German-Speaking Manifesto: Hurry Up and Save the Church!

Katholische.de reports on a very interesting book and manifesto from German-speaking Catholics in this article: “Hurry up and Save the Church” (Nur mal schnell die Kirche retten). The name of the book is Mission Manifest: Die Thesen für das Comeback der Kirche (“Mission Manifesto: Theses for the Church’s Comeback”).

In June 2017, six Catholics met at a house of prayer in August to consider questions such as: Is the church in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland still salvagable? Or is it charging straight into a wall? Will anything more than a marginalized remnant remain within a few decades?

The group formulated a “Manifesto for the Church’s Comeback.”  They appeal to Pope Francis’s Evangelii Gaudium, which calls for a missionary breakthrough in the church.

The broad diversity within this group is striking:

  • Johannes Hartle, leader of the Gebetshaus (house of prayer) in Augsburg;
  • Cistercian Fr. Karl Wallner, rector of the conservative/traditionalist theological college at Heiligenkreuz in Austria;
  • Bernhard Meuser, who generated the idea for YouCat and served as its coeditor; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Youcat
  • Martin Iten, young Catholic media presence in Switzerland;
  • theologian Paul Metzlaff, who works in the department for youth for the German bishops’ conference;
  • Benedikt Michal, a leader in youth outreach with the Austrian bishops’ conference.

Publicist Sophia Kuby, co-founder of “Nightfever” Katharina Fassler, and leader of the Loretto community Maximilian Oettingen contributed to the formulation of the manifesto’s 10 theses.

The authors of the book assert that the church is in catastrophic condition, and unless it undergoes a “re-formation,” has no future. Traditional pastoral strategies are no longer effective, and conventional means of passing on the faith are moribund. The contents of the faith must be learned anew, and missionary work must become the first priority – in terms of both finances and personnel – of the church.

(The article at katholische.de finds this negative analysis to be overstated, and notes that some youth find a conventional liturgy more apealling than some of the types of special events this movement seems to favor.)

Here are the 10 Theses of  the “Mission Manifest.”

  • Thesis 1: We are motivated by the desire that people be converted to Jesus Christ.
  • Thesis 2: We want missionary work to become Priority #1.
  • Thesis 3: We believe that the chances have never been greater than now.
  • Thesis 4: We address all people in our countries without distinction.
  • Thesis 5: We believe that our missionary work will be as powerful as our prayers.
  • Thesis 6: We thank all Christians outside the Catholic Church who today already do missionary work with dedication, baptize, and lead people to Jesus.
  • Thesis 7: We must discover anew the content of the faith.
  • Thesis 8: We wish to missionize, not indoctrinate.
  • Thesis 9: We need a “democratization” of mission.
  • Thesis 10: We ourselves must be converted to the joy of the Gospel in order to lead others to Jesus.
Share:

11 comments

  1. I see something else than “broad diversity” in this group… They are all men (at least on the official list of names). I am less than enthusiastic when a group like that sets out to save the church, without attending to their own problematic make-up (and ensuing blind spots and implicit biases) first.

      1. Dear Fritz, I assume by “one sort of diversity” you are referring to the theological spectrum but even that is quite limited in that group of men (the truly progressive men would have known to complain about the make-up of the group). Also, I only lifted up one area of non-diversity among these men, but there are others: I bet all of them are “white” by U.S. racializing categories, and I bet none of them has a working class background. One could go on, but since I am convinced that the future of the church will not be secured by these guys, I will let things rest here.

    1. Teresa, how do you know they are all men? Maybe some are mixed gender–as you said to me once this summer..! 🙂

      In any event, whenever someone sets out to fix or rescue the church, I smell a need for drama. And this, to be quite blunt, never works. I know quite a few bishops who think “events” and “rallies” and “manifestos” work. Youth work is full of splash events. A lot of resources go into them. They disappear in an instant.

      Patience, longsuffering, humility, prayer, acts of love and courage unseen, with little or no drama expected or required — these are what usually make a difference in people’s lives. These things work from the bottom up. Call it my bias, but I think we should be funding and toiling at the base. Our job is to be faithful. That’s it. We already have a Messiah!

      1. Ha, Rita, in response to your question, about how I know they are all men, I now have to write what I thought about but omitted from my initial comment, namely: to write that these persons all *live* as men. Yes, there might be a person with an intersex condition among them but up until last year in Germany, they would have been forced to choose maleness or femaleness as their identifier. Now the highest court in Germany has decreed that there must be a third option for persons to claim, a “third gender option.” Intersex and gender-non-conforming people are glad. A Catholic canon lawyer in Germany has pointed out that the Catholic Church in Germany now has work to do re its canonical and sacramental practices: what if a third gender person experiences a call to the priesthood, for example? This deserves a post on its own sometime, but not now.
        Re the rest of your post: yes, exactly, amen.

  2. Why is it problematic that they are all men? They saw a problem and convened together to discuss it and come up with a solution. I’m sure that they weren’t being exclusive or exclusionary.
    As far as I can tell, they weren’t assmebled by official channels or mandated by the hierarchy. Is there a monopoly on problem solving? I think there can certainly be many other groups discussing this issue and trying stop the hemorrhaging of numbers from the Roman Church in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Even a group of all women. I really like their “thesis” #10. Isn’t that what the Church should be about doing anyway?

    1. all I can say here is that diversity (in gender, race, social class, convictions, etc.) is now — at least in the context I work in — considered a fundamental ingredient of what constitutes “excellence” or “best practices”. There are hard-won realizations behind that of how to counterbalance inevitable blindspots, implicit biases, etc.
      As to the theses: no doubt they all propose important goods. The reaction to them among German Catholics involved has been quite mixed because this group of men is seen as advocating against other ministries that the church in Germany has been engaged in, e.g., social justice ministries, by foregrounding spiritual practices, especially traditional ones, such as Eucharistic adoration.
      And do not misunderstand me here: I am all for Eucharistic adoration — just not as an argument against the importance of the struggle for social justice.

      1. Teresa, when has anyone argued that Eucharistic Adoration negates a need for social justice? At least in my diocese in the US, every parish that has regular Adoration has very well coordinated social outreach ministries. In fact the largest donor to my local secular food shelf is the local Catholic church that has a well attended perpetual Adoration ministry. I can’t imagine this is much different in Germany.

        But if we get down to it, prayer and love of the Gospel is what should be at the center of any social justice ministry in the Church, because it is our ‘raison d’etre’ and the reason why we should care about social justice in the first place. Take this away and we’re no different from any other secular non-profit with an abstract mission. The Church invented social justice after all, and we need to appreciate it holistically like St. Francis of Assisi if we want to rebuild the Church as he did.

  3. maybe a thesis 11 would have been good: “we are called to serve those on the margins with deepest devotion, since Christ has chosen to let himself be encountered in them.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *