Caritas President Peter Neher sees room for reform in church labor law. He says it's about striking a balance between the Catholic Church's non-negotiable esteem for the sacrament of marriage and the reality of people's lives.
"We are, after all, working on a further development of church labor law that tries to do equal justice to the proprium of the church's mission and the individual life courses of employees," Neher said.
Church must remain credible
The head of the Catholic welfare association stressed that the church must remain credible. However, the ecclesiastical profile of an institution is not only reflected in the affiliation of the employees to the church and in their personal way of life. "It shows in the devotion to the people who need help and support, in the professionalism of the work."
Also important, he says, are the spiritual offerings for employees and the Christian rituals that characterize the routine in church facilities. "We deal very intensively with the question of what facilities and what employees need in order to experience the ecclesiality of a ministry and its spiritual foundations."
Bishops to discuss reforms to church labor law on Monday
At their Permanent Council in Wurzburg on Monday, the Catholic bishops will discuss reforms in church labor law, which differs significantly from the Works Custody Act. Thus, church employees are expected to conform to church beliefs and morals in their private lives as well. A violation of these obligations of loyalty – such as leaving the church, second civil marriage after divorce or homosexual cohabitation – can result in consequences under labor law, up to and including dismissal.
The bishops discuss, among other things, whether there can be a gradation of loyalty obligations depending on proximity to the church's proclamation mission. The Catholic Church is at 650.000 full-time employees one of the largest employers in Germany. Around 500.000 of them work for a Caritas company, i.e. in counseling services, care facilities, kindergartens or church hospitals.