der Kirche übereinstimmen. In zwei vorausgehenden Schreiben dieser Kongregation, deren Veröffentlichung in den Medien Verwunderung ausgelöst hat, ist dies deutlich zum Ausdruck gebracht worden.
In der Hoffnung, daß diese kurzen Erwägungen hilfreich sind, um den „Dialog Österreich“ einmütig und kraftvoll weiterzuführen, so daß er zur notwendigen Erneuerung des Glaubenslebens in Österreich beiträgt, verbleibe ich mit den besten Grüßen und Segenswünschen im Herrn
Ihr Joseph Card. Ratzinger
On September 15, 2006 – one day after the end of the Pope’s visit, the KirchenVolksBewegung Wir sind Kirche - together with many church reform groups - invite to the event “Eucharistic hospitality – a taboo is broken” with Professor DDr. Gotthold Hasenhüttl in the Gethesemane Church in Berlin (begin: 19.30h)
On the fringe of the ecumenical Church Congress 2003 in Berlin Professor Hasenhüttl had celebrated an ecumenical Communion service following the catholic rite where both protestants and catholics were invited to the communion. This communion service which had been organised together with “Wir sind Kirche”, was the reason why the bishop of Trier, Reinhard Marx, suspended Hasenhüttl from priesthood in July 2003 and, in March 2006, deprived him of the academic authority of teaching, “Missio canonica”.
Translation: Hildegard Thies
Matthias Drobinski: Oh Gott, die Kirche. Versuch über das katholische Deutschland
Patmos, 03/2006, Buch, 180 Seiten Preis: 18.00 € (D), 18.50 € (A), 31.90 SFr (CH) ISBN: 3-491-72497-X
Hajo Goertz: Brückenschläge. Wirken und Wirkung der Katholikentage
Mai 2006. 127 Seiten, Paperback Matthias-Grünewald-Verlag GmbH | ISBN: 378678602x 7.90 EUR
Zuletzt geändert am 05.05.2016