Hasn't the Catholic Church seen this German reformation thing before?
I was thinking it's probably not a brilliant idea on my part to post anything on Superbowl Sunday because my American readership will be about four people. However, there is the international readership and since this is an international story, I feel it's worth posting today. As to my Superbowl prefence, I have none. Historically, I have always had disdain for the Packers. This goes way back to childhood when my dad worked for the Detroit Lions and the Packers ruined every Thanksgiving but one. Thanksgiving dinner too frequently turned into a diatribe about the potty mouthed proclivities and general insensitivity's of one Vince Lombardi. Which in turn led to huge howls of laughter from children all too aware of someone else's propensity to be a potty mouth with tendencies to insensitivity. As for the Steelers, well I used to really like the Steelers, until Ben Roethlisberger. Ben irritates me not just because of his latest sexual improprieties for which all his God and family talk won't cover the stench, but also because he single handedly killed my fantasy football team a couple of years ago. So I will content myself by critiquing the commercials---which are usually more entertaining than the game. Enough of that and onto the real story.
As noted on Bilgrimage and Queering the Church, 140 German theologians have come out with a paper in which they ask for a Year of Departure from the trends in Catholicism which have resulted in the exodus of millions of people from Catholic pews. The following excerpt includes the six areas these theologians see need for reform. The entire German translation can be found on the blog PrayTell.
Finding our orientation in the biblical Good News implies a differentiated relationship to modern society. When it comes to acknowledgement of each person’s freedom, maturity, and responsibility, modern society surpasses the Church in many respects. As the Second Vatican Council emphasized, the Church can learn from this. In other respects, critique of modern society from the spirit of the Gospel is indispensable, as when people are judged only by their productivity, when mutual solidarity disintegrates, or when the dignity of the person is violated.
This holds true in every case: the Good News of the Gospel is the standard for a credible Church, for its action and its presence in society. The concrete demands which the Church must face are by no means new. And yet, we see hardly any trace of reform-oriented reforms. Open dialogue on these questions must take place in the following spheres of action.
1. Structures of Participation: In all areas of church life, participation of the faithful is a touchstone for the credibility of the Good News of the Gospel. According to the old legal principle “What applies to all should be decided by all,” more synodal structures are needed at all levels of the Church. The faithful should be involved in the naming of important officials (bishop, pastor). Whatever can be decided locally should be decided there. Decisions must be transparent.
2. Community: Christian communities should be places where people share spiritual and material goods with one another. But community life is eroding presently. Under the pressure of the priesthood shortage, larger and larger administrative entities (Size “Extra Large” Parishes) are constructed in which neighborliness and sense of belonging can hardly be experienced anymore. Historical identity and built-up social networks are given up. Priests are “overheated” and burn out. The faithful stay away when they are not trusted to share responsibility and to participate in democratic structures in the leadership of their communities. Church office must serve the life of communities – not the other way around. The Church also needs married priests and women in church ministry.
3. Legal culture: Acknowledgement of the dignity and freedom of every person is shown when conflicts are borne fairly and with mutual respect. Canon law deserves its name only when the faithful can truly make use of their rights. It is urgent that the protection of rights and legal culture be improved. A first step is the development of administrative justice in the Church.
4. Freedom of Conscience: Respect for individual conscience means placing trust in people’s ability to make decisions and carry responsibility. It is the task of the Church to support this capability. The Church must not revert to paternalism. Serious work needs to be done especially in the realm of personal life decisions and individual manners of life. The Church’s esteem for marriage and unmarried forms of life goes without saying. But this does not require that we exclude people who responsibly live out love, faithfulness, and mutual care in same-sex partnerships or in a remarriage after divorce. (Sometimes I wonder if the emphasis on the evils of gay marriage is partly designed to stop conversation about remarriage after divorce.)
5. Reconciliation: Solidarity with “sinners” presupposes that we take seriously the sin within our own ranks. Self-justified moral rigorism ill befits the Church. The Church cannot preach reconciliation with God if it does not create by its own actions the conditions for reconciliation with those before whom the Church is guilty: by violence, by withholding rights, by turning the biblical Good News into a rigorous morality without mercy.
6. Worship: The liturgy lives from the active participation of all the faithful. Experiences and forms of expression of the present day must have their place. Worship services must not become frozen in traditionalism. Cultural diversity enriches liturgical life, but the tendency toward centralized uniformity is in tension with this. Only when the celebration of faith takes account of concrete life situations will the Church’s message reach people.
The already-begun dialogue process in the Church can lead to liberation and departure when all participants are ready to take up the pressing questions. We must lead the Church out of its crippling preoccupation with itself through a free and fair exchange of arguments and solutions. The tempest of the last year must not be followed by restful quietness! In the present situation, this could only be the “rest of the dead.” Anxiety has never been a good counselor in times of crisis. Female and male Christians are compelled by the Gospel to look to the future with courage, and walk on water like Peter as Jesus said to him, “Why do you have fear? Is your faith so weak?”
I think if we are to get moving on this path of leading the Church out of it's crippling preoccupation with itself we have to admit that the Vatican is no longer actually advocating for a Roman Catholic Church. What they are now propagating is a Monarchical Spanish Catholic Church. Hence all the promotion of cultic lay movements of Spanish origin, and they are legion. With this series of proposals from the German Church it's like we're re enacting the fifteenth century: German reformation vs loyal monarchist Spanish Inquisition, and this has been playing out for over thirty years.
It's pretty obvious the reason for this is that Spanish Catholicism in it's cultic expression supports the clericalism of Trent. Problem is the laity of today in no way equates to the laity of Trent. The Vatican's hope that they can continue the status quo with the support of Southern Catholics is ephemeral. The revolution brewing in Islamic countries should lay waste to that thought. The vast majority of people do not want parental forms of governance where they are considered children who need firm parental hands to maintain social control. Not anymore, and that is as true for their spiritual leadership as it is for their political leadership.
There is that twenty or so percent who do wish for some sort of parental control type governance because it supports their family model and that family type is what the culture wars are all about. The problem is that family type is no longer the norm. Whether it's because of divorce in the West or AIDS in Africa or immigration in South America, women have had to take on much more responsibility for the existence of their families. With that additional responsibility has also come a demand for additional rights and respect. Any notion of returning to a patriarchal model where women are conceived of as a sort of sexual child in an adult body will not be well received. It's for this reason alone that a church modeled on these same family lines will not sustain itself into the future.
If Catholic leadership in the Vatican truly cares about any kind of meaningful future for Roman Catholicism, they will listen to the German Church and down play the Spanish Church. One would think that would be a no brainer for a German pope, but in his latter years Benedict has been more of a Vatican citizen than a German theologian and that does not bode well for the future of any kind of meaningful Catholicism.