God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

Reflections / Gedanken

Ideology or Faith?

It is an amazing change of hearts I observe with those being on the very right or so-called conservative spectrum of our church: While under John-Paul II and Benedict XVI any criticism of the pope or Vatican decision was deemed inexcusable and punishable, suddenly those very same people start making it an honorable thing to criticize and lament the Synod and the leadership of Pope Francis – the latter still in cautious terms but when it comes to people like Cardinal Burke and others, it is quite obvious. The rules of yesterday are not applicable anymore today. And with the same brutality they insisted in those gone days on obedience without hesitance or second thoughts, they now push the agenda of what the Synod or the Pope cannot do.

As much as I understand the anxiety of people who remain prisoners of their own chosen mental prison and who are now suddenly having to reason any of their stances instead of being able to take it for granted, I must admit that I see with astonishment how hardened people defend their position not willing even to listen to others who are coming from a different point of view. And suddenly doctrine and pastoral theology seemed to stand irreconcilably against each other never being able of reconciliation.  One reads about “The Rigging of a Vatican Synod?” and alleged manipulations and the now famous Cardinal Burke stated that the final report of the extraordinary Synod produced a “gravely flawed document that does not express adequately the teaching and discipline of the Church and, in some aspects, propagates doctrinal error and a false pastoral approach”

Do I miss here something or is it really that more than 30 years of a certain style of ruling within the church the people within have forgotten how to talk, how to argue, how to open up to the arguments and considerations of the others concerning matters of the church. Pope Francis encouraged the participants of the Synod to speak freely and to listen without reservations. These are the basis of deliberation and discernment to find consent, to build bridges, to see realities, to encourage dialogue and to give Pope Francis the tools to extract what is needed for the development of the church. Synods are advisory boards – they are not a parliament and they should have the openness to listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit who – in my humble opinion – can’t work freely if there is nothing to reflect or to develop as everything must remain as it is.

Ecclesia semper reformanda and so even doctrine means no a static thing but that we as a Church have to listen and search always more deeply what it is at the core; meant to strengthen the people of God and to encourage them to live life to the fullest. I haven’t seen anybody connected to the Synod who really wants to change the core of church teaching, but I have seen many trying to apply new academic knowledge and new circumstances which may lead to not only a new language but also a more developed and adequate application to the realities of people today.

Mercy and the theology of marriage are no enemies and have never been, the knowledge of sexuality and it’s diversity has changed, ways of reading and interpretation of bible verses are developing constantly – there is no need to fear open and honest considerations without knowing at the beginning of discernment what will be the end result. This is indeed new to such a church body and a real chance this Synod with all its preparatory meetings and inputs has created: an open space for minds to challenge each other, for the spirit to flow and to trust, so the Pope, that under the chairmanship of Peter God will show the way.

There is no need to build up theological barricades or fortresses to defend yesterday – look at Abraham and Moses and be aware that faith always means to set out trusting that God is in the lead. If one only holds firm what one knows already there is the danger that faith turns into ideology and that would be the worst outcome of any such church assembly.

Filed under: Catholic Church, chaplain, Politics and Society, Religion and Ethics, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sometimes I have to pinch myself…

Driving from Somerville in New Jersey to Washington DC for a meeting I suddenly have to pinch myself and to tell me: “Yes, it’s me driving here on US American soil to meetings in NY, NJ and DC.”. coming from a small little town in the South West of Germany I never thought that my life will turn into being a wanderer between worlds, a person trying to bridge worlds way apart. That this would bring me around the world, having the chance to meet people from all walks of life and background.
It is a blessing and looking back I wonder how it all came together. Living abroad would have been no option for me in the earlier days – living in Africa not really on my mind. Becoming next to a priest an activist was also not really on the plan for the future and still – until this day all this makes sense to me in way I don’t understand. Contradiction? Yes, maybe, well, I want to say that I have no clue where it will end and why all this has become my life, but deep inside me there is the certain conviction and feeling that all does make sense and will reveal itself at a certain point in time. And knowing all my week sides I seldom admit, I have to say that the apostle Paul is completely right in saying that God has chosen the weak for his work. And it is nice to know that he has to deal with it – not only me or anybody else in that position.

Sitting now after a 5 hour drive two blocks away from the White House I will meet representatives of a Catholic NGO who are more into life issues, but they are willing to talk and even partner with HOPE Cape Town and me for the greater good of the people concerned. It is for me great to see that labels of “conservative” and “progressive” simply not stick and don’t have a meaning when it comes to support “the next, the neighbour, the one suffering, the one having no chance because born in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Especially in these times of religion often seen as a divide it is exactly the right time to show that the opposite is not only possible but feasible and practical. So I am very excited to see what the next two days will bring to me.

And then back to the people representing already officially HOPE Cape Town in New Jersey. Again, it is wonderful to see how somebody who has headed the social services of  a county and surely he would deserve a relaxed retirement is willing to dedicate time and energy that fellow South Africans can have hope and a future. It is indeed a long way to connect the dots, the people and the cause, but it is worth every mile along the way. HOPE Cape Town and the USA – a new chapter of fundraising is beginning to emerge and it will add more goodwill and good people to those already working hard to support HOPE Cape Town. It is great to know that HOPE Cape Town is more than the 36 employees, but a network of fine people around the world.


Filed under: Catholic Church, HIV and AIDS, HOPE Cape Town Association, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, Networking, Reflection, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A real Easter for the church?

Watching closely the first days of the new pope and the reaction of the church officials it is amazing or shocking to see how quick people change the tune and the approach to their ministry. Performing last week still like electors in the medieval time they now preach about poverty and a new direction in the church. Not that I am not in favor of this direction; I have been my whole life advocating that the church must be there where the reality of life meets our faith. What astonishes me is how fast people can turn around and run in the opposite direction. “Faehnlein im Wind” (Going with the wind all times) ?  – or is there really a deep sense emerging that the church served itself the most in the last years and that next to the gospel and sometimes even above came the career and pomp and glory for those in positions. The power of the powerless were marginalized and often forgotten. Whoever went to Rome to attend an audience: it was the triumphed church, almost like a medieval theater performance and instead of embrace one saw mostly the raised finger to exhort the faithful – a teaching church spelling out the “do and do not” Maybe all this shows that the church also suffers a from the danger of relativism and that centralism can distract from the core  message of the gospel: Looking always to Rome means no time no time to look for those next to oneself in the local church.

It seems that the Catholic world breath a sight of relief after this election of Pope Francis and that somehow change is in the air – and I am well aware that the theology of Pope Frances is also sound conservative, but does it really matter when we are dealing with a world where the poor  and marginalized are the those to whom the gospel should bring liberty, justice and a new sense of life.  “The numbers of people living below the poverty datum line are staggering. 3 billion people live on less than US$2 per day. 1.4 billion People live on less than US$1.25/day – and such people in economic terms have become a definition of those who live under the conditions of “extreme global poverty.” An estimated 30,000 children die each day due to poverty  – that is 18 children a minute; a child every 3 seconds.  2.6 billion people around the world do not have access to adequate sanitation and about 885 million people do not have access to clean water. Every day, 4, 100 children die from severe diarrhea – as a result of poor sanitation and hygiene. Approximately 600 million children live in extreme poverty. Nearly 11,700 people die every day from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Nearly two-thirds of these people are living in sub-Saharan Africa.” ( from an email of the Jesuit Institute perspectives on the Jesuit Pope – 28th March 2013 ).

Maybe it is time to forget the words progressive and conservative and all the intern church battles – and focus together, each of us in his or her own way of that what counts: to bring the unconditional love of God to every corner of this world – in our life and presence. Maybe it happened really a change of heart in all those now switching from a church which ruled to a church which serves the people. Maybe it is like in the times of the good Pope Johan XXIII: the windows of the church are suddenly open and the wind of the Holy Spirit can blow like the Southeastern in Cape Town everything away which had the danger to darken the face of the church for the last years. Whatever it may be: it is certainly a time to enjoy as a Catholic and to feel the energy when 1.2 billion sense and experience together a time of spiritual and factual renewal. And that this is all happening during lent, the Holy Week and Easter makes it even more powerful.


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

In between Helsinki and St. Petersburg

Being a chaplain to sea means to be away from the usual “always being connected” and living in an environment so completely different from the usual daily life in South Africa. More than 800 people constantly around you, from which are almost 300 on board to make the life pleasurable for the rest of . As the “Grosse Ostseereise” means many ports to call on, it also means that almost every day I am somewhere on shore to go with a busload full of passengers and a local guide exploring the respective country. Little time to focus on TV, news and there-like.
Nevertheless I try to keep myself informed and note with excitement, that the dialogue between Archbishop Zollitsch and the signatories of the “Freiburg Aufruf” concerning the divorced-re-married couples seems to go well and that all parties are concerned about the problem and wish to get it right and end the discrimination of those in question. Ideals can never be enforced by punishing those who have failed for the rest of their lives. Good to hear reason in this case also from the authority.
Also news from Uganda with their madness to re-introduce the death penalty and other harsh measures to punish those being born gay and trying to live out their affection for a person of the same-sex. It will never match my understanding of logic and God’s love that the church punishes those affected with life-long celibacy claiming that God wants it like this. It will one day end up like the quest to abolish slavery, because at the end, we ask them to be obeying slaves of an idea connected with a hostile look at sexuality instead embracing and emphasizing their love and the newest academic research on this subject.
In Kenya, I note, HIV rates are climbing with those using drugs by injecting them. The topic of needle exchange versus a conservative view of society will have to be solved in favor of protecting those who are depended on drugs. It might be the first step into getting drug users off in keeping them alive and healthy in a way.

Filed under: General, HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

22.07.2009 Pius brotherhood

With amazement I am reading today the statement of Alfonso de Galaretta, one of the according to the Roman Catholic Church unlawful ordained bishops. His statement echoes the unbelievable arrogance and ignorance, with which the Pius brotherhood still maintains to be the guardian of the Roman Catholic Church and that there is no salvation outside this church. He further claims that the excommunication was indeed never valid – the only reason to ask for the lifting was to get public opinion right.
It is indeed a more and more dangerous game, our church is getting into in engaging with those, who never excepted that being a church means always to be on a way towards more understanding of God. Nothing is set in stone when it comes to God,  we always must be open to discover more and more the magnificent scope of his love, his plans, his grace and his mercy.
The debate with the Pius brother leads in the wrong direction – it gives right wingers and people with a tendency to religious fascism a platform to advertise themselves and to disturb the development of our church. Unity is important, I agree, and I am sure for most people involved in the lifting of the excommunication there was a good intention. But it turns out to  be counterproductive for the life of the church, it damages our reputation and it will lead to deeper rifts between the fractions. It shows that good intention not always produce a positive result.

Lets hope that there will be a stop sign to all of that – and if a couple of hundred thousand believe that only their faith will bring them to salvation and that they have to convert the Jews – let them live and die in their believe – also they will fall into the merciful hand of God.

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

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