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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A German Deacon Speaks

The story about the 143 German theologians' letter to their bishops asking for dialogue and consideration on non-negotiable issues such as women priests and homosexual marriage, as well as non-dogmatic ones like priestly celibacy, continues to roll along the Innerwebs.

Articles at Commonweal and National Catholic Distorter highlight that the number of theologians signing onto the original letter has increased to over 220. Which, of course, makes them giddy and gleeful. And some of the commenters at the Distorter site are looking to the recent Egyptian protests as inspiration on how to get things to change in Rome - so it seems that my parody piece from several days ago was nearly spot on. For instance, one person wrote:
What we really need is a complete overthrow! If Egypt can do it why not Catholics? The Callous of heart have ruled too long. The greedy have made us poor. The power hungry have shamed us. The repressed perversions have made us evil. The autocrats throw us out for serving the needy and marginalized!
Here's another:
From the example we have just seen acted out in Egypt with the dictatorial figure of Mubarek being overthrown, Ratzinger the Despot had best take notice.
These people are delusional.

And I say, big whoop. There is no groundswell of support for such change. It exists in the minds of folks who reject the authority of the Church and its divine charter, and persists in the echo chambers of their dissenting publications. These few whiners and complainers fail to take into account the faithful in Germany and Europe - along with everyone else around the world like them - who passionately support Church teaching and have the bishops' backs.

A German deacon named Alipius, who blogs at Klosterneuburger Marginalien and is a regular reader of AoftheA, has asked me to point out that a counter-petition is circulating in the German Catholic blogosphere:
"...As a counter-measure to their "Memorandum" the German Catholic Blogosphere (which is largely in support of the Church and the Pope) started an online-petition to call for proper Catholic teaching and practice. We want to make this widely known and I simply want to ask you if you'd be willing to write a few lines about this and link to the page. The page is here: Petition Pro Ecclesia
Naturally, the petition is in German, and Alipius was kind enough to translate the petition for me and all you readers -
1.) Please meet the demands of the politicians, theologians, members of the press and others head on. Catholics who constantly have to face emissions like these in their everyday life need the visible and audible support of their shepherds.

2.) Please give a clear signal of support to the priests and those preparing for priesthood that the celibacy, the form of life they are preparing for, is not some old-fashioned phase-out model but the form of life proper to the priest. Especially now, in these hard times, priests need the support of their bishops.

3.) In your role as shepherd, please ensure that - with all due respect for the necessary liberty of science - research and teaching of the theological faculties and institutes happens in accordance with the teaching of the church. We need lecturers and professors that substantiate the faith in an intellectually honest way and have something to say to our secularized society within the scientific discourse at the universities.

4.) Please show responsibility also for the students in all areas of theology (candidates for the priesthood, prospective teachers, pastoral and community assistants). By appointing for them appropriate pastors please give them a clear signal that studying theology only makes sense with the church but never against the church.

5.) Please keep an eye on the liturgy in your dioceses. See to it that liturgical experiments come to an end. We, the faithful, have a right to a liturgy as it is determined within the rites of the church. The priest is not lord over the liturgy but its servant. Liturgy is an expression of the unity of the church. Whoever denounces the unity of prayer in the church, endangers the unity of the church herself.

6.) Please clearly acknowledge marriage and family in the spirit of the church. With all due respect to the decision of the individual to chose another form of life, it has to be made clear in society that the Christian marriage is a sacrament. Same-sex and non-marital relationships can never be put on an equal footing with marriage.

7.) The advertised dialogue [note: between the bishops and the theologians] must not be between the upper levels of two ivory towers. It is a good thing, to speak to each other. But the foundations of the church must not be subject to negotiation.

Some of the phrasing and idioms gets jumbled in the translation, but the general gist is there: they want the bishops to hold fast to Church teaching and be bold about it. Hopefully their petition, which they intend to present to the bishops prior to their March conference, will overwhelm the numbers of the neo-Protestant Catholyc theologians and their supporters. And it seems they're well on their way, because as of Tuesday afternoon, over 3,500 people have signed the petition.

The bishops' conference is not the end game for these theologians and their supporters - they're aiming for the Holy Father's visit in September 2011, perhaps in order to embarrass him or try to force a showdown of some kind. Not that I'm worried about that - the Holy Father knows where he stands, and I'm sure he knows where these theologians stand as well. It won't be a showdown as much as it will be a smackdown.

Authentic, substantial renewal and growth in the Church occurs when there is fidelity and adherence to the Gospel, tradition and doctrine. Pray that the German bishops, as well as the Church in Europe, realizes that and stands firm. And if you feel so inclined, sign the petition too.