Doctrinal opinion and reality of life

What does the church think about sex?? Hardly a question moves catholic minds in these days more. Now the Bishop of Trier, Ackermann, and the moral theologian Schockenhoff from Freiburg have expressed their views on the subject.

Catholic Bishop Stephan Ackermann of Trier has called for significant changes in Catholic moral teaching. The church must respect people's decisions of conscience, he demanded in an interview with the "Allgemeine Zeitung" in Mainz (Thursday edition). It is no longer appropriate to regard the remarriage of divorced spouses as a permanent mortal sin. Ackermann's remarks are related to a survey on sexual ethics commissioned by the Vatican. Its results had revealed the wide gap between official teaching and the reality of life among German Catholics.

Ackermann also said that the official position on contraceptives is no longer comprehensible to the faithful. The church should also no longer judge every kind of premarital sex as a sin. "We cannot completely change Catholic doctrine, but we can work out criteria by which we say: in this and this concrete case, it is responsible," the newspaper quoted the bishop as saying. "It is not acceptable that there is only the ideal on the one side and the condemnation on the other side."

Responsibly lived homosexuality should not be classified by the church as unnatural, said the bishop. At the same time Ackermann excluded a blessing of homosexual couples as in the Protestant church. He said the Catholic Church holds to the uniqueness of marriage between a man and a woman.

The Vatican had produced a questionnaire on marriage, family and sexual morality in the fall of 2013 in preparation for an extraordinary synod of bishops on the family in Rome. According to the feedback collected in the German dioceses, even most devout Catholics consider the Church's doctrine to be far removed from life and regressive.

Schockenhoff: Family survey confirms own experiences

The Freiburg moral theologian Eberhard Schockenhoff considers the evaluation of the Vatican survey on family and sexuality to be successful. "In most cases, church statements are made in a tone that does not take note of reality and therefore are often not even perceived," Schockenhoff told the Internet portal katholisch on in Bonn. "You can't say that about this compilation."

The result itself did not surprise him, Schockenhoff continued. It corresponds to the picture, which surveys of various institutes drew again and again. "Moreover, it also fully coincides with my personal experience as a priest in the parish."Schockenhoff also addressed the attitude of Catholics to the indissolubility of marriage. The answers had shown "that among Catholics a high esteem for marriage is still widespread.". In the case of a failure there is however the interest in a more merciful contact with the concerning ones. Fortunately, more and more bishops see it that way.

"A civil second marriage cannot and should not be put on an equal footing with the first, sacramental marriage, which is an image of God's love for mankind," Schockenhoff stressed. "But it can be accepted and tolerated, because there are often cultivated the moral values that, even according to Christian catch, constitute the essence of marriage; such as, for example, fidelity or responsibility for children."

The church now faces the task of drawing consequences, the theologian said. The special thing about the survey, he said, was "that it was initiated by the pope himself and could reach everyone worldwide without methodological restrictions – for example, by preselecting respondents". There is no possibility now to question the result in any way. "Even the excuse that church beliefs cannot be formed by opinion polls, but can only be derived from normative standards, no longer helps when there is such a wide distance between the faithful even in central statements of church sexual ethics."

The survey, the results of which were analyzed by the bishops' conference, is part of a stock-taking exercise initiated by the Vatican to provide bases for a world synod of bishops scheduled for October. In their evaluation sent to Rome, the German bishops note a "great difference between the faithful and the official teaching" of the Church. Schockenhoff said he hoped that an open discussion would now take place in Rome. However, this would also require a "clear signal" from Pope Francis.

Sociologist: Do not overestimate survey on Catholic sexual morals

The sociologist of religion Detlef Pollack advises the Catholic Church not to attach too much importance to the survey on sexual morality among the faithful. "If the church makes itself dependent on what majority opinion is, it gives away theology and revelation as its own source of knowledge," the Munster researcher told the "Kolner Stadt-Anzeiger" (Wednesday edition).

The reorientation of church action must ultimately come from theological considerations, he said.

"The contradiction between doctrine and life is indeed palpable in the Catholic Church," Pollack said. "But it by no means follows from this diagnosis that the church would have to adapt its guidelines to people "s behavior."While it is good to survey the attitudes of Catholics toward marriage and the family. "But the method of a survey among officials cannot provide representative results, especially when it is heavily online-based – as in Germany," criticized the scientist from the University of Munster.

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Christina Cherry
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