God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Greta and the voice of the church

Listening to the debates about the now famous Greta – all the questions asked and criticism voiced, praises sung – I certainly have formed my own opinion but what really get me thoughtful is a complete other question I am asking myself: The hype around a topic which the Roman Catholic Church has on her agenda since ages – 1.2 billion faithful of this denomination were not able to make it a headline worldwide over decades. Why? Since ages the church is looking into the question of environment and protection of the creation.

Is it because of the social media possibilities alone? The means in our days to put your energy and dreams in tweets, Instagram, Facebook and other means of internet communication – triggering so the worldwide hype? Even if the real consequences of such a hype is still questionable – in Germany the amount of people flying is increasing despite protesting on a Friday for the future – the question remains: Why were 1.2 billion Catholics not able to bring a topic to the forefront?

Or is it that most Catholics did not care – that all the information, booklets, declaration of bishops and popes have no real voice anymore – maybe heard, but immediately put aside as impractical or far away from reality?

Or was it too prophetic – too early to really catch the eye of the public and those in charge of society and politics?

Whatever it is – I find it amazing how little impact a billion strong community has on essential questions of human mankind in our lifetime – and it seems to me so different from the old times where church was minting questions and values in a way, which lingers even today almost genetically in people. I sense changes we still not have realized with all the consequences for our institutions, for our life and that of our societies.

There is more to reflect …  signs of the times…

Filed under: Catholic Church, Reflection, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , ,

Catholic Church: mysticism and reality in the times of the abuse scandal

abuseA lot is written about the meeting of bishops in Rome on the topic of child abuse – and the reactions were as diverse as people seeing the problem with different eyes:
for some the conference was a milestone as for the first time the Catholic Church took on the monster of child abuse head on admitting the cancer spreading since a long time within its ranks. For others it was more of a talk shop and they would have expected clear-cut rules and regulations how to deal with the past, the presence and the future. Obviously the topic was and is also used by those wanting either to preserve or yearning for change in the church: for the latter, child abuse is only a consequence of clericalism and a hierarchy which seems to have a meaning in itself while for those wanting to preserve the might and power of the Catholic Church homosexuality within the clergy is the core element of triggering abuse.

For me there is no question that the exaggeration of heavenly powers for those up the hierarchy, the wish of protection of the good name of the church, the failing to acknowledge that mysticism of faith has to be based in the realities of the people, the choosing of bishops and cardinals who would just go blindly along with everything said and done from the top without hesitation, the neglect of the synodality of the church in favor of a medieval rigid papal and curial system as promoted by John-Paul II has fostered a climate where child abuse was condoned, covered up and for some even encouraged as the most what could happen was to be moved to another place with ample opportunities to continue the horrible deeds. Child abuse is the consequence of a church system which gave rise to clericalism in all forms and shapes.

It seems that not all got the message – looking at statements from Cardinal Burke and Brandmueller and judging by other statements of right-wing and so-called conservative people within the church child abuse is taken as the scenario to fight modern ideas. And obviously the all-present fight against homosexuality which seems to be the pinnacle of all woes the church is in according to this fraction of the church. Being in an almost all-out war for the direction of the Catholic Church for the years to come, the abuse of the abuse is a convenient tool to fight for the return of the “Holy Mother” to the good old times where hierarchy was clear and the laity obeyed without doubts. And that would leave us with some misguided priests – rotten apples – to be forced to leave so that  church business can continue as it has been since ages.

As much as I can understand the yearning for an environment clearly defined in a world which is so confusing; as much as I can understand the insecurity of so many brothers and sisters in this mad world of so many choices and fast developments – we as church have to be at the cross-road of mysticism and reality.

The reality is that life is developing as is our understanding of the world and of the meaning of life – church can only be relevant if it keeps up with this development by at the same time preserve the mystical and inner core of its message:
This world has a meaning, we are part of a divine plan which is so much bigger than we can think of. It means to keep the fire burning in our hearts and minds towards a future we only can believe in without knowing all the facts – love, hope and faith are the components of this mystical inner yearning which promises to make at the end sense of our journey on earth.

At all times the church has tried to spell out this hope, which for us Christians become human and manifest in Jesus, with the tools and the knowledge available at that time. Looking back in history the church was often at the forefront of academia and developments but it is human nature that success can make one getting more slow and luscious and often also unwilling to accept new insights which would contradict its chosen path. So we have to catch up on reality and insight – living and preaching within the realities of life today without losing this mystical component of our human inner being –  in our days often is seen in the spirituality of people lived outside of official churches.

Keeping the divine fire burning in every human being while traveling in the modern world with all the new knowledge and the constant changes in possibilities is an art  – but the only art possible to survive as a church. And it means to acknowledge, expose and correct the wrongs of the past and to work openly and transparent on the new way forward.

For the question of child abuse it means to look honestly and without any reservation at the crimes committed or allowed to be committed, to hold those having failed responsible without regard to position or standing in the church and to make sure that this never happens again. There is, besides the deeds of single people a systematic failure we also have to acknowledge which means that we have to re-work aspects of the “system”church without betraying the core message of unconditional love of God which allows for life to flourish and develop. The questions of how we deal with sexuality in all forms and equality of man and woman are only some of the questions we have to tackle here and now to make sure the evil of child abuse has been brought to an end.

 

Filed under: Catholic Church, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

South Africa: the role of churches in the times of uncertainty

For people in South Africa, 2019 will mark again the time, when elections are due and with hundreds of parties already registered the fight for parliamentary seats – associated with power and money and influence – it begins to show its ugly face in so many ways. The biblical promises of a land where milk and honey are streaming is taken by countless politicians and taken to a society which is penetrated by a seemingly unsolved past, accusations of racism, insufficient quality of education, corruption, incompetence, cadre deployment and economical stagnation – a list which could be continued for a longer time.
The fabric of society has huge cavities and distrust, the question of compensation and entitlement lingers in the air and one only has to look at the neighboring Zimbabwe to see where it could end.

And I ask myself: what is the role of the church in such uncertain times? When I look around churches are covering the fields of moral and ethics – they fight against what they perceive threats against God’s will for the people – some churches play with the people and promise heaven on earth and proclaiming the “gospel of wealth” – not to speak from all those charlatans who simply abusing educated and uneducated people for financial gain. The field is very mixed, but let us concentrate on the main stream churches and those serious about building faith.

From my point of view and seeing what I see the most important task in 2019 would be to become a safe space for telling stories, for bringing people of all walks of life and all skin colors together to really and deeply listening to each other and so repair the fabric of society and allow for healing. I truly believe that being a conduct for understanding each other, walking in the shoes of each other, seeing with the eyes of the other would be service to this country. No discussion about race or racism, no debate about politics, no lectures what we have to do or not to do –  but listening to each other in a safe and structured way – sharing life and receiving life – being the place of encounter and healing.

If every parish, every religious community would start to become such a place of listening, healing and true encounter it could present that kind of coming together without any hidden agenda our society needs to develop a future where nobody is left behind. And being such a place does not cost anything – no expensive technical apparatus, no big resources, maybe some training for those leading such coming together.

The churches serving as sacred grounds for healing – this is in my view the most important task in the times of uncertainty. And it does not have to be big groups or the masses – like leaven will pockets of healing grow and change at the end distrust in trust, confrontation in understanding – and so allow also for a redress which is fair and open to the future for all.

Filed under: Africa, Catholic Church, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, South Africa, , , , , , , ,

2018 – Reflections

2018 has been a tough year for many people – and indeed this now ending year has had its challenges in private and in the public sector.

Globally populism and ignorance seem to have taken over the political scene in many countries – the turmoil of US politics triggered by a self-absorbed and mafia-like operating president and poised political stand-off between the major political parties swaps like a tsunami over the global village. Populist governments in Poland, Italy, Austria, Turkey as well as Hungary endanger more and more the future of the European Union. The question how to deal with refugees and immigrants and how to share resources trigger anxiety and right-wing ideology – a poisonous mix not assisting in advancing the development of the human race and society.

In South Africa the ruling ANC struggles to clean up the mess years of corruption and cadre deployment as well as looting have created – to admit guilt and to come clean is difficult for a liberation movement turned political party without having arrived mentally and structurally there yet. Additionally poverty and hopelessness as well as entitlement obviously aid those parties and movements in the country which try to exploit the situation for their either racist, fascist or communist dreams of a society far away from the rainbow nation and the dreams of Madiba. We have difficult years ahead…

The churches made also headlines – and certainly in the case of the Roman-Catholic Church it hasn’t been the ones one would like to take note of. The child abuse cases mounted and whenever one thought to have reached the peak new bad news emerged. One German Bishop mentioned that the abuse is part of the DNA of the church – trying under all circumstances to keep the picture of a holy church with hierarchical structures not allowing to be tempered with. And I guess he is right – if we really take the message of the unconditional love of God towards each and everybody serious the structure of the church, the gaps between laity and clergy, the attitude of those up the ladder, the way the church is structured and the way the church is operated has to be reflected on and ultimately change towards more participation and a real sense of being sense to simply and only pronounce this unconditional love. It’s not about a revolution to bring the structures up-side-down, but on a level where we are all on the same level looking eye to eye with respect giving others the same dignity and importance. A deep reflection of our teaching about human sexuality will definitely help too.

I could go on to list more challenges but it would be unfair to 2018 not also to mention all the good things having happened, all those who worked to build up more humanity, to create more love, to stipulate more joy and to make sure those less fortune have a chance to more life and fulfillment.  All those volunteers, those working with NGO’s and foundations, those who seriously assisted and helped fellow neighbors, welcomed strangers, stood up against discrimination and upheld the human dignity for all. Not to forget initiatives to keep creation in balance and to fight for the future of mother earth. And there might be the one or other politician and leader having the plight of the people at heart, who did the utmost to uplift his fellow men and women.

I guess, modern technology, social media and advanced possibilities of communication make us more aware of what is going on in the world – but all these advances can also be used to create more possibilities for political leaders and movements to control society and suppress different opinions. China is an example of a dangerous modi operandi which will make Orwell’s 1984 a cheap copy of a future reality.
It also helps fundamental militant movements to recruit followers around the world and manipulate them to become violent attackers within so-called free or perceived hostile societies. Words matter – therefore I believe we should never combine the words “faith” and “fundamentalism” – because if faith is mainly fundamentalism and militant it has developed into an ideology – and it is ideology which makes people blind for realities. Faith only supports more life, supports more love, supports more hope – ideology kills people.

May 2019 be a year of reflection and turn around strategies – populism, ideologies and ignorance will bring us nowhere – and let’s be clear: mother earth is not depending on us human beings – we depend on her for survival.  Let reason rule and insight into the Divine in whom we live and prosper. There is always hope I guess…

A blessed New Year – don’t forget to be a blessing for others around you.

 

 

Filed under: Africa, Catholic Church, General, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, South Africa, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

After weeks of silence..

After some time of silence and reflecting on the situation of the Roman-Catholic Church – reading through tons of articles, opinion pieces and so-called news I must admit that I am not so much surprised about discovering, that for quite a lot of prelates, bishops, priests and dignitaries their faith is rather formed by ideology and power play – I have seen and experienced too much in my own priestly life to not to know about the inner-workings of the church.  Living through a far too long pontificate of a Polish pope followed by brief intermezzo of a German one, trying to restore a church lived before the second Vatican council we were almost a paralyzed church when the “Buona Sera”of Pope Francis somehow gave a hint of a new dawn – and a new life-line for a cooled down church.

What surprises, even what I am nauseated by is the abuse of the abuse for power gains in my church today. The inability of the Roman Catholic Church to rid itself from the daemon of child abuse is hard to swallow. The inability to confront patriarchy and to deal with power and sexuality and the slow awareness that prayer, fasting and apologies are not good enough anymore takes its toll, but the keen abuse of this process to attack a pope and to resist reform is breath-taking.
Without shame those who under JP II and Benedict XVI have attacked anybody who dared to speak out or dared to voice concern about papal statements now have no problem themselves to ride one attack after another against the current pope.

Faith and religion seems for them to be an end in itself instead of a way to assist in fostering a relationship between humans and the divine – faith as a fixed and unchangeable instead of a fluent and intimate relationship, which needs the community of saints and sinners rather as a conduit. Or even clearer spelled out: church as a play field for exercised power and might instead of serving the needs of those we call faithful.

I guess like the world in general is at the end of an old area walking with all the challenges and somehow blindsided into a new chapter of human development, so also churches and especially the oldest player in the Christian field can not escape this shaping in the coming of the new dawn and realization what it means to be human and what is needed to tackle the challenges lying in front of us. So maybe the abuse of the abuse can be turned into a blessing in seeing clearer the mistakes and failures of the past and allow for walking forward with renewed trust that our lives have a meaning and that faith and religion is here to assist, to help and to allow the promised freedom, the magnificent freedom we are promised in the scriptures, to live a life to the fullest. Looking at it in this manner can be a liberation in itself and a starting point for a renewed church where tender love, endless hope and trusted faith as well as equality and dignity of all are at the forefront of what we believe in.

 

Filed under: Catholic Church, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

14th HOPE Gala Dresden

HOPE Gala Dresden - the event to be in DresdenNovember 16th, 2019
5 days to go.

Ball of HOPE 2020

Join us @ The Westin in Cape TownMay 23rd, 2020
6 months to go.
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© Rev Fr Stefan Hippler and HIV, AIDS and HOPE.
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