Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Today's Catholic Church

This is not the pope mobile Benedict will use in Germany.  It's worth blowing up the photo and reading the decals.  You will laugh.

The German news magazine Der Spiegel is running a series of articles about the state of the German Catholic Church in anticipation of Pope Benedict's trip to Germany.  Benedict's trip is scheduled to start on Thursday and ends Sunday.  As the Der Spiegel article notes, this is not going to be the kind of unified warm German welcome Pope Benedict received in 2005.  Six years of Benedict's constant appeasement of right wing causes and groups, coupled with the abuse crisis, has resulted in a Church where the vast majority of the laity are at odds with their Vatican appointed conservative hierarchy.  The following is an excerpt from the last article and deals with the current atmosphere in the German Church.  It ain't pretty.  Here are the links to all four articles: 

....The deterioration of the climate among the faithful is also evident in the aggressive criticism with which Christians, ranging from the conservative to the reactionary, pounce on almost anyone who does not wholeheartedly support the orthodox camp.

'Shadow Catholics'
Jesuit priest Mertes, who exposed sexual abuse at Berlin's Canisius College high school, speaks of "shadow Catholics" who vilify their opponents with denunciations and vile attacks. "Parts of the hierarchy knuckle under to these loudmouths, because they're afraid of being berated themselves," he told SPIEGEL in a recent interview.
(Fr Mertes has been subjected to the same kinds of vilification that Fr Tom Doyle has here in the States.  Germany also has their version of Battlin' Bill Donohue and The Catholic League.)
Perhaps the most active mouthpiece of this movement is the website kreuz.net, where generally anonymous authors berate their respective enemies on a daily basis. In their world, Mertes is a "decadent German Jesuit" and "abuse propagandist" whose only goal is to harm the holy church.  (This certainly sounds familiar.)

The gay theologian David Berger, a member of the orthodox Catholic scene himself for years, has been called a "professional faggot," among other insults, after having published a tell-all book about conservative Catholicism. His home address soon appeared on kreuz.net. Berger considered stopping his critical remarks about the church, but then he decided against the idea. "Then the gay-baiters would have achieved what they wanted," he says. SPIEGEL is also regularly assailed as a "Kirchenkampf magazine" -- a reference to the struggle between the Nazi regime and the Catholic Church -- which supposedly agitates against true Christians "in the style of Goebbels."  (Who is really operating in the 'style of Goebbels' when one accuses another of using the tactics they themselves are using in making the accusation?)

Are reformist Catholics fighting a lost cause? Have their conservative opponents already won the battle for control of the faith they supposedly share?

Subjected to Hate Mail
Monika Grütters is a member of the German Bundestag for the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU). On a morning two weeks before the pope's visit, she is sitting in her office, talking about how difficult it is to be a devout Catholic.

Every year, in the first week of January, she and about 50 other national politicians attend a retreat at the Maria Laach monastery in the Eifel Mountains of western Germany. On Sundays, Grütters attends mass at St. Ludwig's church in Berlin's Wilmersdorf neighborhood. "Four open-minded, humorous, down-to-earth Franciscans have created a meeting place for spiritual Berlin there," she says. The five services held at the church each weekend are always full, and when a minister recently spoke of "reforms that are urgently needed" in the Catholic Church in his sermon, he received spontaneous, vigorous applause from the congregation.

Grütters rummages angrily through a stack of letters and printed emails. "Here!" she says. She has been showered with a stream of insults, merely because she told the Berlin daily newspaper Der Tagesspiegel that she hoped that rumors about Berlin Archbishop Woelki's ties to Opus Dei were untrue. "It would be devastating," she told the newspaper.

In one of the letters, she is berated as a "zeitgeist dominatrix." Devout Catholics write that they will do their best to ensure that she no longer appears on the list for a Bundestag mandate at the next election. Others have written directly to the CDU's leader, Chancellor Angela Merkel, demanding that the party leadership bring exclusion proceedings against Grütters unless she resigns her seat immediately.

"In such a large organization as the Catholic Church, the diversity of opinions can and should be equally large," says the Catholic politician. "But the large number of open-minded, future-oriented Catholics and reform-oriented lay people cannot allow themselves to be intimidated by the energetic presence of the conservatives and traditionalists, their level of organization and the ruthlessness of some." (The greater issue may be that the Vatican itself is terrified of these organized and ruthless groups.)

Growing Fear
Jesuit priest Mertes, with whom Grütters is in contact, finds it "tragic that such circles within the Church have been promoted by the hierarchy in recent years, thereby attaining a high institutional legitimacy." Mertes believes that it is high time that the issue be discussed with the bishops and other hierarchies.

Many pastors in Cologne have been trying to do this for years. In early September, five of them met in an apartment in the Ehrenfeld neighborhood. They spent hours discussing their disappointments, the dark power of the clergy, the tone of orders within their diocese and the many taboo subjects. They also talked about the fear that pervades the atmosphere in their church.

Pastor Michael Jung from Meckenheim, on the edge of the Eifel Mountains, was one of the five pastors. In a letter to Cardinal Meisner, he had politely asked for more transparency and dialogue in connection with the upcoming consolidation of parishes. It was apparently a mistake, given that transparency and dialogue are not welcome concepts in the Cologne archdiocese. Only a week after sending the letter, Jung was asked to resign from his position as pastor -- at 41. "There is a growing fear among employees and priests of being shot down," says Jung.  (Ah yes, the always useful 'Bishop Morris' solution.)
Even trivial matters are sometimes exaggerated in the conservative religious community. Did the priest read the archbishop's pastoral letter out loud, or did he merely offer his interpretation of it? Does he wear sweaters and jeans, or does he consistently wear a priest's collar? In German rectories, and not just in the Cologne archdiocese, self-proclaimed "faith police" use even such minor external details to monitor the purity of doctrine.

Is this today's Catholic Church?  (Unfortunately it is.)


What a sad state Catholicism finds itself in.  I wonder how Pope Benedict can seriously babble on in his sermons about Jesus's love and mercy and hope, when he secretly rules the Church through fear tactics and shadow groups striking in the night.  What does any of this have to do with the message of the Prince of Peace?  What's next a personal prelature for traditionalist ninjas with a special charism to strike quickly, quietly, and lethally at all prelates liberal? Off hand I can think of one Archbishop who has the right attitude to lead this new charism of consecrated ninjas.  Imagine the movie.  Mel Gibson could write, direct, and star in it.  Opus Dei could produce it.  SSPX could bless it.  Angelo Sodano could write glowing reviews.

I'm really interested in watching some of the EWTN coverage of this papal trip.  Will they or won't they cover the protests?  Will they or won't they admit Benedict's audience for Bundestag is stacked with special invitees to fill the seats vacated by the 100 or so members who are protesting the fact Benedict is even allowed to speak?  This is another situation in which Benedict is conveniently considered a 'Head of State' rather than a religious leader. That little parcel of land St Peter's sits on sure has it's benefits.  One hopes the folks in the Hague are computing the fact the German Government is treating Benedict as a Head of State and not the leader of a decentralized religious organization.

In the meantime, the monarchical leader of the Diocese of Kansas City/St Joseph has decided the real show must go on, in spite of the fact he was forced to testify to a grand jury about his complete mishandling of a clerical child porn addict: 

KC diocese moves forward with annual money appeal

I guess all those attorneys employed by the diocese need to get paid. Which leads me to wonder why it is that only the attorneys of abuse victims are considered money grubbing opportunists?  Last I checked the big law firms employed by dioceses weren't working pro bono or for the Greater Glory of God.  I guess this too is today's Catholic Church.



  1. I see the temple police are alive and well in Germany as well as the United States.

  2. I'm not getting why the Temple Police types, who represent less than 8% or so of Western Catholics, have so much sway with the hierarchy.
    It can't be just a matter of squeaky wheels getting the grease because in Austria and Germany there is a whole lot more overt noise coming from reformers.

    Why let such a small minority terrorize your bishops and priests unless for some reason, you don't give a damn, or you want the terrorizing to continue. Nice way to run a supposedly 'Christian' church.

  3. My guess is the 8% holds 80% of the $$$$$$$$

  4. Anon, I'm sure you are quite right about the $$$. That's why I find the upheaval in Austria and Germany such a dangerous proposition for the Vatican. I can easily see where a Reformed Catholic Church, given the numbers cited, would quickly achieve state recognition and hence state tax support. This would be an economically viable schism and consequently take a lot of money out of Church coffers in Austria and Germany.

    Seriously, why pay through a tax for a pastoral church that doesn't meet your pastoral needs?

  5. Seriously, why do I not pay attention to what I'm typing. I meant to say, "why pay a tax for a church that does not meet your pastoral needs?"

  6. Once the conservatives get their "smaller, purer" church they will split into factions - as they paint themselves into ever smaller and purer dogmatic corners.

    Please save popcorn!

  7. The temple police have been active in my little parish for more than 20 years. All five priests have told me, and others, of how they are reported on weekly to the bishop. One woman told us she is the parish "Catechist". No such position exists, except in her mind.

    I have been thinking about that bunch of "Catholics" so passive aggressive that they would pray for a drunken driving priest instead of taking his keys away.

    Mrs. p2p is much more feisty about this than I am. She ain't goin' nowhere. I am inclined to leave for the Anglican Church. She says she won't let those XXXXXXXX ruin it.