“Church is not a political do-gooder institution”

While Joachim Gauck and Angela Merkel are two Protestants at the helm of the Federal Republic, the influence of Catholics in German politics is declining rapidly. But to blame the official church for this, this reproach rejects the social ethicist and Dominican priest Ockenfels in the our site interview resolutely rejected.

Interviewer: Gone are the days of Adenauer and Kohl. Instead, we now have a Protestant dual leadership in the state. Is political Catholicism at an end?

Ockenfels: Political Catholicism was still quite well anchored in the CDU up to Helmut Kohl. But the times have passed a little bit over it and this has different reasons. For example, it also depends on the fact that our Catholic associations, i.e. the associations such as KAB, Bund katholischer Unternehmer, KKV and what they were all called, that they have pretty much disappeared in the course of time and actually no longer have very much to say about the policy-making process. It is not the task of bishops to dictate to politicians, but Catholic lay associations should play a role here as mediators, because the laity are the real experts in political matters.
Interviewer: Yet there are still Catholics who are politically active: Norbert Lammert, Wolfgang Thierse and Annette Schavan, to name but a few. Is this not enough on the part of politics?

Ockenfels: Sometimes one has the impression that the knowledge of the Catholic social doctrine is rather atrophied and that especially the Central Committee, where the politicians are organized, the Catholic politicians of all parties, is more concerned about the structural problems of the Catholic Church and not so much about the need for reform of society, which is really staggering from one crisis to another and is in urgent need of orientation. It would be necessary – and this also applies to Mr. Geibler – to make an effort again with the texts and orientations of the Catholic social teachings and to have knowledge here and to pass on orientations and concretizations for the German conditions.

Interviewer: The Catholic Church used to be very strongly represented in our politics, especially with its social teaching. But according to Geibler, the church has been infected by neo-liberalism and no longer brings any impulses, but preaches "de-worldliness" instead. What is the reason for this decline in relevance??
Ockenfels: So in this analysis Geibler is quite wrong, as he mixes up many things in general. I would very much recommend him to make a study of seniors, in Trier for example, in order to take note of the catholic social teachings and their limits and possibilities. On the one hand, it has been the case that in Germany the Catholic associations have pretty much disappeared and the Catholic so-called "official church" could no longer compensate for this lack. But now it is the case that it is not the task of the magisterium to intervene here concretely in politics. They are supposed to provide orientation, which is also urgently needed, ethical and meaningful orientation. And there you can't say that the bishops have gone underground. We really have very competent people, here, for example, Cardinal Marx, the Archbishop of Munich and a whole series of other bishops, who certainly speak out. But you can't expect them to prescribe the CDU's program or to find a suitable solution to every problem. The church is not a party substitute and certainly not a quasi-union that can be saddled with the solution of all concrete social problems.
Interviewer: According to Geibler, the decline of political Catholicism in Germany is the fault of Vatican politics with a misguided focus on sexual-ethical ies in the past, but also with a "spiritualization of the gospel" by Pope Benedict. Agree?
Ockenfels: Here, too, one can ame that Mr. Geibler has a deficient relationship to Catholic social teaching. He has probably not read the texts. And especially the speeches that the Pope gave here in Germany showed that he stood up for natural law as the basis for human dignity and human rights. This was the great speech he gave in the Bundestag. And what he said afterwards in Freiburg about the so-called "de-worldliness" amounts to the fact that the church is not primarily a political institution for the improvement of the world, but first of all has to cope with the crisis of faith here in Germany and in Europe and should take countermeasures and then also gain a certain distance from the trends of the times. Unworldliness means, after all, that one must first enter into a critical distancing relationship with history and society before one can pass judgment at all. And from there it results that one, if one can judge this society correctly after qualities and after negative, that one can recommend to it also then to adhere again to certain principles such as solidarity, such as public welfare or such as the Subsidiaritat. All this has pretty much disappeared from the consciousness even of the mass media.

The interview was conducted by Aurelia Plieschke (our site)

Background: In an interview with "Cicero online" published on Tuesday, former CDU Secretary General Heiner Geibler accused the Catholic Church in Germany of political insignificance. At the same time, he accused the church of a "misguided narrowing of sexual-ethical ies," which has led to a radicalization of these ies among the clergy.

In broad areas of social policy, peace policy and social policy, a modern party could not adopt the theses and dogmas of the church, he said. "It would lose its ability to gain a majority as a result," said the Catholic and brief member of the Jesuit order. "The Vatican completely ignores the fact that the Gospel has a political dimension in all areas of society. This leads to the fact that the Catholic Church no longer plays a role in society."

Specifically, the social politician said that the Catholic official church and its official theology are in the "global intellectual debate about a new
He said that the "world economic and social order" had not provided any impetus.

"We would need today an international, socio-ecological market economy. But the concepts for this are no longer supplied by the church, but come from the political sphere, rather still from the Protestant, but no longer from the Catholic church." This is all the more surprising, he said, because the church since the end of the 19. He said that the social doctrine developed at the beginning of the twentieth century had become the basis of the social market economy after the Second World War.

Also with the discussion over the international financial transaction tax nothing is to be heard from the church, so Geibler. "Wouldn't the church have to accompany such a development theologically?? That is what many people expect, but the Catholic official church has signed itself off from human life."

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