200+ Freiburg clergy support theologians’ appeal for reform UPDATED 3-09-11

Freiburg (dpa/lsw) – More than 100 clergymen of the Diocese of Freiburg support the appeal for reform of the Church by Catholic professors. The paper, which among other things encourages the lifting of obligatory celibacy for priests and more democracy in the Church, is pointed and contains many things to discuss, said the cathedral rector and deanery head Claudius Stoffel to the dpa news agency. “But the critique comes from the broad middle of the Church, and people expect that we engage it.” Stoffel is convinced that the archbishop of Freiburg and president of the German Bishops’ Conference, Robert Zollitsch, will join in this dialogue.

UPDATE: 293 clergymen have signed on as of 3-09-11. The diocesan “Pressestelle,” in answer to a query, reports that there are 477 priests in active service and 410 retired, of which the vast majority help out regularly.

The list of supporting priests and deacons is here.

43 comments

  1. These would be the same Priests presiding over the biggest exodus from the Church in Europe.
    Out of the frying pan, into the fire.

  2. If we want to do that kind of sloppy discrediting by association, I could point out that the Catholic percentage of Austria climbed from 1945 until 1976, and then began to decline in the late 70s until today, and propose that liturgical reform, before the council and especially in the 1960s, brought in more Catholics, but the beginning of JP2’s papacy set it on decline.

    Just so I’m not misunderstood: I’m not arguing that. I don’t think associations prove anything, neither in the above case nor in what Kenny Purdie wrote.

    Rather, I think the issues are the issues. Disimissing them in the manner of Kenny Purdie will not make them go away.

    awr

  3. Fr. Anthony, do you agree that this “comes from the broad middle”? I’m not sure he means the same thing I would mean by that phrase. I’m still confused about what exactly they are calling for. Is it really a demand for a whole slew of sudden and sweeping changes, as has been rather simplistically portrayed by much of the Catholic press, or are they just trying to get a conversation going? Reading the “appeal” itself, it actually sounds more like the former, but I would think that theologians and clergy would be well aware that the Catholic Church has its own modus operandi that doesn’t tend to move at that kind of pace. And I’m trying to say this as neutrally as possible, in the belief that it’s a modus operandi that has its positives and negatives, and the nuances of this are too often lost in our ecclesiological polemics.

    I hope that this is fundamentally about dialogue. That would be embodying, I believe, the best understanding of church tradition: an ongoing conversation across temporal and cultural loci, a continuity that is both rooted and in motion.

    1. Julia, these are excellent questions and I’m afraid I don’t have the answer. I’d like to think that they want to start a conversation, and I doubt that they expect a whole slew of sweeping changes to happen immediately. But I can’t speak for them. My gut tells me, FWIW, that there must be a fair amount of built-up frustration for theologians and clergy to issue such a pointed statement. Wish I knew more.
      awr

      1. 189 clergy in one diocese seems like a lot to me. I’m just wondering why Badische Zeitung says its ’15’ here…

        http://www.badische-zeitung.de/deutschland-1/freiburger-geistliche-starten-eigenen-aufruf-fuer-theologen-memorandum–41447056.html

        —15 Priester der Diözese Freiburg, darunter Dompfarrer Claudius Stoffel, haben sich in die Diskussion um die Lage der katholischen Kirche eingeschaltet. Sie werben für das liberale Theologen-Memorandum – und sehen sich damit auf einer Linie mit ihrem Erzbischof——

        What do you think? Hat das Bild die Wahrheit?

        189-174=15

        GA

      2. Obviously the number is growing gradually. When I put up the post it was 188, then another signed on so I changed it to 189. Obviously that newspaper reported on the story at an earlier stage of development.

        Really, if you want to discredit the report, you’ll have to do better.

        The petition signers are listed publicly for anyone to see – see the link.

        awr

  4. I on the other hand think that everything is interlinked and associated with everything else.Little stands alone, there is always cause and effect. It seems to me the more liberal the Church becomes, the more members she loses.
    One need look only to the traditional orders, flourishing everywhere. A BBC programme ( not very well made) but telling nevertheless, brought that home to me recently. It was called “Nuns aloud”
    Its all very well from Church professionals telling us what they think we want. In my experience the person in the pew needs certainty in this incrreasingly uncertain world.

    1. Your meme about traditional orders flourishing as if that is the answer does not hold up to any type of scrutiny or facts:

      From Rev. Joe Komonchak at dotCommonweal on TLM/EF across the world:

      http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/?p=12164

      Yes, it may appeal to a very, very small group but it is not the answer for the church.

      Tidbit: “….it would seem that it is in a very minute number of places that the unreformed rite is being used. By the way, the national episcopates were asked by Pope Benedict to submit a report on the matter three years after the motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum, went into effect – these are pending”

      Another Commonweal article addressed this:

      Dean Hoge & James Davidson’s “Mind the Gap: The Return of the Lay-Clerical Divide”, November 2007.

      http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/mind-gap-0.

      Tidbit: “Rome is moving in one direction while most Catholics are moving in the opposite one.”

    2. “It seems to me the more liberal the Church becomes, the more members she loses.”

      Just as those old “conservatives”: Leo X, Pius V, and Clement VII presided over the greatest expansion of the Church? Or the other popes during and following the aftermath of the 30 Years War perhaps?

  5. Just an observation Father. If associations do not prove anything, and you say you are not arguing that. For some reason you felt the need to mention decline in JP 2 s pontificate, and liturgical reform brought in more faithfull. You could just have mentioned dates…….

  6. I don’t know what these priests are talking about – these issues have been discussed for 30 years or more. I conclude that they must dislike is that the Church’s position has not changed. But it has been discussed to death and nobody’s going to sing or talk any new Church into being. The German theologians’ position is more nuanced than made out in places but seems to contain nothing new.

    1. The hierarchy’s position has not changed. But the gap between the hierarchy is young laypeople is so unbelievably huge, it’s now beyond crisis or disaster proportions. Ignoring these people, or dismissing their concerns as “old,” doesn’t help us get beyond the crisis in my view.

      Note that in some cases the hierarchy’s position hasn’t changed because they say it can’t. In other cases they admit that their position could change, but they don’t want to change it now.

      In any event, I am convinced in my heart that stronger assertions of authority-from-above will not help, and in fact it will make the problem worse and strengthen the opposition. See Egypt. See Tunisia. Totally different situations, I know… and yet, I believe it says something about the human spirit in our day.

      awr

      1. Father, the gap between the hierarchy and my 82 year old father is fast approaching a crisis! When my mother was dying last December, no one asked for a priest because their current pastor had so alienated them.

        Their faith in God is absolute, their faith in the clergy, less so.

        I feel sorry for the good priests out there.

  7. If a symptom persists for 30 years or 300, always prompting the same diagnosis, it is time to treat the disease. But I agree that the German priests are boringly unoriginal and unimaginative. Martin Luther drew on a laundry list of complaints that was very old and tired, but he gave them a revolutionary new slant. We surely need something similar today.

  8. Nothing is as threatening to bishops as layfolk just gathering on their own to talk and share information and shed light where light is not abundant. If VOTF had stuck to that instead of trying to work from a top-down agenda, it might have been more successful. Grandiosity, however well intentioned, is usually an obstacle to progress. I know how scared many are that they won’t accomplish much without a vision to guide them, but Catholics need to spend more time listening to each other before trying to discern and define a vision. I don’t think that step can be skipped. There’s no instant gratification in this work, and none of us will live to reap the grains of the plants we sow.

  9. Julia and Ken do not seem to believe that sudden radical change can happen in Catholicism. In fact it can, by papal or conciliar fiat. But what I would like to see is a massive movement of change from below. The people must express the sensus fidelium. It is a step in the right direction that priests, so long silent, are suddenly speaking up in Ireland, Australia, Germany.

    1. I also sense from these developments a growing hierarchical estrangement from Rome. These theologians aren’t isolated in some vacuum. Their actions, taken together with the revolt of the younger generations who’ve left or are leaving the Church, aren’t unusual in the history of any mass movement. Especially,where people view the senior decision-making apparatus as sclerotic, ossified, or just plain unresponsive. The energy for change and reform, no matter how ill-advised or premature it may be now starts at the bottom. This gives it even greater thrust forward.
      Princes , kings, and popes can impose a state church, but the spread of an institution on the scale of Protestantism in Britain and Europe, for example resembled a wildfire because of the ideas emanating from the university level and among those who mastered the printing press and the publication of pamphlets. With the internet and Facebook, just think of the possibilities.

      1. I see the history differently. Early Protestantism was typically imposed on the people by local nobility be they the northern German princes or King Henry VIII. Initial changes were often gradual. England is a good example of gradual change in local worship practices.
        I agree that the energy for reform often emanates from outside the “the establishment”. The new liturgical movement, the energy for the reform we now are experiencing, had its genesis outside of the liturgical bureaucracy which is probably part of the reason why so many of yesterday’s liturgical leaders are unhappy with it.

  10. I agree with Karl Saur –bullying groups impatinet for power are not what we need. Change from below must come through wide sharing and consultation among the laity (and lower clergy) and through prayer.

  11. I would like to give these men, my brothers in the clergy, the benefit of the doubt, but I can’t. In my admittedly limited experience, people who want to dialogue on matters (some of which the Church authorities have said are not up for discussion) aren’t interested in true dialogue. They have made up their minds on these issues. Pleas for dialogue appear to me to just be a front for continued dissent.

  12. Michael, you sound like a young priest — I used to talk like that once. 189 priests sound like the entire diocese of Freiburg, which is by no means a hotbed of liberalism and what our neo-stalinists call dissent. And if priests are saying these shocking things, what do you think the laity are saying???

    1. Father O–189 priests sound like the entire diocese of Freiburg,–

      Right! that’s why I wonder if all the signature’s come from the same diocese…..

      my diocese has about half that many priests!!

      1. You can check the parish names. I spent 2 months in a parish in that diocese in 1979 — it is very big, in a very Catholic part of Germany. Among its famous priests are the late Bernhard Welte, philosopher and friend of Heidegger, and his disciple Bernhard Casper.

    2. As a matter of fact, Joe, I’ve been in enough parishes to know that not all the people in a diocese or parish think like their activist pastors.

      I’m sure that these same priests are stirring up the faithful in their care. Some agree because they believe the same thing; others agree because Father said so; others don’t agree.

      1. Is it not equally likely that the priests are belatedly responding to lay outrage? People try to blame the Humanae Vitae debacle on “dissenting” priests, whereas in fact it was a lay reaction.

  13. To the proponents of “top-down” and “bottom-up” perspectives, I want to say one thing: we ALL need each other. Gerald Schlabach sums up eloquently what I believe about possibilities for church reform (and about false dichotomies):

    “Too often in church history, we have chosen one option
    at the expense of the other: messy Pentecostal vibrancy versus institutional continuity; free-church participation by all members versus accountability to longstanding apostolic traditions. The fact is, the renewal movements in the church with the most lasting impact are those that have joined catholicity-from-below with catholicity-from-above.”

    Dialogue at all levels is a vital part of the living process of tradition, and loyal dissent is by no means an oxymoron; in a sense it is the lifeblood of the church, and on one level it’s what we’re all doing right now.

    And incidentally, regarding the proverbial People In The Pews, I’m not sure the prototypically average Catholic actually exists. Just take the range of comments on here as a case in point.

  14. @Bill de Haas.
    The link you provided did not mention traditional orders, just the numbers of traditional Masses.
    On that subject. I can tell you why there are not more. The local Bishops will not allow it. We have personal experience of this in our Diocese. We even had a meeting with the Bishop, where we felt he might allow at least an occasional mass in the EF. But he was persuaded otherwise by elements in the Diocese. We have now written to Rome. Our last hope.

    1. Ditto in my neck of the woods. The people, desire, and resources exist in my city to have a vibrant well-attended weekly EF that in no way would negatively affect any current Mass or bother anyone. The only thing keeping it from happening is the local clergy who were formed under a former bishop who was hostile towards the EF back in the dark indult days.

  15. For the larger picture: the theologian’s “appeal” is not the only one, another “petition”, pointing into quite other directions has been signed by a lot of people as well. And not everybody wants to sign petitions, and signing can be done on various motives, you don’t always agree with everything in an appeal.- Anyhow, there is need for reform, maybe “change”, and quite an upheaval among many catholics. But there is also a great portion of insecurity about what to really do now in a very profound crisis of the church. It has emerged over decades, but is now at a point where it can no longer be explained away, and where it gets painful.- There have also been prominent voices from theologians who have not signed, and a larger article by Walter Card Kasper in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. -All of this has to be mentioned as well if one wants to picture the discussion here in Germany.

  16. Tidbit: “Rome is moving in one direction while most Catholics are moving in the opposite one.”

    Yes, it is sad. And once they have wandered far enough away from Rome, they will have the shocking epiphany that they are no longer in the Church.

    1. And if you take this to the limit, only the higher clergy will be left, and then THEY will have the shocking epiphany that THEY are no longer in the Church.

      Wasn’t it Newman who once said: “Without the laity, the hierarchy would look rather foolish”?

  17. Christoph Berchtold :
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    Christoph Berchtold :

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    For the larger picture: the theologian’s “appeal” is not the only one, another “petition”, pointing into quite other directions has been signed by a lot of people as well. And not everybody wants to sign petitions, and signing can be done on various motives, you don’t always agree with everything in an appeal.- Anyhow, there is need for reform, maybe “change”, and quite an upheaval among many catholics. But there is also a great portion of insecurity about what to really do now in a very profound crisis of the church. It has emerged over decades, but is now at a point where it can no longer be explained away, and where it gets painful.- There have also been prominent voices from theologians who have not signed, and a larger article by Walter Card Kasper in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. -All of this has to be mentioned as well if one wants to picture the discussion here in Germany.

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    Your comment is…

  18. “So as in Ireland it is a minority of Priests.”

    Your arithmeticmay be faulty — 191 priests is unlikely to be a minority in the archdiocese of Freiburg.

    “I am beginning to think that perhaps there are people in The Church who belong Elsewhere.”

    A most Christian thought, to be, sure.

  19. It may be faulty. But in 2006 the last year stats were produced there were 1,216 priests in that Archdiocese. A Christian thought Father? Yes indeed, if people are so unhappy where they are, perhaps they need to be elswhere, to a form of worship and Church structure more suited to their needs. But its not up to me to judge the thoughts of others. We have freewill.

  20. Father O–You can check the parish names. I spent 2 months in a parish in that diocese in 1979 — it is very big,—

    you can say that again! I looked it up. The Freiburg Archdiocese has over 1,400 priests and deacons!
    189 would be almost 200% of ours , but it is 14% of theirs.

  21. No, actually, the percentage of dissenters are not significant enough to cause a blip on the radar screen of the Church. And “we” don’t “need” each other. 1/12 of Jesus’ apostles dissented from the priesthood. He was saddened by this, we can be sure. However that is why he came to save the “many”. Some choose to leave and it is their right and free will to do so.

    And the truth is, if only a handful are left, in the end, holding to the faith, it will be that small remnant that will be the Church.

    dico vobis quia cito faciet vindictam illorum verumtamen Filius hominis veniens putas inveniet fidem in terra

  22. FWIW, I was in Germany the other week, and talking to a Daughter of Charity who is working as a pastoral assistant in a parish. I was surprised by just how radicalised a sister like her had become. She told me that most funerals were now taken by the pastoral assistants, drawing on a book produced with episcopal approval by a mainstream publishing house. Only the priests use the official book, ‘in a language which the people don’t understand’–and most parishioners were preferring to have their funerals conducted by the pastoral assistant who had been working with the family. This might put the reports of how the German bishops have dealt with the funeral rite in another context. Certainly, my experience of Germany suggests that–with the exception of some few integrists (as documented by Berger)–the broad mass of laity have lost patience with hierarchical foot-dragging. I suspect there’s some truth in the charge that this is because their faith has weakened–but only some. There is much energy, commitment and sanity among German Catholics–and it is frustrated by official intransigence.

  23. @Fr Roff on the 19th.
    I do not think anyone is trying to discredit theses reports. We are trying to get a sense of the proportion of Priests that are unhappy. it would seem by the numbers, a small(ish) minority. Both in Germany and Ireland. Two counties that that have had more problems than most. So I suppose its understandable.

  24. Where is the logic in your comment, KP? Are you saying that because Ireland has had a lot of problems, and we have had, that you would expect a minority of priests to express their unhappiness about the new missal? Last week two bishops washed the feet of victims of clerical sexual abuse. And rightly so. Last month the bishops, through their spokesperson, have washed their hands of the concerns of Irish priests about the new missal. One of the two aforemention bishops apologised for Rome’s role in the sexual abuse disaster. A similar role is now being played by Rome in the new translation disaster. In both instances the local bishops have felt accountable, primarily to those who appointed them, namely, Rome, rather than to the people for whom they exercise their ministry in the first place, and without whom they would have no role. The priests’ association is now taking a stand where the bishops have failed. And their action deserves support. I would suggest that the reason the numbers in the Association are not as high as they could be is because the majority of priests in the country are demoralised almost beyond hope.

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