God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

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, , , , , ,

A Christmas gift for E-readers

God – Aids – Africa

Turning stigma into a blessing – Stories and reflections
Kindle Edition

by Stefan Hippler (Author),‎ Bartholomäus Grill (Author)

The fight against HIV and AIDS in South Africa is challenging the moral teaching of the Roman-Catholic Church. Stories and observations of a Catholic priest and a journalist on their hands-on experiences give deeper insight into this challenge and invite the reader to be part of a journey which has not ended yet, but has gained a new momentum through the election of Pope Francis as leader of the Roman-Catholic Church.

The book also reminds the reader of the major changes the fight against HIV and AIDS has seen in the last 10 years. Originally written for the German-speaking market the updated edition brings to life the devastation but also the courage of those infected and affected at the Southern tip of Africa. And the plight of a clergy man who tried to bridge the gap between a strict application of church teaching and the suffering of thousands whose young lives ended premature and with great pain.

Kindle Price: $5.69 (includes VAT)

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All proceeds of sale are going towards the work of HOPE Cape Town

Filed under: Africa, Catholic Church, chaplain, General, HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, HIV Treatment, HOPE Cape Town Association, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, HOPE Cape Town USA, HOPE Gala Dresden, Medical and Research, Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, South Africa, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Understandable language

Communication can only work out when people use words and phrases in a way understandable to each other. This simple rule applies to all situation in life, be in the sphere of religion or health.
Our HOPE community health worker and doctors of HOPE Cape Town are challenged every day to break down medical conditions , adherence and compliance rules into words which can be understood by those on the receiving end. It is essential to know what has been talked about during consultation or a brief of patients by all present.
The same should go for the religious sphere but since the former pope Benedict XVI insisted of changing the translation of the liturgy in the Roman-Catholic church this rule seemed to be out of favor. In a bid to “latinize” the English we priests now had and have to battle with prayers one even can’t get the head around after reading twice, let alone that the faithful would understand what they supported with the “amen” at the end. In South Africa, the South African Catholic Bishops Conference was keen to adhere to the wishes of Rome quickly and the new translation was put into practice even before the necessary time.
I always felt despair when – as a Chaplain @sea – had to say Holy Mass for the hundreds of Filipinos working on the cruise liner, who were simply not able to digest or even answer orderly when confronted with the new English translation. While the German Bishops gently delayed any implementation of any new “latinized” translation of the order of the mass successfully the English-speaking world struggled and still struggles with words and phrases nobody would use in real life.
The decision of Pope Francis to move the responsibility for a good translation back to the local churches is therefore a step in the right direction and hopefully gives rise to a new translation (or going back to the old one) which allows the faithful to worship with knowing the meaning of prayers and petitions.
I certainly do acknowledge that the intention of this effort was to bring back the language closer to the roots of Christianity but as societies evolve and develop so does language as a mirror of society. We can only take to heart what we do understand – even if those thinking more in the backwards direction in our church believe that the Eucharist is a mystery which should remain also mysterious by means of language.
Celebrations should uplift the hearts and minds of people – not make them wish having a dictionary or a “repeat” or “rewind” button to play it again for understanding purposes. A language which is understood from all participating in an atmosphere which allows for the purpose of gathering to unfold in a dignified and good way – this is all what is asked for in any situation of life including church services.
For us Catholics the change in Canon Law by publishing the decree  “Magnum Principium” is also an indication that the stalling of Vatican II has finally stopped and the documents of this important council will continue to be authoritative and permanent. For the liturgy of the church it is now clear: there is no “reform of the reform” and this is good news for all of us.

Source:
Magnum Principium

Filed under: Catholic Church, chaplain, chaplain to sea, Uncategorized, , , , , , ,

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