God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

01.02.2010 News which grabbed my attention this early morning

There are some news which grabbed my attention this morning:

The first is from Berlin where the rector of the Berlin  Canisius-Kolleg gave a press conference about the abuse of minors, which happened in the college in the seventies. Amongst his thoughtful assessment he also said: “The church is suffering of homophobie.” He elaborated that the church keeps quiet about homosexuality in its own rank and the clergy with this inclination is permanently unsure whether there are accepted within the church hierarchy when they deal honestly with their sexuality. I think this is right – we all have to deal with sexuality – and only when we can do it in an honest way, then my assessment is, that most cases of abuse of minors could be avoided. In my view we as a church are guilty of not confronting this topic in a reasonable way many times.

The second news this morning is also from the church and deals with a talk, Archbishop Marx from Munich gave in Davos,where he supported the idea of controlling the banks better after the disaster last year. I think he is right, but that is for still to little to late. Maybe the article I read gave not all he said, but I guess, we have to learn many more lessons from the last recession and as far as I can see, we do ignore most of these but instead touch up some spots and go ahead as usual – until the next crash. It seems that the politicians nor the churches are able really  and hard and honest to reflect on major changes in our economical and political system to avoid disaster and to come to a just system of an economic system, which also has a social component. The fact that every politicans is eager to be re-elected in a short time of office means that most of them have no guts to really go for reform.
The system of Hartz IV in Germany, the unbelievable ignorance of politicians in Germany when it comes to the reform of health care show as examples the impotence of current politics.

The third news of this morning is about the Iraq war and its consequences. It is reported that the advisers to President Bush, who gave green light for the legal implementation of torture as an offical tool for the military and the CIA will not be prosecuted. It is a shame that the masterminds of the implementation of torture are going free while normal people face the full force of the law when convicted of minor things. We are not equal before the law. The same applies by the way for Georg W Bush and Tony Blair who, would they have lived and acted as an African head of states would face the Criminal Court in De Haag for war crimes – starting a war without legal grounds. As European or US American, they are standing above the international law. It is indeed a joke that we fail to implement our own ethical principals to ourselves while insisting they are applied to others.

Filed under: General, Reflection, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

18.10.2009 Rome ….

Flying to Rome always sounds like a great trip, and indeed the city is amazing. History, past and present times are melting together in a way which triggers interest in the past history of human mankind. I surely could live in Rome for a while.

But only 16 hours will bring me to Rome, one meeting with the papal council of the health care workers – a council dealing also with HIV and AIDS. We, Joachim Franz and I will meet with the secretary, Bishop Jose and continue our discussion from last November. It is for me vital to introduce during the talk also our project dealing with HIV positive clergy – and it will be very interesting for me to see how they see the subject. Ideal would be to join forces on this tricky issue, but I am not sure they are really wanting to put such a topic on any official agenda. So I will see… but I hope for support and understanding,especially in the African context, but also internationally. There is no reason to put the head into the sand and to ignore an obvious problem within the church.

Bishop Jose, secretary of the papal council and Fr Stefan

Filed under: HIV and AIDS, , , , , , , , , , ,

20.09.2009 Beyond the condoms…

Having written a blog entry about the criminalization of  HIV and seeing the response so far, I just realise that there are quite some moral and ethical issues we still have to deal with in the fields of HIV and AIDS. One is used to hear only about the condom story when talking about or talking with the Catholic Church, but there are more things coming to my mind:
– Equality of man and women
– Criminal Code and HIV
– Travel restrictions or travel ban and human rights
– Commencement and possible cessation of treatment
– Dealing of the Catholic Church (or any church) with their own clergy being positive
– Understanding of sexuality in the context of Europe, Africa and Asia as well as Latin America
– Abstinence only or diverse approach towards prevention work

I wish I could convince the German and the Southern African Bishops Conference to set up a study group on all these issues and surely a couple of more questions, which will come up in a brainstorming session. It would make such a difference.

Filed under: HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, HIV Treatment, Medical and Research, Politics and Society, Reflection, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

13.09.2009 Sunday eve

It is Sunday eve and after a day full of chatter, farewell celebration and lots of eating it is time to bid farewell to Durban. The mass this morning was full of well-wisher and once again I felt this special atmosphere and bond which exists between these good people and me. Lots of hugging and spontaneous joy as I revealed that I will stay in South Africa. Most of the people did not buy into the white lie of the press officer of the German Bishops conference that the termination of my contract was a “normal one”. It would have been easy to fuel the sense of betrayal and frustration; some told me of answers they got after writing to a bishop or the bishops conference and they felt not taken very seriously.  But they have been the lucky once, others even didn’t get an answer. I am not sure whether those responsible really know how they work in their ways against their own objectives to keep people in the church and to strengthen faith. They should be servants of the faithful and not the opposite. We still have a long way to go until the human structure of church becomes mature in this sense. Still too much puberty in the ranks… But I never give up hope. 🙂
Sunday afternoon an invite from the pastoral community council for coffee which happened to stretch until supper – with so much love prepared from Renate and Wolfgang, two parishioners who opened their home for us all. And once again challenging debates around the table. Those are the people who make so much efforts to keep a community going, to bring up their kids in our faith and at the end, all our hierarchy would be nothing and meaningless without the dedicated work of those on the ground. Sometimes I wonder how much wisdom and maturity we as a church miss out because we as the clergy tend not to listen carefully enough. And not only listen but following this – and here we are again – sensus fidelium and spiritual wisdom of those we call laity.  This blog is automatically also loaded to my Facebook side, and speaking about laity and their power, a facebook friend of mine, Jeff wrote a comment about his experience in his church and he ended:

Our parish has a tradition at baptisms where the priest not only makes the sign of the cross on the person’s forehead with chrism but also puts a hand embroidered stole (not a full sized one — they are made by people in the parish and are gifts to the newly baptized, even infants) around the neck of the baptized and says to that person, “you have put on the new life in Christ and are invested as a minister of the Gospel.” That is always a powerful reminder for me as a lay person when I hear those words spoken.

I also find this a powerful symbol and it shows the true power of Gods people, each and everybody is called to minister the faith and to be taken serious.

Well, this eve I feel indeed graced with all kind of things: the kind words, some little presents, quite some hugs, lots of good wishes and blessings and I had to promise that I will pop in next year somewhere and somehow. And I will do. I really will, not only because people here in Durban miss me but because I miss them also after 7 years of  service. I will miss Hermann, who always was worried about my stances on good old doctrine and we became friends, understanding each other 🙂 , I will miss Sr. Agnes, who always found somebody to baptize or confirm or visit when I was in Durban (but I really loved to serve under her 🙂 ), I will miss the talks with all the Mariannhill sisters and their struggle to maintain Mariannhill while growing older, I will miss the altar servers, who never let me down, Trudi and all of the pastoral community council, the finance committee counting the money faithfully after mass,  and all those friendly faces coming up to communion and listen so attentively when I tried to reach hearts and minds with my sermon.

Sizobonana & God bless them all!

Filed under: Reflection, Uncategorized, , , , , , ,

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