German Catholics vent their dissatisfaction with the Church

A study on Germany’s Catholic community reveals the discontent of faithful with the ecclesiastical institution. But proposals for solutions are lacking

By ALESSANDRO ALVIANI

sad lonely popeThe Pope’s ecclesiastical policies are “backward-looking” and suspected of trying to take the Church back to the pre-Second Vatican Council period. As for the Church’s leaders, they are “cut off from reality, reactionary and obstructionist.”

This is the opinion German faithful have of Benedict XVI and the Catholic Church according to a study by Sinus Institute and consulting agency MDG (which the German Church controls). In-depth interviews were conducted with 100 Catholics from different social backgrounds. According to the study, which picks up on a similar one carried out in 2005, German faithful are convinced that today’s Church finds itself in a “desolate situation” and the most obvious manifestation of this is the sex abuse scandal.

The authors of the study wrote that the scandal seriously damaged the image of the Church, even in the eyes of the most fervent Catholics, whose faith was deeply shaken. The scandal was seen as confirmation of the Church’s “modernization deficit”. The Church lost a great deal of credibility not just as a result of the accusations of paedophilia made against it but also because many believe it dealt with the abuse issue inadequately.

Internal dogma and rules that had been tacitly accepted until about a year ago are now openly criticised by faithful. Criticisms range from complaints about “discrimination against women” and celibacy, to the condemnation of homosexuality, contraception and sex outside wedlock, to the marginalisation of lay people involved in Church life.

Another factor that is creating animosity, is the organisational restructuring that is taking place in Germany, with a number of parishes being merged because of the shortage in parish priests, for example.

The study also shows the Church’s detachment from the weakest sections of society: it would make no difference to the lower social classes if the Church ceased to exist.

Despite their criticisms, however, faithful still look to the Church for “spiritual guidance” and “meaning”. The majority of them do not want to lose their Catholic identity and few consider leaving the Church.

So what do German faithful expect from the Church? They want lay people involved in the Church to play a greater role; they want more women in leadership roles; the possibility for women to be ordained priests; the elimination of celibacy; a different attitude towards sexuality and contraception; the sacraments to be administrated to all Christians, regardless of their denomination or sexual identity; less ostentation and less abuse of power and a greater focus on God’s love and love for one’s neighbour.

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Catholicism’s Curse

A must read!

By FRANK BRUNI

But while I have nothing against priests, I have quite a lot against an institution that has done a disservice to 27BRUNI-popupthem and to the parishioners in whose interests they should toil. I refer to the Roman Catholic Church, specifically to its modern incarnation and current leaders, who have tucked priests into a cosseted caste above the flock, wrapped them in mysticism and prioritized their protection and reputations over the needs and sometimes even the anguish of the people in the pews. I have a problem, in other words, with the church’s arrogance, a thread that runs through Wills’s book, to be published next month; through fresh revelations of how assiduously a cardinal in Los Angeles worked to cover up child sexual abuse; and through the church’s attempts to silence dissenters, including an outspoken clergyman in Ireland who was recently back in the news.

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Police: Friar accused of abusing students in 2 states kills himself at Pa. monastery

A Franciscan friar accused of sexually abusing students at Catholic high schools in Ohio and Pennsylvania killed himself at a western Pennsylvania monastery, police said Saturday.

Br Stephen BakerBrother Stephen Baker, 62, was found dead of a self-inflicted knife wound at the St. Bernardine Monastery in Hollidaysburg on Saturday morning, Blair Township Police Chief Roger White said. He declined to say whether a note was found.

Baker was named in legal settlements last week involving 11 men who alleged that he sexually abused them at a Catholic high school in northeast Ohio three decades ago. The undisclosed financial settlements announced Jan. 16 involved his contact with students at John F. Kennedy High School in Warren, Ohio from 1986-90.

The Youngstown diocese previously said it was unaware of the allegations until nearly 20 years after the alleged abuse.

“Let us continue to pray for all victims of abuse, for Brother Baker’s family and the repose of his soul,” Youngstown Bishop George Murry said in a statement Saturday.

After the settlements were announced, the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese in central Pennsylvania said it received complaints in 2011 of possible abuse by Baker at Bishop McCort High School in Johnstown, about 60 miles east of Pittsburgh.

Bishop McCort High School hired an attorney to investigate after several former students alleged they were molested by Baker in the 1990s. Attorney Susan Williams said three former students had talked to her in detail about the alleged abuse.

Baker taught and coached at John F. Kennedy High School in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s and was at Bishop McCort from 1992-2000.

Bishop Mark Bartchak of the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese said in a statement that he was saddened by the news of Baker’s death, but declined further comment citing pending legal action involving the diocese.

A message left for Father Patrick Quinn, the head of Baker’s order, the Third Order Regular Franciscans, was not immediately returned.

Judy Jones, assistant Midwest director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said the organization still hopes people who know about other abuse allegations against Baker will continue to come forward.

“We feel sad for Br. Baker’s family but even sadder for the dozens of boys who Baker assaulted,” she said in a statement.

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Priest Is Planning to Defy the Vatican’s Orders to Stay Quiet

By DOUGLAS DALBY

A well-known Irish Catholic priest plans to defy Vatican authorities on Sunday by breaking his silence about what he says is a campaign against him by the church over his advocacy of more open discussion on church teachings.

Father Tony FlanneryThe Rev. Tony Flannery, 66, who was suspended by the Vatican last year, said he was told by the Vatican that he would be allowed to return to ministry only if he agreed to write, sign and publish a statement agreeing, among other things, that women should never be ordained as priests and that he would adhere to church orthodoxy on matters like contraception and homosexuality.

“How can I put my name to such a document when it goes against everything I believe in,” he said in an interview on Wednesday. “If I signed this, it would be a betrayal not only of myself but of my fellow priests and lay Catholics who want change. I refuse to be terrified into submission.”

Father Flannery, a regular contributor to religious publications, said he planned to make his case public at a news conference here on Sunday.

The Vatican’s doctrinal office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote to Father Flannery’s religious superior, the Rev. Michael Brehl, last year instructing him to remove Father Flannery from his ministry in County Galway, to ensure he did not publish any more articles in religious or other publications, and to tell him not to give interviews to the news media.

In the letter, the Vatican objected in particular to an article published in 2010 in Reality, an Irish religious magazine. In the article, Father Flannery, a Redemptorist priest, wrote that he no longer believed that “the priesthood as we currently have it in the church originated with Jesus” or that he designated “a special group of his followers as priests.”

Instead, he wrote, “It is more likely that some time after Jesus, a select and privileged group within the community who had abrogated power and authority to themselves, interpreted the occasion of the Last Supper in a manner that suited their own agenda.”

Father Flannery said the Vatican wanted him specifically to recant the statement, and affirm that Christ instituted the church with a permanent hierarchical structure and that bishops are divinely established successors to the apostles.

He believes the church’s treatment of him, which he described as a “Spanish Inquisition-style campaign,” is symptomatic of a definite conservative shift under Pope Benedict XVI.

“I have been writing thought-provoking articles and books for decades without hindrance,” he said. “This campaign is being orchestrated by a secretive body that refuses to meet me. Surely I should at least be allowed to explain my views to my accusers.”

His superior was also told to order Father Flannery to withdraw from his leadership role in the Association of Catholic Priests, a group formed in 2009 to articulate the views of rank-and-file members of the clergy.

In reply to an association statement expressing solidarity with Father Flannery, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith denied it was acting in a secretive manner, pointed out that Father Flannery’s views could be construed as “heresy” under church law, and threatened “canonical penalties,” including excommunication, if he did not change his views.

This month, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith wrote to an American priest, Roy Bourgeois, notifying him of his laicization, following his excommunication in 2008 over his support for the ordination of women.

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