The following interview may be of interest to at least some members of the Pray, Tell blog. The practices Mitschke-Collande cites seem to have some relation to official reforms of liturgical books for the Roman Rite in the present era.

Thomas von Mitschke-Collande, _Schafft sich die katholische Kirche ab?Analysen und Lösungen eines Unternehmensberaters_. Mit einem Vorwort von Kardinal Karl Lehmann. 256 Seiten.
ISBN: 978-3-466-37054-2 € 19,99

A Bavarian consultant analyzes the church crisis

Is the Catholic Church going out of business? is the provocative title of a new book. The author is a former McKinsey consultant Thomas von Mitschke-Collande who has advised the German Bishops’ Conference, and several dioceses. In the interview, the 62-year-old talks about his diagnosis and treatment suggestions for the church crisis.

Katholische Nachrichtenagentur (German Catholic News Service): Mr. von Mitschke-Collande, are you – as the title of your new publication suggests – the Catholic Sarrazin?
Mitschke: If the book triggers a similarly intense debate within and outside the church, be it ever so controversial, I would have no problem with the comparison. Otherwise, I would not want to be stuck in the same pigeon-hole.

Katholische Nachrichtenagentur: What are you concerned with?
Mitschke: The official church to recognize the seriousness of the situation and seize the opportunities to take in the future not with a backward-looking behavior, but in a forward strategy. The church has no demand problem, but rather a supply problem. It reaches fewer people today, just as they are, with all their hopes and needs. Actually, the church should be booming. More than ever, people are looking for spirituality, community, and a direction. My concern is already fully described with the first sentence of the book: “I’d rather break the law of the Church than a man’s heart.” This was the guiding pastoral principle of my late parish priest.

Katholische Nachrichtenagentur: Whoever reads your book gets the impression that you eventually lost patience with your church. Was there a pivotal moment?
Mitschke: Actually, no. The book has evolved from lectures and publications, observations and discussions of recent years. In some places the experiences come through with the content, especially with what went on in the context of regional planning with my diocesan bishop Konrad Zdarsa in Augsburg. I have experienced the powerlessness of the faithful in the face of the decisions of episcopal authority, the helplessness of many committed Catholics that soon changes over into anger and disappointment.

Katholische Nachrichtenagentur: What could have been done differently?
Mitschke: We have put the cart before the horse. Rather than integrate the people from the beginning, they were told this is how it is going to go. That now not so much is happening as was initially planned, is due to the fact that many Augsburg Catholics did not commit themselves and protested. Although they are no revolutionaries. Of course, there must be larger pastoral regions.
The fundamental question is: How do I get and promote church life at the base? It is from there that higher-level structures develop.

Katholische Nachrichtenagentur: You diagnose in church decision-makers powerful mechanisms of repression. How would you want to break through?
Mitschke: The data I collected are essentially not new. But I hope that the compact synopsis will not weaken their effect. We have a crisis of faith and a church crisis. Both are related to each other and must be addressed simultaneously. On the other hand, we do not have a resource problem.
Adjusted for inflation, the Catholic Church in Germany has now over four times as much money as in 1960. During the same period, the participation of the faithful in church life from just under 50 percent has collapsed to less than 13 percent now. That is, we have a relationship problem and a communication problem. Here is where deliberations must begin. This is not about conforming to the spirit of the age. The church has to deal on the basis of the Gospel with the time and answer the questions that today’s people ask and understand.

Katholische Nachrichtenagentur: Your proposals seek to change the church culture of how it does things. Experience has shown that such processes need time. What needs to happen first?
Mitschke: Those responsible should first have the courage to face up to the diagnosis. The overall picture may not be complete, but it is consistent. The initial starting point is a changed self-understanding. The church exists for the people, it must again be come more evangelical, simple. We need a theology of failure and compassion in order to be credible again. That this is not synonymous with the weakening of dogmatic principles, you can learn from the Orthodox Church. Then the church needs to become more Catholic – not Roman.

Katholische Nachrichtenagentur: What do you mean?
Mitschke: It would never occur to a global corporation to have a national hymnal blessed by headquarters. The top must not control everything, but focus on the preservation of the basic truths. The Church developed superbly in the first millennium without centralism. “Catholic” also means all-inclusive, appealing to all, not just the head. It is also about emotions.

Katholische Nachrichtenagentur: You advocate “loyal disobedience.” A business consultant would immediately lose his job if he advised the workforce of his customer to stand up more to the bosses.
Mitschke: You may be surprised, but a fundamental company policy of McKinsey is: An employee is obliged to object if he has a different opinion than his boss. And the latter is obliged to deal with the criticism.

Katholische Nachrichtenagentur: What would that be like, applied to the church?
Mitschke, we are talking about reforms for years, and nothing happens. Eventually you have to take action. Today we have something like pre-Reformation mood everywhere. There are enough stumbling blocks. And there are powerful communication capabilities. From angry Catholics will come courageous Catholics. For something to start rolling, we lack perhaps only a charismatic figure like Francis or Martin Luther. Let’s not forget: Many saints were initially rebellious outsiders. But one should not exclude the possibility that the Holy Ghost might again give us an endearing revolutionary like John XXIII on the Chair of Peter. We do not have a knowledge problem but a problem of action.

Interview conducted by Christoph Renzikowski.
Transcription linked by, accessed September 4, 2012.
English translation based on and corrected from a Google Translate version

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