“Approach things openly and courageously”

At their fall plenary assembly, the German bishops adopted, among other things, a catalog of measures against sexual abuse. In an interview, Karl Lehmann, Cardinal of Mainz and long-time chairman of the German Bishops' Conference, gives an initial assessment of the situation.

CBA: Cardinal, what is the signal from the bishops' meeting at the Vatican?
Fight against sexual abuse from?

Lehmann: It is very important that we do not want to draw a so-called "line" in the debate, rather we want to do everything we can to prevent sexual abuse through concrete measures, through prevention. At the same time, it must be credible on all sides. We simply have to do the work that we basically do every day even better in this area.
CBA: Concrete rules are one thing – but is that enough to regain lost trust??

Lehmann: There must be a spiritual impulse that only we can actually make from the center of the Christian faith. This impulse must also take into account the concrete social and political situation in our country. We have to have something to say: for example, on questions of migration, the controversy about Sarazzin's book or the debate about the future of our energy supply. The tension between spiritual impulse and social challenges ignites and can also bring us forward. By the way, this is an important question from the time of the joint synod.
CBA: When the church gets involved in social debates, critics are quick to say that it should first put its own house in order. After abuse scandal, such voice should become louder.

Lehmann: First, there are questions that can simply be clarified and must be clarified. I think of the diaconate of women. There I do not have to ask first about the ordination of women to the priesthood, where the difficulties are and remain enormous. Then, secondly, there are also things that simply need to be tackled again with courage.
CBA: For example?

Lehmann: In the Faith Commission of the Bishops' Conference, we have been considering the question of "Humanae vitae", contraception and the like for some time. But that can only be done if you approach this in a larger context of dealing with human sexuality. We have been working on this for a long time and independently of the ie of sexual abuse.
CBA: Without an agreement from the Vatican, however, much will be impossible to implement.

Lehmann: Of course, thirdly, there are things we can't solve on our own. Where we need the conversation with Rome. For example, the debate about the "viri probati", the admission of men to the priesthood who have proven themselves in their profession and marriage. This also includes the question of the position of divorced remarried people in the church, including the reception of the sacraments, as well as the question of admitting non-Catholic Christians to the Eucharist.

You have to keep these three topics apart, but at the same time see that you approach them courageously and openly. Whereby it has to be said about certain things: We don't know the answers off the top of our heads either. But it must be a reliable and convincing answer. Then people also take this from us. Even if what's on the street doesn't always come out that way.

Interview: Gottfried Bohl

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Christina Cherry
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