Archbishop Heiner Koch on the 100th. Katholikentag © Harald Oppitz (KNA)
Tim Kurzbach © N.N.
At the Katholikentag in Leipzig, Berlin Archbishop Heiner Koch dampened hopes that the German bishops would quickly take a position on how to deal with families and partnerships that do not conform to the Catholic ideal.
"We need to reflect on this in peace," Koch said Friday at the 100. German Catholic Day in Leipzig. The members of the German Catholic Bishops' Conference, he said, agree in their perception of the reality of life for many Catholics, but not in their evaluation of it.
The chairman of the Diocesan Council of Catholics in the Archdiocese of Cologne, Tim-Oliver Kurzbach, criticized this clearly. Ies such as the treatment of remarried divorcees, the discrepancy between the reality of life and church teaching, and the treatment of homosexuals have been known for years. "It is time to speak plainly and to take concrete action," said Kurzbach, who is the mayor of Solingen for the SPD. There has been enough talk, said the lay representative. He urged the German bishops, "You have the option to act, then act also."
No universally valid regulation of the German bishops
Kurzbach was referring to the papal letter "Amoris laetitia," which Pope Francis published after two major family synods in early April. Pope Francis had avoided concrete guidelines for admitting remarried divorcees to communion, but had called for more realism and strengthened the freedom of conscience of individuals and local churches in countries.
By strengthening freedom of conscience, "Pope Francis is asking something of us," said Archbishop Koch, who had attended the Vatican Synod on the Family with the president of the bishops' conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, and Bishop Franz-Josef Bode (Osnabruck). There, too, "we are faced with major ies that we must address," said Koch.
In Koch's opinion, there should be no universal regulation by the German bishops, for example, on remarried divorcees: "I warn against regulating everything legally." Lay representative Kurzbach, on the other hand, called for "unity and clarity". The decision on how to deal with the faithful should not be left to individual pastors at the local level, he said at a discussion event "Between Doctrine and the World of Life. Partnership, Marriage, Sexuality after the Synod on the Family" at the Opera in Leipzig.
"We are on the way"
For the Central Committee of German Catholics, which organizes Katholikentag, Munster theology professor Dorothea Sattler took an intermediate position. Bishops should appoint trained experts in the regions who could talk to the faithful in difficult life situations. Koch announced he would take the proposal into the talks.
In principle, Sattler agreed with Koch's assessment that no resolutions are currently possible. "The questions have not yet been answered, we are on the way."