Pope Benedict faces unrest in his native land

When Pope Benedict travels to his homeland this coming September, he will encounter fellow Catholics who, by large margins, desire church reforms. Unrest has been on the increase in the German Catholic Church ever since the Pope has struggled to deal with the sexual abuse crisis that broke out there in January 2010 and spread to other European countries. 180,000 German Catholics left the Church in 2010, a 40% increase over the previous year.

In a recent poll commissioned by ZDF (Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen) for its program “sonntags,” 73% of the general population said the Catholic Church should implement reforms such as optional celibacy and women’s ordination. The desire for reform among Catholics is higher – 80%. Even among those who attend Mass weekly, 61% favor such reforms, contradicting claims that those most active in the church are in agreement with its official policies.

See the table here.

Those who think optional celibacy is the highest priority among all needed reforms is 75% of all Catholics, 67% of regular church-goers.

At the same time, 46% of regular church-goers wish the Catholic Church would orient itself stronger on tradition, with 22% opposed to this. It is the reverse among occasional church-goers – 25% and 43% respectively.

81% of the general population and 70% of the Catholics believe that the Catholic Church has done too little to deal with the abuse scandal.

PT summary from sonntags.

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43 comments

  1. “Die Umfrage zeigt, je älter die Befragten sind, umso größer ist die Forderung nach Reformen in der katholischen Kirche.” (from the sonntags article)

    “The survey shows that the older people are, the greater the demand for reforms in the Catholic Church.” (Google translation of the above)

    This is perhaps an interesting feature of the survey that (perhaps unsurprisingly) the article does not go into, except for its cursory reference. There are no percentage breakdowns by age group given.

    It raises an interesting (if, at this stage, hypothetical) question: if these reforms were ever implemented–at the behest, it seems, of the elders–would they be just be un-implemented down the line by their children?

    1. I don’t think so. As the article says, young people are not less interested in the reforms – rather, they’re less interested in the Church, period. Among young people there are fewer saying they want the reforms – but there are also way fewer saying they don’t want the reforms. A very large number say they don’t care (“egal”).
      awr

  2. Didn’t we hear all this before his earlier trip to Germany, only to be impressed by his warm reception there, we heard this before his trip to the UK, only to be impressed by his welcome in Our Lady’s dowry, and didn’t we hear something similar to this before his pastoral visit to the USA only to be pleasantly surprised by his popular welcome there.
    46% want a stronger assertion of the Catholic tradition. Reminds me of the 2/18-25/2010 Harris Interactive poll of 2611 adult German Catholics.
    Question: If Mass were celebrated with Latin and Gregorian chant in its extraordinary form in YOUR parish, without taking the place of the ordinary one in German, would you attend it?
    Answers from those who practice regularly (weekly and monthy)
    – 25% would attend weekly
    – 19% once a month
    – 9% for Holy Days
    – 40% occasionally
    – 7% never
    In 2010 – 44% of practicing Catholics in Germany (one in four) would attend the EF every Sunday. 93% would attend it occasionally. Only 7% would never attend it.
    These two polls would seem to indicate that German Catholics have a deep interest in a revival of their own Roman tradition in their parishes and that this is the area that deserves much more pastoral attention.

    1. Sure he got a warm reception – the folks who bothered to show up are his supporters! The rest [larger fraction, probably, if the polls are a reasonable representation of the actual truth] had other things to do, and did them instead.

      Um, your math may not support your last conclusion. 44% of one in four comes to about 12% of total Catholics. I’m not sure that qualifies as “a deep interest”. Among practicing folks, you have a stronger case, but where’s the analysis of how many ‘non-practicing’ Catholics might return to practice if the liturgies were _more_ flexible/progressive/meaningful to them?

  3. Polls are helpful to enable the Church to change and improve upon what is needed, to defend and clarify what can’t be changed and to put forward an argument when there is gray area. However, just on the pastoral level of the parish, if we were to live by polls and have knee jerk reactions to every criticism or try to implement every suggestion, someone will not be pleased. You can please some of the people some of the time but you can’t please all of the people at any time. Even the crucifixion of Jesus is a good example of this. If Jesus had taken a poll prior to His triumphal entry into Jerusalem and changed His message and means of communicating, would that have changed the outcome and would there have been a Good Friday? Silly suggestion and question, isn’t it.

    1. Sorry, Allan, I don’t understand what you’re saying here: are you for or against polls, or both for and against them?

      1. Not really against polls as they can help us to see what people are thinking and how to improve on that which needs to be improved and clarify what needs clarifying and to make a good arguments for those areas that are gray or allow for diversity of belief.

  4. To be fair, we need a vary large, very thorough, very careful poll of all cradle Catholics, not just those still calling themselves Catholic and not just active Catholics.. We need to include the 1 in 3 cradle Catholics who have left the Church in America. We need to include the Christmas and Easter Catholics.

    It’s all too easy to dismiss those who have left as improperly catechized, or unwilling to live a Catholic life, etc. We have to consider the possibility that they are protesting the faults in the institution with the only tools they have; their feet.

    1. Brigid:

      They only left because of things like the 1973 ICEL “lame duck” translation, and because of the suppression of the Tridentine Mass.

      Come the first Sunday of Advent 2011, they’ll ALL be back.

      Get on the page, Brigid!

  5. Fr. Allan J. McDonald :
    Not really against polls as they can help us to see what people are thinking and how to improve on that which needs to be improved and clarify what needs clarifying and to make a good arguments for those areas that are gray or allow for diversity of belief.

    So, you’d have supported taking “a poll prior to His triumphal entry into Jerusalem and changed His message and means of communicating, would that have changed the outcome and would there have been a Good Friday?”

  6. I don’t understand why anyone is concerned with what the “general population” thinks. As for the results among Catholics, my tendency would be to think that such trends lead to a greater assertion of Orthodoxy rather than a “loosening” of the Church’s practices. That is usually the case…we may wish otherwise, but when unchangeable beliefs collide with lax adherence to them, that’s the result.

    1. What concerns me is that little differentiation is made which allows for the variety of papal, curial, episcopal, and theological statements.

      Not everything taught with authority is an unchangeable belief. When the RCC changes, it does not usually direct attention to the change but to the immediate teaching. Teachings on celibacy, usury, slavery, capital punishment, freedom of religion, and many other things have changed. The RCC has changed how it reads scripture quite a lot since the time of Galileo.

      I think much of the conflict within the RCC since V2 is between minimalists regarding the number of unchangeable beliefs and maximalists.

      I would like to see some minimalist publish a description of what are thought to be the things which Catholics must believe and observe the resultant debate and positions of the maximalists.

      1. Minimalist and maximalist position stated quite clearly in the rite of baptism:

        Celebrant: Do you believe in the God the Father, almighty, creator of heaven and earth?
        Parents & Godparents: I do.

        Celebrant: Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified, died, and was buried, rose from the dead and is now seated at the right hand of the Father?
        Parents & Godparents: I do.

        Celebrant: Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?
        Parents & Godparents: I do.

        Celebrant: This is our faith. This is the faith of the Church, we are proud to profess it, in Christ Jesus our Lord.
        All: Amen.

        It is when WE add or subtract we create difficulties!

    2. Unchangeable beliefs… hmm. Even such beliefs change immensely in their articulation and interpretation as a glimpse at history shows. To call the non-ordainability of women an unchangeble belief is rash.

      1. Joe;

        I’m really not trying to be a thorn here or anything, but it seems that, at least as concerns the foreseeable future, the issue of ordaining women could be called “an unchangeable belief” without going too far out on a limb. I think that the married clergy would be more likely a change since that occurs, at least provisionally, in some circumstances. But even that seems unlikely for the very reason that it already exists.

        My point in talking about the clash between unchangeable beliefs and lax adherence is that the decision to change, if and when such a decision is possible and exists, will always belongs with those who adhere to the more orthodox position. Those who are lax in their adherence to such positions already are able to have what they want (a more liberalized stance on a given issue) without any kind of change in the institution. For example, there already ARE women priests- there already ARE non-celibate priests, there already ARE all of these things on the “let’s change” wish-list. That they aren’t “recognized” by the institution shouldn’t really matter to those who promote these positions since the foundation of their opposition is built upon a repudiation of the position of the institution in the first place, so why seek the approval of something which you attack as an illegitimate authority? You can’t both claim that the positions of the institution are illegitimate because they lack popular concensus and meanwhile seek the approval of the institution to make your positions legitimate. Either you believe that the institution, hierarchy or whatever matters or you don’t. If it matters, you follow it… if it doesn’t, why seek it’s approval?

      2. Jeffrey Herbert, the decision to change is NOT always in the hands of the more “orthodox” i.e. conservative. The decision to abolish the Inquisition was made by Napoleon and then by the Spanish liberals over the protests of the Vatican. It was opened again by a reactionary monarch, then kept up under another name until 1829 when the last heretic was executed. The Vatican NEVER gave its consent to the abolition of the Inquisition and even in the carefully crafted pseudo-apology presented by Cardinal Ratzinger in 2000 the institution of the Inquisition was not disowned.

        Ditto for slavery. The Vatican did not come out against it until the last country in the world (Catholic Brazil) has abolished it.

    3. Yes, but a pertinent question is how to differentiate between unchangeable and changeable beliefs. It would be a mistake to confuse them. Perhaps a more appropriate way to proceed is to state that while the mysteries underlying belief do not change, belief itself does, indeed must change. This is because no single statement of belief exhausts the mystery which it attempts to articulate and in order to take account of the enhanced understanding and insight that comes with advances in the human sciences and other branches of learning.

      1. You do realize that this sounds very close to the method of modernism? This is perhaps not what you intend, but when you fail to qualify it at all, and exclude some beliefs from those that change it appears to be the result.

    1. No. I’m not aware that modernism has a method. Even if it did, which I doubt, I would not be concerned.

      It is helpful to distinguish between faith in God who never changes and belief which does and must change, according as knowledge and the human sciences change and develop.

  7. George Lynch, in the liturgical texts you cite, it would be helpful and even necessary to distinguish between faith/belief in, on the one hand and belief/belief that, on the other. The Latin verb credere at the time of Nicea was closer in meaning to the former.

    While faith/belief in as synonymous with entering into a relationship with does not change, belief that does and must change, to keep abreast of the development of science.

  8. There aleady ARE women priests? Call me conservative, but I see that as a formula for anarchy. What is needed is not illegal and invalid ordinations but open and honest discussion of the issue. The same is true of other areas in which there is widespread responsible disagreement with the Vatican line.

    1. Joe;

      Again, I’m not sure I’m making clear what I’m trying to say. If one takes up an issue which inevitably ends up “butting heads” with existing doctrine of the Church, then it has to be assumed that one considers the authority which supports that doctrine to be invalid as it is supporting something which one opposes. If that’s the case, then why seek to have that same authority promote one’s position? This is something I find difficult to reconcile when considering the positions of many such as those described in this article… it’s difficult (intellectually at least) to criticize the positions of “The Church” while insisting that your views be accepted as the positions of “The Church”.

      I’m not sure exactly what you mean by “widespread responsible disagreement with the Vatican line”. This sounds like a thinly-veiled way of saying “popular dissent”. There are many, many people who disagree with the positions of the Catholic Church. I’m not sure that conforming to their views is the way to achieve unity, if that’s the goal.

      1. Between a Parminedean view of church authority that never allows it to correct its mistakes and a Heraclitean view that sees church authority as utterly instable, a well functioning Church animated by the spirit of dialogue and consultation will find the middle path.

  9. Mr. O’Leary,

    If it is theologically possible that women can be priests and the women of the RCWomenPriests group were secretly ordained by validly ordained bishops (as they claim), then there must already be women bishops.

  10. Without giving a name… several years ago, I heard an excellent talk on the Liturgy. What was said was “We have Traditions (Capital T) and traditions (small t)… the “Large T” Traditions include Fidelity to the Word and our belief in the Eucharist. The “Small t” traditions are all that “stuff” that surrounds them – sit, stand, kneel, this translation or that, who sings what/when, whose vernacular anyway? The “small t” traditions change over time… but they are the ones that cause us the most grief!

    1. John
      I am not impressed by such a comment. Even in everyday living, our behavior to each other in the “small things” is what makes life pleasanter for every one. Observing the small things is what civilization is all about.

      Lets say you must appear before a judge and jury for a traffic violation. Most people dress up for such an occasion instinctive knowing to put the best foot forward when pleading before a judge.

      The same person might very well appear in a beach outfit for morning Mass and while chewing gum put a host in his mouth communion time. So, is it safe to assume that he is a very religious person who just does not bother abort the small things (dressing up as if he were in court) when going to Mass?

      1. John;

        Yes, this is the foundation of the “casual approach” argument….often encapsulated by saying “God doesn’t care how we dress at Mass” or “God doesn’t care if we use Gold Chalices or Dixie Cups at Mass”. First, it’s appaling that one might assume to know what God does or doesn’t care about, after all he wrote a book that includes a particular story about a guest invited to a wedding who failed to wear the proper dress and was thrown out…. an interesting thing to include, even metaphorically, if such were the case. And secondly, how we dress and the degree of detail and attention we give to a particular event speaks to the importance we give that event, not to God’s willingness to accept the minimum we can offer. If we consider the Mass to be on par with a picnic, then shorts and Dixie Cups are most appropriate…but I would question whether one who holds such a view could be called “very religious”.

  11. “If we consider the Mass to be on par with a picnic, then shorts and Dixie Cups are most appropriate…but I would question whether one who holds such a view could be called “very religious”.

    Not quite a picnic, but….

    “I should like a great lake of beer for the King of Kings.
    I should like the angels of Heaven to be drinking it through time eternal.
    I should like excellent meats of belief and pure piety.
    I should like the men of Heaven at my house.
    I should like barrels of peace at their disposal.
    I should like for them cellars of mercy.
    I should like cheerfulness to be their drinking.
    I should like Jesus to be there among them.
    I should like the three Marys of illustrious renown to be with us.
    I should like the people of Heaven, the poor, to be gathered around from all parts.”

  12. Here’s a notorious statement of Cardinal Ratzinger, Preface to Klaus Gamber, La Réforme liturgique en question,1992:

    “What happened after the Council was something else entirely: in the place of liturgy as the fruit of development came fabricated liturgy. We abandoned the organic, living process of growth and development over centuries, and replaced it – as in a manufacturing process – with a fabrication, a banal on-the-spot product. Gamber, with the vigilance of a true prophet and the courage of a true witness, opposed this falsification, and, indefatigably taught us about the living fullness of a true liturgy…. The pastoral benefits that so many idealists had hoped the new liturgy would bring did not materialize. Our churches emptied in spite of the new liturgy (or because of it?), and the faithful continued to fall away from the Church in droves… In the end, we will all have to recognize that the new liturgical forms, well intentioned as they may have been at the beginning, did not provide the people with bread, but with stones.”

    The funny thing is that the new translations are very much “fabricated” in their unnatural English.

  13. I have always found this statement of Card Ratzinger’s distressing. He seems to endorse Gamber, not to mention the tendentious writing of Mosebach and the drivel produced by the late Michael Davies.

    These wider endorsements make it clear that ‘the new liturgical forms’ in the quote Joe provided does not refer simply to deviations from the rubrics of the Novus Ordo, but to the Novus Ordo itself.

    Yet he only celebrates Mass in the Ordinary Form – with great reverence, to be sure, though I find the business of hiding behind the candlesticks rather silly, it looks as though he’s in a jail cell.

    If the Mass of Paul VI is ‘a fabrication, a banal on-the-spot product’ then why does he celebrate it?

    As things stand, many people are upset by words that seem to contradict practice: traditionalists complain that he isn’t committed to bringing back the Tridentine Mass, progressives that he has a hidden agenda to do just that. Reform-of-the-reform types that I speak with are constantly nervous that they aren’t doing enough: why didn’t he celebrate facing the apse at Westminster, for instance?

    Assuming a not-so-secret plan to get rid of the Novus Ordo seems to be the only way to make sense of Pope Benedict’s position.

    It is too reminiscent of the double-binds that Gregory Bateson described, contradictions that lead to madness.

    It cannot be healthy for the Church.

  14. Jeffrey Herbert :
    John;
    Yes, this is the foundation of the “casual approach” argument….often encapsulated by saying “God doesn’t care how we dress at Mass” or “God doesn’t care if we use Gold Chalices or Dixie Cups at Mass”. First, it’s appaling that one might assume to know what God does or doesn’t care about, after all he wrote a book that includes a particular story about a guest invited to a wedding who failed to wear the proper dress and was thrown out…. an interesting thing to include, even metaphorically, if such were the case. And secondly, how we dress and the degree of detail and attention we give to a particular event speaks to the importance we give that event, not to God’s willingness to accept the minimum we can offer. If we consider the Mass to be on par with a picnic, then shorts and Dixie Cups are most appropriate…but I would question whether one who holds such a view could be called “very religious”.

    You really think “he wrote a book that includes a particular story . . . ” . . . . ?

    1. Not only did God write a book, Chris Grady, but Jeffrey Herbert’s buddies at Vox Clara revised it for publication and made it both better than it was and better than what we have now!

  15. What qualification has Joseph Ratzinger as a liturgical theologian? It seems to me that he is simply confused. There is a lot of confusion about exegesis and even about the text of Scripture in his Jesus books, too. Someone told me that a biblical scholar discoverd so many mistakes in the first 24 pages of the second volume that he went to see a Vatican figure and offered to help the Pope edit his texts, free of charge. The monsignore answered: “As a person the Pope is very humble but as a scholar he does not brook criticism or correction.”

  16. God wrote a book — and I have it! He is a master of the Hebrew and Greek languages, at least in their popular forms. I must admit that I was a bit disappointed at the uneven quality of his book; I expected better from God. Also, could he not have ensured that the text came to us without so many contested readings. Surely every word that God wrote must be precious — so why is the text corrupt in so many places?

    Ah, but God is a much more clever author than people think — he uses a postmodern technique of authorial self-effacement, hiding behind what looks like sloppy writing or editing. Of course the most brilliant feature of his book is his own self-presentation — such a dizzying variety — from the bloodthirsty God of some parts to the a motherly God of others. I feel sad that God has not written any new books in the last 2000 years. Perhaps like Mr E. M. Forster he ran out of inspiration or felt that the world had changed too much for his particular style?

    But despite his long silence, God remains a significant author, and he may be credited with a profound influence on William Shakespeare — regarded by many as his foremost rival in the world of letters.

  17. “As a person the Pope is very humble but as a scholar he does not brook criticism or correction.”

    Ouch. That is an almost perfect example of a Batesonian double-bind, right up there with the parent who tells a child “I love you” while administering an abusive beating.

    1. Perhaps the Pope is like the Roman Rite – there is an Ordinary Form of the Pope, and an Extraordinary Form of the Pope . . . oh dear . . .

  18. I think God did not so much write a book as give his children a book to scribble in. Whenever they open their book they can use their childish imagination to find the meaning in their squiggles. Since the whole process went on under their daddy’s kindly gaze and with his gentle guidance the book is filled with their daddy’s spirit and sort of connects them with him.

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