“Church has lost all credit”

The theologian Gregor Maria Hoff sees the Catholic Church in a "sacralization trap" in view of its abuse cases. For theologian Julia Knop, the church has lost all credit. Both expressed their views at the DBK Plenary Assembly.

The church as a religious institution and its priests as representatives of Jesus Christ have sacral power and the power of faith, said the Salzburg theologian Gregor Maria Hoff at a study day of the German Catholic bishops during their spring meeting in Lingen. Power is also based on the fact that the church and the priests are trusted. Accordingly, it has a "deadly" and "disastrous" effect if the trust and the power associated with it are disappointed, for example by perpetrators of abuse.

Ecclesiastical separation of powers and power control

According to the speech manuscript, Hoff spoke of a system problem. This can only be solved by ecclesiastical separation of powers and power control from inside and outside. These are means against the "independence of an unholy power, which can still believe in its holiness when it abuses it," the theologian said. "Why else are there no admissions of guilt from, of all people, their highest dignitaries, such as Cardinal Groer, who, until the end of his life, did not face up to his guilt either publicly or to his victims?"

According to Hoff, ecclesiastical separation of powers could "liquefy sacralized power". The sharing of power does not diminish it, but rather increases its authority. "The question for you as the German Bishops' Conference here is whether you only want to delegate power or want an independent participation in power among the people of God and then also make it possible in a comprehensible way," the theologian said. He pleaded for transparent procedures and decision-making processes. "This would be the form of a sovereign power that knows of its dangers and identifies them in such a way that they can be dealt with institutionally."

Theologian Knop: Church has lost all credit

Erfurt theologian Julia Knop welcomes the fact that the German Catholic bishops are debating celibacy, priestly lifestyles and power in the church anew in light of the abuse scandal. The abuse study commissioned by the Catholic bishops and published in 2018 brought to light "horrific and disgusting misdeeds by clerics on such a scale that the Catholic Church in Germany has lost all credit," the dogmatist said in Lingen on Wednesday. It is about "violence and its cover-up in the room and in the name of the church"."

"Sexual abuse is not in the DNA of the church" and is probably not causally related to celibacy, Knop told the plenary assembly of German Catholic bishops, according to the speech manuscript. Sexual abuse also has nothing to do with the fact that homosexual men are represented far above average in the Catholic clergy. The DNA of the church, however, has to do with a religious charging of power, a sacralization of the office of ordination, a stylization of obedience and devotion, a demonization of sexuality and "the tabooing of homosexuality".

Bishops "Not Observers, but Participants"

The bishops are "not observers but participants" in the ies of celibacy, priestly lifestyle and power, the theologian elaborated. As celibate clerics, he said, they are endowed with an enormous amount of power to represent the Church's doctrine of faith and morals. "They represent a church whose systemic defects have become evident," Knop said. At the spring meeting, the theologian moderated a "study day on overarching questions that are currently being asked" under the title "The Question of the Caesura.".

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Christina Cherry
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