God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Can a Catholic vote for Trump?

I know:
This might be a strange or even outrages question to ask but it is one which drives me since month being a Catholic priest and watching US politics from afar, talking to US American citizens and seeing the ripple effect of US American politics changing the way the world used to work and the value system attached to it.
This might also be a strange question insofar as religion or faith should not prescribe for any voter whom he or she in her conscious decision decide to vote into office. Politics can be a dirty business, there is no one in this field who can claim for himself or herself a halo of sainthood during holding office. And it is good practice in many countries, that pastors or churches can’t give and should not give guidance to their flock whom to vote for in the sacred duty of electing office bearers.

There are indeed often many different political solutions and most of them have a sort of bloom hovering over them – there are so many different ways to see a matter and to decide a matter.
So my question is not touching on policies of a party; it does not question superficially the party affiliation of Catholics. For me the question is much deeper located as the current President of the United States has proven to  use lies and distortion as tools of governance, and he is clearly living in a world of his own – accused of racism and being a womaniser. Reading his tweets paints a perfect picture of the man in office.

So the question is:
How much of lying and self-absorption is allowed for the highest office, a democratic country has to offer?
Where is the limit when those faculties interfere with the greater good of a democratic society in a way damaging exactly these goods and the values attached to human decency, democracy and human rights?

I took note in the last days on social media that prominent Catholics for Trump argue his stance of pro-life as the all overriding factor – in my humble opinion ignoring that being pro-life not starts and ends with pregnancy but should include the track record touching on environment, asylum seekers, death penalty, racism and many more topics where life is threatened. Honesty, respect are other pro-life values not to be missed out.

The social teaching of the Catholic Church gives the state a positive moral function as an instrument to promote human dignity, protect human rights and build the common good. Its purpose is to assist citizens in fulfilling their responsibility to others in society. In today’s complex society citizens need the help of government to fulfil these responsibilities and to promote the common good.
In the times of Covid-19 the role of government has even become more crucial in guiding and unifying people and sectors of society. The ethics of solidarity will become in the future a much stronger pillar of Catholic social teaching – a solidarity which will have to override purely national interests in the connected world of today.

So once again the questions:
Where do we draw the line as Catholics believing in the sanctity of life, in encountering Christ in every fellow man and women, seeing the imprint of the divine not only in every brother or sister of the human race, but also in our environment, in nature and creation with all the diversity it entails?

Where do we draw the line observing abuse of a position in a society with democratic values, when exactly those values are undermined, annulled and circumvented – while at the same time God is invoked numerous times and a way forced to get a photo op in front of a church using police, tear-gas and force – bible firmly hold in hand?

There should be a line in the sand…

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

Exciting times for the Roman-Catholic Church

We are meanwhile used since the advent of the pontificate of Pope Francis that conservative and circles of the Roman-Catholic Church are falling into opposition to the man on top of the church’s hierarchy.

First very decent the choir of discontent and the wish to embalm tradition and keep the church from moving through the times even closer to the divine mysteries; now you hear screams and public discontent which in the times of John-Paul II would have had severe consequences if you would have been a priest or an employee of the church.
Times have changed and even the slightest acknowledgement of human development from the Vatican seems for some to constitute heresy on Peter’s throne. Footnotes in papal writings trigger storms of indignation in certain circles of the church.

And now the Synod Way of the German Bishops Conference and the implementation of a local Synod in the Diocese of Trier give way to another onslaught of staunch self-described Catholics who know the truth, who know the ways of God and who know exactly how salvation is achieved for human mankind. Prescribed since the old ages and seemingly never able to develop – let alone to change.
It seems that those fighting against any new insight forget how slavery was once normal for the church, how religious freedom or even democracy originated from the devil – let alone that the earth was the center of the universe….
Theology, once the crown jewel of academia is for those people sentenced to withstand research and new knowledge contradicting or expanding the bases for religious notions.

Indeed exciting times – and maybe the word ‘diversity’ would help us to understand that there is nothing wrong in feeling at home in different religious settings within the broader church.  Maybe the word ‘tolerance’ would prescribe a way to understand that my way of believing is in many instances unique and that there is a framework in which we are all allowed to prosper and indulge in coming closer to the divine and the mystery of God.

And maybe listening to each other instead of judging each other, allowing for questions of variance and doubt, not using sacraments as weapons or punishment and seeing the good, the divine in every brother and sister would help us to move forward – allowing for those who want to remain a bit behind and those who want to stray forward to still feel being part of the same church, the same group of faithful.

Filed under: Catholic Church, Reflection, 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, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Silence is sometimes indeed the best way to reflect

Since my last post about the child abuse in the Catholic Church the revelations have not stopped but intensified. While right-wing media like kath.net”” in Germany and “LifesiteNews” abuse the opportunity to a full-scale war against Pope Francis and moderate cardinals also their defenders up-ed their involvement of poking holes in the arguments and (fake) news of their opponents.
I guess all of this will not solve the problem which is much deeper than most current debate allows for.
The elephants in the room are power, ideology, clericalism and the question of sexuality. And knowing what we know now also the question of sainthood for John-Paul II which was rushed without any need but done under the pressure of those trying to cement the Polish way of understanding church and faith.
If our church will have a chance in the future – it will be only feasible if and when those topics are honestly and with the participation of all concerned will be addressed. Otherwise the shadow of a living church – more an ideology of creed will pretend to be the church of Jesus Christ.
Looking at the evangelical churches of the USA supporting and condoning everything their current president is doing, gives us a glimpse into our future if we are not able to hold in, reflect and let the spirit work.

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

It’s not only shameful, it hurts…

Having celebrated the Eucharist in the Diocese of Harrisburg and having worked with a colleague for some years serving in this diocese the reading of the 40th Statewide Investigation of the Grand Jury on child abuse in the Catholic Church of Pennsylvania makes one wanting to throw up. Putting aside the sensational headlines it makes me wonder how any superior or Bishop can cover up for somebody molesting a child in hospital or leaving a priest in a parish even if he asks for help. This is all beyond my comprehension.
Yes, the Roman Catholic Church has changed and merciless fires priests proofed to have molested children sexually – and yes, a cardinal has recently resigned from being part of this illustrious circle of earls of the church. But is that really enough? Having made John-Paul II a saint while knowing that he indeed also covered up or at least ignored makes a rigorous clear-cut with the past even more difficult. The whole question of who becomes a bishop and if piety Rome style and absolute obedience without interference of own conscience as it has been for many years under the previous two popes has to be looked at again. This system is still partly in place even Pope Francis has taken steps to change this.
In the real world, a complete overhaul of leadership would be the way to go – but that will not happen. The question of power and the inability to go further than paying lip-service to change  as the church never errs somehow (but can develop painstakingly slow).
Germany, Ireland and now again USA – some Asian churches haven’t even started looking seriously into abuse allegations – nor many East European churches. There is more to come and every time there will be the feeling of shame and hurt.

But there is another question: kicking people out of church after having protected them for longer time and leaving it up for society to prevent further damage – is this really fair to all concerned? We as a church have to do more than re-writing the rules of child protection. We have to confront mistakes in the system which are rooted much deeper in how church is working. We also have to confront e.g. the question of sexuality and power in the church. We shouldn’t wait to update ourselves with the newest academic discourse on sexuality like we have waited hundred of years to acknowledge Galileo Galilei was right. Time is of essence as developments are much faster now than 100 years ago. The famous word of Gorbachev “who comes to late will be punished by life”applies – but in our case innocent lives are punished for the failures of those in power.

I was told yesterday that 3 victims of those abused in Pennsylvania have committed suicide by now – and I can’t imagine the pain and horror other victims and their families now go through again while listening to the news and reading newspapers. It is not only shameful, it deeply hurts….

The redacted interim report is found here to read: Interim Redacted Report

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

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