German Bishops’ Worldly Priorities


National Catholic Register, 2 May 2018

One of the most counterintuitive aspects of this papacy is the emphasis given to German perspectives.

A delegation of German bishops will meet Thursday with heads of Vatican departments to discuss their proposal to admit to Holy Communion the Protestant spouses of Catholics, under certain circumstances.

Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich favors the idea, with a majority of German bishops backing him. Cardinal Rainer Woelki of Cologne considers the idea contrary to the Catholic doctrine on the Eucharist and so opposes it, along with a half-dozen other German bishops. Rome will now attempt to sort it out.

The meeting highlights one of the most counterintuitive aspects of this pontificate — the emphasis given to German priorities and personnel. There can be no doubt that Pope Francis has a preferential option for the poor, that he desires a “poor Church for the poor.” He is also, in biography and pastoral approach, a man of the “peripheries.”

Yet at the very heart of his pontificate are the priorities and personnel of the most worldly local Church on earth, wealthy due to the German church tax. It is hemorrhaging people,  closing parishes and absorbed in internal Church matters.

It is not just money that makes the institutional Church in Germany worldly. It is the attitude it takes toward money.

In 2012, the German bishops decreed that anyone who opted out of paying the church tax would be barred from the sacraments and not be able to have a Catholic wedding or funeral. It’s a far cry from Pope Francis decrying those parish priests who insist on fees that make it difficult for parishioners to have baptisms or weddings.

Indeed, the current proposal of the German bishops would mean that a Protestant wife of a Catholic husband might be able to receive Holy Communion, but the husband himself would not if he had opted out of paying the church tax.

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