The Pope’s ecclesiastical policies are “backward-looking” and suspected of trying to take the Church back to the pre-Second Vatican Council period.
As for the Church’s leaders, they
are “cut off from reality, reactionary and obstructionist.”
This is the opinion German faithful have of
Benedict XVI and the Catholic Church according to a study by Sinus
Institute and consulting agency MDG (which the German Church controls).
In-depth interviews were conducted with 100 Catholics from different
According to the study, which picks up on a similar
one carried out in 2005, German faithful are convinced that today’s
Church finds itself in a “desolate situation” and the most obvious
manifestation of this is the sex abuse scandal.
The authors of the study wrote that the scandal
seriously damaged the image of the Church, even in the eyes of the most
fervent Catholics, whose faith was deeply shaken. The scandal was seen
as confirmation of the Church’s “modernization deficit”.
The Church lost
a great deal of credibility not just as a result of the accusations of
paedophilia made against it but also because many believe it dealt with the abuse issue inadequately.
Internal dogma and rules that had been tacitly
accepted until about a year ago are now openly criticised by faithful.
Criticisms range from complaints about “discrimination against women”
and celibacy, to the condemnation of homosexuality, contraception and sex outside wedlock, to the marginalisation of lay people involved in Church life.
Another factor that is creating animosity, is the
organisational restructuring that is taking place in Germany, with a
number of parishes being merged because of the shortage in parish
priests, for example.
The study also shows the Church’s detachment from
the weakest sections of society: it would make no difference to the
lower social classes if the Church ceased to exist.
Despite their criticisms, however, faithful still
look to the Church for “spiritual guidance” and “meaning”.
of them do not want to lose their Catholic identity and few consider
leaving the Church.
So what do German faithful expect from the Church?
They want lay people involved in the Church to play a greater role;
they want more women in leadership roles; the possibility for women to
be ordained priests; the elimination of celibacy; a different attitude
towards sexuality and contraception; the sacraments to be administrated
to all Christians, regardless of their denomination or sexual identity;
less ostentation and less abuse of power and a greater focus on God’s
love and love for one’s neighbour.