Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A moral disconnect: the German version

Regular readers of this blog know that we routinely highlight surveys that show what we call a "moral disconnect" between the Catholic Church teachings and the hierarchs who promote them and the average Catholic layperson in the pews. The Vatican's latest plan to survey its flock in anticipation of the synod on the family later this year will shed more light on this disconnect than anything the mainstream media could devise.

The German news magazine, Der Spiegel, has obtained and released the preliminary findings for German Catholics and the results should confirm Pope Francis' suspicions that the Church's message in many areas of sexual morality is falling on deaf and/or unreceptive ears.

While the full text of the article is only available by subscription (or by purchasing a print copy of the magazine), the gist of it has been published in several other news outlets including, in Spanish, on Religion Digital. Among the findings:

  • 69% of German Catholics admit they don't respect the teachings of the Church in this area.
  • 86% think that the use of artificial contraception is not a sin.
  • 63% of divorced and remarried (without annulment) Catholics admit to taking communion, which is prohibited by the Church, believing it is their right to do so.
  • The Federation of German Catholic Youth administered the survey to 10,000 of its members and reported that 96% of them are indifferent to the Church's teaching on sexual morality and that premarital sex and use of birth control are normal parts of their lives and not considered sinful.

Church reform groups like Wir Sind Kirche are now demanding that the German Bishops Conference release the complete results of the survey, which they must now forward to Rome, nationwide. The Archdiocese of Cologne has already made a summary of its survey results available online.

Meanwhile, a group of 17 German professors of moral and pastoral theology have issued their own public response to the survey (available here in a rough English translation). Among their responses:

  • "The Church's position on so-called artificial contraception is practically not accepted."

  • "It is widely recognized that the Magisterium supports forms of relationship of binding solidarity. However, negative attitudes with regard to contraception, homosexual relationships and divorced, remarried persons increasingly obscure the positive aspects of the Church’s teaching in public. People who experience plurality as a positive value in areas outside the Church (professional, social and biographic) are not satisfied when the Church proposes only celibacy and marriage as legitimate ways of life."

  • "The notion of natural law does not play any role in public discourses, and it is also widely rejected in law in this country [Germany]."

  • "Cohabitation ad experimentum is a relevant pastoral reality. Most couples have sexual experiences before marriage and probably most baptized cohabited before their marriage. In general, the number of non-married couples is increasing." and "For many members of the Church, the sacrament of marriage is no longer a way of life that reflects their self-understanding and faith."

  • "Many remarried Catholics participate in the life of the Church, often including reception of communion, in some cases also the sacrament of reconciliation."

  • "Numerous Catholics suffer from the impossibility of receiving the sacraments after their divorce and remarriage. Some receive communion in spite of the prohibition and experience this as invigorating. Indifference towards the impossibility of receiving the sacraments is a form of reactive alienation from the Church." [emphasis mine]

  • With respect to homosexuality, the theologians note that the German public perceives a contradiction between the Church's position that LGBT people should not be discriminated against and the Church's active campaigning against marriage equality. Germany has civil unions for same-sex couples. They go on to say, "an official statement should signal clearly to persons in same-sex civil unions that faithfulness, dependability and solidarity are not worth less in the eyes of the Church because shown by gays and lesbians. This does not require a pre-decision for the equality of their unions with marriage." And, of course, they encourage the Church to baptize the children of these couples and give them access to religious education and other pastoral services.

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