“Getting an idea of what counts in life”

Bishop Georg Batzing © Andreas Arnold

Church and spirituality are in demand in the Corona crisis, according to the president of the German Bishops' Conference, Bishop Georg Batzing. In a newspaper interview, he also commented on abuse and other ies.

"I experience that there is a lot of prayer," said Batzing in an interview with the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung". Many people had reviewed their resolutions in the just ended Lent, for example, selectively to give up sweets, said the Limburg bishop. And many have "accepted what is now demanded of us: namely, the isolation, the distance, the renunciation of physical closeness, in order to protect those who are close to us and who are at risk."

The situation of celebrating church services without believers is "strange", Batzing added. "Liturgy is dialogue. Now we priests lack dialogue partners." Church services in digital transmission are a way to still stay connected with each other: "There have never been so many streamed church services as there are now."

He expects that the Corona crisis will bring about significant changes, the bishop explained. "I would be happy if this crisis would lead to more solidarity not only in Germany, but in all of Europe." In addition, he hopes "that we get a better idea of what counts in life. This often recedes into the background," Batzing said. In the midst of the crisis, Easter was a "point of hope" that made it tangible: "We can endure this because we know that life will blossom again."

Cover-up of abuse was "colossal mistake" by church

Bishop Georg Batzing has called the cover-up of abuse cases by clergymen a "colossal mistake". "The perspective at that time could not draw on the knowledge that we have today," he said in an interview with the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung". This is not an excuse, but must be considered.

Today it is known "what abuse does to children and young people," Batzing continued. "From today's perspective, it is no longer comprehensible that those affected were not heard and perpetrators were protected."In the past, on the other hand, both society and church representatives believed "that sexual tendencies could be treated and that abuse could be stopped. The victims' perspective was not in view." In retrospect, this is "very shameful," the bishop said. "Today we are further there from bitter insight."

Compensation payments

On the financing of compensation for pain and suffering to those affected, Batzing said the bishops' conference had "deliberately not chosen a uniform solution". He said he could understand if people objected to such payments being made from church tax funds. On the other hand, there is "not a cent in the assets of a diocese that does not belong to all church members. There are dioceses that have nothing else, especially in the East." First, the perpetrators should be held accountable, the bishop added – "but very many are no longer alive".

The bishops had agreed in early March to significantly higher payments to victims of abuse than before. According to the model, the church is guided by the civil law pain and suffering compensation table and corresponding court rulings. This currently means sums between 5.000 and 50.000 euros per case. At the same time, the church always wants to pay the sums "at the upper end of the discretionary range".

Must "jump over ditches" as church

The church can offer "orientation knowledge," according to the chairman of the German Bishops' Conference. In an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, he said that in order for people to accept this offer, the church would have to "jump over ditches. With many people, he said, the message is currently getting through that the church remains "with a prohibition morality" on the subject of sexual morality. "I would like to open that up," Batzing emphasized.

He also often hears from young people that they want to stay in the church, the Limburg bishop explained. "But then they say: If you're so slanted off the mark, then I can't do it anymore." This gap must be overcome, he said, "without developing a completely new doctrine.". One example, he said, is the church's position on same-sex relationships. "We've long been moving in moral theology toward saying that when genuine love and fidelity are lived out, we need to acknowledge that. People decide for themselves how to live anyway. Can we tell them that their union is under the blessing of God?"

Also the discussion about the role of women in the church is "not off the table", Batzing emphasized. The goal has not yet been reached with "pay, quotas, women in leadership positions".

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