How capable of reform is the church?? © Yes Crispy (shutterstock)
Sociologist Hans Joas argues for clear leadership and control structures within the Catholic Church. Hierarchical structures are still important, he said, but a plethora of decentralized structures must also emerge.
His ideal would be "checks and balances" at all levels, from parishes to dioceses to the universal church, sociologist Hans Joas said Monday at an online conference of the Catholic Academy "Die Wolfsburg" in Mulheim an der Ruhr, Germany. The hierarchical structures would have to guarantee the church's ability to act in accordance with its ideals. However, they should not be understood or practiced as domination.
Joas argued for global centrality when it comes to the fundamental teachings of the faith. At the same time, he said, there is a need for an abundance of decentralized latitude in all those areas "in which, after all, Christianity has already been unmistakably shaped by the spirit of certain epochs and cultures". These included, for example, questions of homosexuality and the role of women.
Human rights deficits
With regard to the observance of human rights, Thomas Soding, professor of New Testament at the Ruhr University of Bochum, gave the church a "more modest" assessment. In some cases, he said, human rights deficits are even exaggerated theologically because they are supposedly due to the difference between church and state. This is "bad theology," according to Soding. It leads to "that sacralization of power which hides behind the mask of holiness and contributes to abuse as well as to its cover-up".
According to the professor, it is under-complex to speak only of separation of powers in canon law. It is only sufficient if one can also speak of a division of powers: "For if the whole of life is shared in the church, the whole of faith, then surely also the power, the authority, which is exercised in the name of Jesus."
Capacity for democracy
Ultimately, it was a question of the church's ability to be democratic and modern, explained Johanna Rahner, professor of dogmatics at the University of Tubingen. "To recognize that and still turn the tide, time is running out – if we don't, it will be the end of the Catholic Church as we know it today."The basic principles of the modern democratic state were part of the core business of church, making its structural deficiencies all the more fatal.
Separation of jurisdiction and ordination
Norbert Koster, professor of medieval and modern church history at the University of Munster, pleaded for a stronger separation of legal authority and ordained ministry. Before the 19. Century this had been natural practice. "I believe that the bishops must continue to pursue the delegation of jurisdiction," said the Catholic theologian.
The symposium "Power, Participation and Separation of Powers – What is Possible in the Catholic Church", organized by the "Wolfsburg", will be held until Tuesday?" with about 110 participants. The event is designed as an international conference on the reform process of the Catholic Church in Germany – the Synodal Way.