The view is very varied: to the east and south the Rhine bridges to Mannheim, to the north the industrial plants of BASF, to the west the foothills of the Palatinate Forest. "I have never lived as comfortably as I do here," says Friedhelm Hengsbach. This is the top floor of the Heinrich Pesch House in Ludwigshafen, a Catholic educational center in the Speyer diocese. The economist, who turns 75 on Sunday, lives in a community with three other Jesuits, "a kind of men's commune.
By his own admission, his style of work is not much different from that in Frankfurt Sankt Georgen, where the religious taught Christian social science and business and social ethics from 1985 until his retirement in 2005, and for a decade and a half headed the Oswald von Nell Breuning Institute for Business and Social Ethics, named after the doyen of Catholic social teaching. Hengsbach is still much in demand and on the road, he publishes, gives lectures and interviews.
At the same time, Hengsbach argues for social justice, as he has for decades. He is currently intensively involved with the financial markets, "whose speculative attacks are running riot on currency, food and bond markets". He sees the "war between private capital power and democratically legitimized states" as the core of the crisis. For Hengsbach, the conflict between private interests and public interest. Digitalization of financial markets provides "an additional push for acceleration". It is about quarterly reports and annual profits, not about sustainability.
Debates within the church
The long-standing member of Attac's scientific advisory board is not only sharply critical of the social policies of the CDU/CSU, FDP, SPD and Greens, Hengsbach also repeatedly intervenes in debates within the church: For every Christian becomes untrustworthy if he is committed to justice in the world, but "a swamp of unjust conditions spreads in his own store.".
That is why he wants reforms of the church "at the head and the limbs": a better position for women, a different sexual morality, the abolition of compulsory celibacy, the participation of all Christians in the appointment of pastors, bishops and popes, who, according to his conception, should also hold their offices only for a limited period of time.
Hengsbach also wants to abolish the church tax and demands that the churches, as employers, fit into the general labor law. The Jesuit knows that he does not make friends everywhere with his positions. He goes so far as to say that the church as an institution is "infested with structures of sin. Hengsbach, who joined the order after graduating from high school and studied in Munich, in Buren in Westphalia, in Sankt Georgen and Bochum, sees himself in his political commitment "in the succession of Nell-Breuning, according to whom commitment in faith goes hand in hand with social commitment. The one is an expression of the other."
The native of Dortmund, whose heart beats rather for Schalke 04, represents his positions scientifically soberly. Even though he attests that his church "cannot claim to make the cause of God visible". Does Hengsbach see himself as a rebel? No, he ares, and seems confident: numerous Catholics share his opinion. Much is still happening under the covers, but perhaps a change is just beginning. He also likes this view.