Today’s National Catholic Reporter breaks an amazing story:
“In our roles as theology professors we can no longer remain silent,” began 144 leading Catholic theologians from Germany, Switzerland and Austria in a bluntly frank open letter to the Roman Catholic hierarchy.
The letter was made public Feb. 3 and has since been published on the internet and quoted in major media.
Among other demands, the statement calls for ending celibacy requirements for priests, opening the priesthood to women, and in general introducing significantly more democracy into the church’s structures in the German-speaking world and beyond. “We feel that we have the responsibility to contribute to an authentic new beginning,” the theologians continue, referring to the “unparalleled crisis year of 2010.”
With the sex scandal rocking the German church, the major theologians of the country saw Catholics leaving the church in large numbers. As Europe grows more and more secular they clearly are looking to stem the wound.
What else do they call for? A large number of progressive reforms:
The religious scholars list a number of specific demands: more synodal structures at all levels of the church; the participation of laypeople in the choosing of priests and bishops; the inclusion of married males and females in the priesthood; the protection of individual rights and nurturing of a culture of rights within the church; and tolerance toward single, divorced, unmarried and gay people.
It will be interesting to see the response from the church’s hierarchy but already the German Bishop’s conference has signaled that they are open to dialogue but also note that several of the items listed are “in tension with the church’s core teaching.” But they haven’t closed the door to dialogue yet.
Wir sind Kirche (“We Are Church”), a grassroots reform organization is calling for a worldwide petition to support it. Let’s see where that leads us.
Crisis is always a moment of where things can turn around, or even simply turn anew. Perhaps the Germans may be shooting at clay pigeons here, but I think dialogue never ends up being fruitless even when one party doesn’t reach a conclusion or compromise that is hoped for.
So let us pray for both the theologians and bishops of Germany. Let us pray that they can listen to one another as brothers and sisters in Christ and may they come together to do what is best for the people of God and lead not only their country but other countries in their attempt at unity.
Read the entire story here.