“Renewing the foundations”

After the open letter to Cardinal Reinhard Marx with demands for "courageous reforms", other well-known Catholics join the call. They are particularly focused on the structures of the church.

"When a foundation starts to crack, you can't save the house with repairs to the facade, you have to renew the foundations," writes Minister of State for Culture Monika Grutters (CDU) in Die Zeit (Thursday). She appealed to the German bishops: "Get to the root causes of the crumbling bonds!" Former Bundestag President Wolfgang Thierse (SPD) also called for "necessary church reforms" in the newspaper.

Grutters referred to dwindling ties to the church. "And now also the extent of abuse by Catholic clergy: If not this shock is understood as a fundamental crisis – what then?"

According to Grutters, women in ordained ministry "would not only stabilize parish life, but with more women in this male-dominated church, so many cases of abuse would probably not have been possible". If celibacy for priests were no longer mandatory, that would be "such a great relief for many people, clergy and laity alike," the Christian Democrat said.

Church "not a party with a unified opinion"

According to Thierse, the German Bishops' Conference is "at odds on the subject of abuse – and less courageous than the Pope allows". The church is "not a party with a unified opinion". He wondered, however, where "the immediate consequences of the multiple sexual abuse and its cover-up" remained.

He said he would like to see the bishops' conference lead the way here: "An end to cover-ups, personnel consequences, handing over abuse cases to the state judiciary, real separation of powers also in the church, i.e. independent jurisdiction".

Many German bishops "apparently still do not see the urgency of the abuse clarification and the resulting necessary church reforms," criticized Thierse. Both are progressing too slowly. "For an insincere and unclear line of the bishops will convince neither the people of the church nor the general public." Churches must show how to deal with such crimes 'with consequences', he said. They must set a positive example to society.

Petition in support of the open letter

The group "We are Church" launched a petition in support of the open letter. In view of the worldwide meeting of bishops in the Vatican on the abuse scandal in the church at the end of February, Marx needed the "broadest possible support" of Catholics in Germany, it said.

The open letter of nine prominent Catholics to the chairman of the German bishops' conference was printed at the weekend in the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung". Background is the planned meeting on the subject of abuse at the Vatican. Among other things, the signatories call for "genuine separation of powers," an opening of the ordained ministry to women, the abolition of mandatory celibacy, and a new sexual morality including a "just evaluation" of homosexuality.

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