“Our churches are often dressed up, but empty”

Bishop Heiner Wilmer of Hildesheim has advocated a new missionary departure for the Catholic Church. The church currently lacks a "convincing concept" and the churches are in danger of "degenerating into museums".

The abuse crisis is a deep cut in church history, Wilmer writes in an article for the current ie of "Herder Korrespondenz". The situation is comparable to the situation after the great earthquake of Lisbon in 1755, which ushered in a turning point in philosophical and theological thinking at that time.

After the abuse crisis came to light, it was "not a matter of writing a whole new theology"; however, the church cannot pretend that it does not have to think about it theologically.

Until today he lacks the "existential depth of the debate," Wilmer writes and defends in this context his controversial sentence, according to which the "abuse of power belongs to the DNA of the church". On this, he explains, "Some have accused me of breaking the church. But I am only saying that the church is also a human institution, what else? And qua human institution, it is no better than any other grouping of people (…) and needs leadership, rules and control."

Convincing concept missing

With regard to the debate on reform within the church, Wilmer says: "We must learn that our faith does not spare us despair and perfidy, hopelessness and rigidity."Reforms could perhaps improve the shape of the church and make it more lively. But the decisive factor was the existential dimension of faith.

Wilmer complains in his text that the church today lacks a "convincing concept for mission, for evangelization, for the offensive" and states: "We are helpless". Further the bishop writes: "Our churches are often dressed up, but empty. Our churches are threatening to degenerate into museums." With regard to German theology, Wilmer criticized too much "self-centeredness" and too little attention to the theological debate in other countries and cultures.

Cardinal Woelki had criticized Wilmer's remarks

Cologne Archbishop Rainer Maria Cardinal Woelki had rejected Wilmer's statement about DNA in an interview with Deutschlandfunk radio last December. In the view of the archbishop of Cologne, the bishop of Hildesheim has gone too far in the debate about sexual abuse in the church. Whose statement that the abuse of power is "in the DNA of the church" is not true. "Because if that were the case, then I would have to leave the church."

If the evil were instilled in the structure of the church, then the state would have to act immediately and ban the church, Woelki continued: "No, it is not in the DNA of the church."

At the same time, the cardinal stressed that the loss of trust in the church due to the cases of abuse by priests is immense. He acknowledged that "for far too long we have not believed those affected and that for a long time we did not think something like this was possible". Woelki said verbatim: "This is a heavy guilt that we have brought upon ourselves."

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Christina Cherry
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