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Een vreemdeling op de Duitse synode

Op de Duitse Kerkelijke websites is de vragenlijst verschenen waarmee gelovigen kunnen participeren aan de “Synodale Weg”, door hun mening te uiten over hun visie op de toekomst van de Kerk. 

De vragenlijst behandelt vier thema’s, elk in drie vragen. Ik heb hieronder de vragenlijst zelf ook beantwoord en zal mijn antwoorden doorsturen, want wat de Kerk in Duitsland aanbelangt, belangt ook mij aan, vermits we behoren tot één mystiek lichaam.

Omdat een aantal van de vragen lachwekkend suggestief zijn, heb ik me hier een daar niet kunnen inhouden een ironische noot te laten klinken. De strekking van mijn antwoorden is eerder traditioneel te noemen, wat in deze tendentieuze synode een noodzakelijk tegengewicht is.

Forum 1: Macht und Gewaltenteilung in der Kirche

Welche konkreten Erfahrungen von Macht und Ohnmacht haben Sie in der Kirche gemacht und was muss Ihrer Meinung nach in der Kirche verändert werden, damit der Umgang mit Macht besser kontrolliert und Machtmissbrauch verhindert werden kann?

Overall, I’ve experienced more passiveness from the church than active decision making and exertion of power. In some situations that may be regarded as wise and pastoral. It requires a strong personality to take hard decisions. Here are two examples of decision making and exercising power that I experienced in the Church:

An experience in my own parish. Our priest explained in an authorative way to a (female) parishioner who regularly made decisions on her own and without consultation, the limits of her responsabilities in the parish organization. Although this was of course rather painful, because our former priest never had the courage to set limits on her behaviour and although I sympathised with her, I appreciated this clear exercise of power by our priest.

An experience of powerlessness, I had in a more remote case, when I learnt from the media that our archbishop had dissolved a successful, yet traditional priestly fraternity, that was provided an abandoned church by his precedecessor, to start their new way of evangelization in our capital. This was one of his first actions after he became archbishop and an explaination for this decision has never been communicated. I was very upset by this decision.

The church is an organization and decisions have to be made that are sometimes painful for certain members. Our former priest had lacked to set a clear line towards this person mentioned above, so our new priest was in his right to do so. But our former archbishop had clearly set a line by officially establishing the priestly fraternity mentioned above, so the decision of the new archbishop was actually breaching the authority of the Church for reasons that can only be guessed to be of ideological nature. The latter, I see as an abuse of power, the former as a rightful exercise of power, although the public opinion probably sees it the other way around.

Having power in the Church is a means to be a servant. The humility of the servant does not imply that he should allow anyone to start meddling with his service. And vice versa, the power of the servant does not imply that he should be meddling with the service of his colleague or preceding servants. The authorities imposed on the servants of the Church should be clear and respected. And if a servant wants to use his power to meddle with the decisions already made, he should do so in a way that the faithful can understand the reasons. 

Wie können mehr Menschen aktiv an den Aufgaben und Entscheidungen in der Kirche beteiligt werden?

I’m not sure what the question means by “more people” and by “participating” in decisions. This seems to imply that the answer to the former question was that “more people should participate in decisions in the Church”. I didn’t give this answer, so I don’s see the point in answering this question. In general, involving more people in making decisions is opening a road to either division or immobilism.

Taking a step back, “participation” should be realized in teaching and explaining how the decisions made by the authorized servants, originate from the teachings of the Church, how they align with the establishment of Christ’s kingdom and how they will effect in the salvation of the eternal souls of the faithful involved. If these things are carefully explained to the faithful, and if they’re willing to understand, they can participate in the decisions. 

Forum 2: Leben in gelingenden Beziehungen – Liebe leben in Sexualität und Partnerschaft

Welche Erfahrungen haben Sie im Zusammenhang mit der kirchlichen Sexuallehre gemacht, welche Erkenntnisse oder Überzeugungen persönlich gewonnen?

This is quite personal and thus a strange question for a public poll. Nevertheless. In general, I can say that no priest or highschool teacher ever explained to me anything about the teachings of the Church in this matter, at least not in a way that it made an impression. The only incentive to learn abouth these teachings came when I noticed that they were openly contested, even from within the Church, and from discussing this with peer faithful and reading the actual sources, in encyclicals like Humanae Vitae and Donum Vitae. In the end, it is a very personal matter, more than anything in teachings of faith, and mainly to be discerned between partners of with help of a confessor. Nevertheless, matrimony obviously also has a very important public aspect and role in the christian community, so it’s not only a private matter. 

Wie kann die Kirche Ihrer Meinung nach das Evangelium von der Liebe Gottes in unserer Zeit überzeugender verkünden?

I’m not sure how this question is meant to relate to the topic, but I hear some resonance with the important teachings of St. John-Paul II in his “Theology of the Body”. He explains very good how the love of God, from the creation onward, and through the Gospel, is relevant for people of our time, in relationships and matrimony. 

Was ist Ihnen wichtig in der Sexuallehre der Kirche und was müsste dringend verändert werden?

Ah, sorry, I missed the topic definition. This is not about matrimony, but about any form of cohabitation where two or more persons have sex with each other, right? Again I’m having a bit of trouble with the question. Changing the teachings is suddenly falling out of the blue as a presupposed goal? Well, I don’t walk along that path. What must be changed in the first place, is the way the Church is communicating about the teachings. They should be properly explained to the faithful, they should be defended by priests, and accepted by the faithful.

Forum 3: Priesterliche Existenz heute

Was zeichnet Ihrer Auffassung nach einen authentischen Priester heute aus, welche Eigenschaften und Fähigkeiten sollte er besitzen?

Priests can have a myriad of services in the church, and each service requires different qualities. So there’s not a single answer to this question. But let’s assume we’re talking about a parish priest. The most important task of a priest is to give the sacraments. For an authentic priest, this should be a natural thing, involving a mix of spontaneity and dignity, of sacrality and humanity, of popularity and wisdom. It’s hard to pinpoint how this reflects in a man’s character or spirit, but it’s easy recognizable when one sees it in action. 

Wie kann ein authentischer Pries­ter mitten in der Welt von heute in der Nachfolge Jesu leben, welche Lebensform halten Sie für den Priester heute für angemessen?

A “way of life”… again I’m struggling with the question. I guess the primary example for a priestly way of life is that of Christ, the apostles, the prophets, the martyrs and the saints. A life of humble service, utter dedication, self-giving toward his community, but also a life that is supported by fraternity and prayer in community with other priests or devoted people.

Was müssen wir in der Kirche tun oder verändern, damit es mehr Berufungen gibt und der Dienst des Pries­ters attraktiver für junge Menschen wird?

Hehe, I know the correct answer here! “Abolish celibacy” But you won’t get it from me ;) What young men need, to be attracted to a life of service in the Church, is to be taken seriously! If the general attitude in the Church in this country is one of relativism towards sacraments and faith in general, how on earth would one expect a young man to dedicate his live to serve this relativism? As soon as priesthood is lifted above the level of a life-long-social-worker, and as soon as a man is called to take responsibility over the salvation of the souls in the flock over which he’s assigned as a shepard, things may change.

Forum 4: Frauen in Diensten und Ämtern in der Kirche

Wie sehen Sie die Rolle der Frau in der Kirche?

Strange question. Women have the same role in the Church as anybody. There are only two abvious aspects in which they are different from men. The first is not as such related to the Church, it is a fact of creation. Woman can give birth, an image of the Divine power endowed in Creation, men cannot. The second is the priesthood. Men can be ordained as a priest, an image of Christ in the sacraments, women cannot. Apart from that, I don’t see any roles in the Church where women would be different from men. 

Was müsste sich ändern, damit mehr Frauen Leitungspositionen in der Kirche übernehmen (können)?

Damn!! I missed it again! Of course the answer to the previous question is to be that women can also be ordained priests! I still don’t have the feeling to play this quiz, luckily you give the answers away with the subsequent questions :) Well, I suppose there are lots of “positions”  in the organization of the Church that don’t require a priestly ordination. Probably there are quite some roles currently reserved for priests that can be taken up by any faithful, so these priests can be assigned to more “priestly” tasks. That would certainly be a very good thing! And if a woman applies for the job, let her have it if she meets the requirements. But please don’t start with imposing quota’s, that’s absolutely senseless.

Wie müsste das Miteinander von Frauen und Männern in der Kirche gestaltet sein, damit wir in unserer Zeit glaubwürdig das Evangelium verkünden können?

Sorry, this is filosofy speech of which I cannot make head nor tail, so I’ll go the same route. A man is a man and a woman is a woman. They can be quite clearly distinguished. They can “coexist” to form what is called a family, where a man and a woman make a bond for life and children are born. I think this is the “Gestalt” for which the Church is given a dedicated sacrament and a name: “matrimony”. There are of course numerous other ways for men and women to “coexist”, each with it’s own merits and blemishes. More than often, these “coexistences” are the result of broken matrimonies and a solution to find steady ground in the least of all possible evils. I guess the Church should be gentle with these “coexistences”, understanding that there’s often no practical way out, without afflicting further damage. The Gospel however is quite clear on the particular value of the “coexistence” that is called matrimony and it is only worth believing if it is faithfully proclaimed by the Church.

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