Germany


Last Friday, German parliament voted in favor of same-sex “marriage” with 393 of 623 votes (out of a total of 630 delegates).  Civil unions for same-sex couples had been possible since 2001. Nevertheless, the green party, social democrats and liberals had been campaigning for “more” – with the slogan “Ehe für alle” – “marriage for all” (surely they do not mean everybody must marry? yet if they mean everybody may marry whomever they want, we have a long way still to go, as marriage of e.g. your own sister or son is not yet legal even now).

Legalization of same-sex marriage had been a declared aim of the current junior coalition partner, the social democrats, during the last election campaign already. Nevertheless, they did not really pursue this during the current legislative period – until the next election loomed. Even then, the CDU/CSU would have been able to hold out, had it not been for a fateful interview of Angela Merkel with – of all things – a women’s magazine.

When a gay member of the audience asked her about the CDU/CSU stance on gay marriage, now that all potential opposition partners have made the legalization of it a prerequisite for any future coalition, she first deplored the politization of this topic and then said:

I find it is not appropriate for marriage –  and same-sex couples live the same values of commitment, after all – I find it is not really appropriate, to approach this in a helter-skelter way. And therefore we will pay very close attention to this question, given the current situation we have in Germany,  but in a different way.

I know within the CDU – and I include myself – many people who have thought a lot about this topic, who have long said that the same values are lived there, but who nevertheless, somehow, maybe grew up with the feeling that man and woman, that simply is marriage as we know it; and the other thing is an equally valuable partnership; and of course, certainly, for those who are affiliated with a church quite a number of other issues play a role; and for this reason I want to lead this discussion into a direction where it is more a decision of conscience, rather than forcing something through by majority vote. And I would wish that in spite of the election campaign this discussion is led with great respect, and with consideration for those who have problems with such a decision.

[My translation and emphasis; a video of this part of the interview can be found here; beware: this is a site of LGBT activists…]

The social democrats promptly pounced on this (through either sincere conviction or simple stupidity) and scheduled the vote for the last day parliament sat before the election. The social democrats plus the opposition would have had the required majority entirely without the CDU, but Mrs. Merkel made it a free vote for the CDU/CSU – and lo and behold, one quarter of their delegates voted in favour, too (including the CDU delegate of my constituency).

So, at the very same day that I was claiming to an US-citizen that our lesser evil at current elections was less evil than theirs, Germany finally fully joined the club of shame.

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Hun

Pfuel was one of those hopelessly and immutably self-confident men, self-confident to the point of martyrdom as only Germans are, because only Germans are self-confident on the basis of an abstract notion- science, that is, the supposed knowledge of absolute truth. A Frenchman is self-assured because he regards himself personally, both in mind and body, as irresistibly attractive to men and women. An Englishman is self-assured, as being a citizen of the best-organized state in the world, and therefore as an Englishman always knows what he should do and knows that all he does as an Englishman is undoubtedly correct. An Italian is self-assured because he is excitable and easily forgets himself and other people. A Russian is self-assured just because he knows nothing does not want to know anything, since he does not believe that anything can be known. The German’s self-assurance is worst of all, stronger and more repulsive than any other, because he imagines that he knows the truth- science- which he himself has invented but which is for him the absolute truth.

The really sad thing is that I was quite undecided whether I should post this translation of parts of a speech given by Cardinal Marx last Wednesday at the Synod. A while ago, such an explicit argument for cohabitation, contraception and second* “marriages” might have been shocking, but now? One is only rather astonished that there is no mentioning of homosexuals.

Accentuations by me.

Church marriage preparation and support must not be determined by a moral perfectionism. Neither must there be a pastoral ministry of “all or nothing”. It rather matters to take a differentiated view of people’s various situations in life and experiences in love. We should look less at that in life which does (not yet) succeed or maybe even thoroughly fails. It is generally not the raised finger but the extended hand that motivates people to progress on the path of holiness. […]

[…] We have to give more room in our pastoral ministry to the decisions of conscience of engaged and married couples. It is certainly the task of the Church to educate the conscience of the faithful, but the judgement of conscience of each person cannot be replaced. This is particularly true for situations in which the partners have to make a decision in a conflict of values, for example when openness for the conception of children and protection of marital and family life get into conflict with each other.

Regarding civilly divorced and remarried faithful who actively participate in parish life, many faithful ask why the Church, without exception, refuses them participation in sacramental communion. Many people in our parishes cannot understand, how it is possible to belong to the full communion of the Church and, at the same time, be excluded from the sacrament of Penance and of the Eucharist. The reason given is that civilly divorced and remarried faithful objectively continuously live in adultery that constitutes a contradiction to that which is signified by the Eucharist, the faithfulness of Christ to his Church. But does this answer do justice to the situation of the persons concerned? And is it imperative from a theology of the sacraments? Can people who are seen to be in a state of grave sin really feel that the fully belong to us?

Someone who, after a failure of their marriage, has contracted a new civil marriage, from which often children have sprung, has contracted a new moral duty  that he or she cannot break without becoming guilty again. Even if a resumption of the relationship was possible – generally it is impossible – this person is in an objective moral dilemma, from which there is no clear moral theological escape. The advice to refrain from sexual acts in the new relationship seems not only unrealistic [O_o  Notburga] to many. It is also questionable if sexual acts can be judged isolated from the circumstances of life. Can we, without exception, assess sexual acts in a second civil marriage as adultery? Independently from the specific situation?

[…]

On the theological groundwork laid by the Second Vatican Council, we should therefore seriously consider the possibility – always for the specific case, and not in a generalizing way [Of course not, perish the thought! Notbuga] – to admit the civilly divorced and remarried faithful to the sacrament of Penance and Communion, if the life together in the canonically valid marriage has definitely failed and the marriage cannot be annulled, if the duties stemming from this marriage have been resolved, the guilt in the failure of the marital union has been repented and the honest will exists to live the second civil marriage in faith and to bring up the children in the faith.

* Actually, I have been quite concerned about the lack of inclusion in all these discussions. What about those in a third, or a forth “civil marriage”?

Yesterday the German bishops started their annual spring conference.

On the GBC website, preparation for the October Synod of Bishops on the Family is only mentioned casually as one of the less prominent points of the agenda. Given recent utterances of certain German bishops, this does not quite allay my apprehension.

So, restlessly prowling around the internet, I only now discovered that the GBC’s answers to the Vatican questionnaire are online. Catholic World News summarizes the summary. Contrary to my first assumption, they did not quote the most extreme things out of context: the whole document breathes the same spirit.

Honestly, I did not expect something this blunt. One could, in fact, call this a ‘courageous’ document. I mean, how shameful and embarrassing (to say the least) to have to go to Rome and admit how fully and utterly you have failed in taking care of the immortal souls of your flock!

I was even starting to hope again: if you want to argue that changes in society necessitate some ‘development’ of the Church’s teaching on marriage and sexuality, presenting the situation as a wholesale pastoral and catechetical failure would not seem to be the most promising strategy. On the other hand, some passages seem to cross the border from bluntness to cynicism – at least, that is the best interpretation I have for sentences like this one:

Almost all couples who wish to marry in Church have already been living together, frequently for several years (estimates are between 90% and 100%).

The fact that even the bishops of my country see people like my married Catholic friends (who did not cohabit before marriage) as some barely existing freak group is somewhat disturbing.

Update: Today, the German bishops have voted for Cardinal Archbishop Reinhard ‘Who-is-the-head-of-the-CDF-to-tell-us-what-the-Church-teaches’ Marx as the head of the German Bishops’ Conference.

The Catholic Church in Germany is special in many ways. Church Tax, automatically collected by the state for the Catholic Church and diverse religious communities, is one of them.

Not always does the Catholic Church spend the revenues from Church Tax wisely. Worse than that, some of the money also goes to “Catholic” groups and activities that are in more or less direct opposition to the teachings of the Church. So what if some faithful Catholics would find their conscience does not permit them to contribute to funding these activities, and, instead of paying Church Tax, want to donate the equivalent amount of money to orthodox Catholic charities and groups?

To do this, they would have to go to the registrar and, either verbally or in written form, declare that they wished to leave the Catholic Church (I guess, verbally the formulation could be somewhat adapted). Until 2012, the position of the Church in Germany was that the consequence of this was automatic excommunication. However,  in 2006 the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts decided that this is not the case:

The substance of the act of the will must be the rupture of those bonds of communion – faith, sacraments, and pastoral governance – that permit the Faithful to receive the life of grace within the Church. This means that the formal act of defection must have more than a juridical-administrative character (the removal of one’s name from a Church membership registry maintained by the government in order to produce certain civil consequences), but be configured as a true separation from the constitutive elements of the life of the Church: it supposes, therefore, an act of apostasy, heresy or schism.

When a retired canon lawyer sued the archdiocese of Freiburg for having excommunicated him nevertheless (a lawsuit that moved up to the Federal Administrative Court of Germany), the Bishops’ Conference seems to have become really eager to settle the matter. In September 2012, they published a document(“Allgemeines Dekret der Deutschen Bischofskonferenz zum Kirchenaustritt”) stating that someone not paying Church Tax, (while not truly excommunicated) is still barred from receiving the sacraments unless in immediate danger of death.

Apparently, this decree has the blessing of Rome – says the German Bishops’ Conference, claiming that the decree was shown to the Holy Father before publishing and citing a decree of the Congregation of Bishops of 28 Aug 2012, Prot. No. 834/84. Unfortunately, this decree is not available online – nor, apparently, was a group of laymen (never mind their agenda for the moment) given the opportunity to read this decree, after letters to the German Bishops’ Conference, the nuncio, and others. On another website, the authority of the Congregation of Bishops to countermand the 2006 decree of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts was questioned.

So, all is very murky.

My questions to the valued knowledgable readers of this blogs are therefore:

  • Is someone not paying Church Taxes in Germany (for reasons and under conditions described above) sinning?
  • Would it be licit for a priest to administer the sacraments to such a person, in spite of the decree by the Bishops’ Conference?

I would be very much obliged for clarifying replies.

A ray of light in the Baden-Württemberg Bildungsplan scandal:

While parts of the Baden-Württemberg Christian Democrats have joined the massa … the majority of society, there are now some sensible voices to be heard.

The minority leader in Baden-Württemberg parliament, Peter Hauk (CDU), has said something sensible, at last, in the public debate. According to kath.net [my translation], he said in an important speech at the Landtag, that the Green politicians ‘have shown themselves quite deficient in tolerance regarding the topic of tolerance. […] Their dealing with critical voices is actually embarrassing, intolerant according to their own criteria, probably discriminating as well. […] Everyone has the right to address the German legislative with a petition, everyone. As politicians, we have no right to judge this elementary civic right in its application or, even worse, as you did it, to condemn it.’

Hauk, who studied Forestry, was Minister of Agriculture in Baden-Württemberg, at a time when this made him my oberster Dienstherr. During this time, I heard him at a number of official events, where he distinguished himself by frequently actually saying something, even criticising current policy, and, very admirably: actually being truly knowledgable regarding the agricultural matters under discussion.

Or: Why it would be very difficult being a proper Conservative in Germany.

On two week-days, Holy Mass is celebrated in the chapel of a Catholic Hospital close to my place of work. Whenever I can, I attend Mass there. Usually, (after the sisters left, but that is another story), there is a congregation of some seven to twelve, and you know the majority of them by sight at least. Today, however, I was in for a surprise.

I was a wee bit late (mea culpa), and was struck, on entering, by seeing two sets of equally, but differently, colourfully dressed of young men standing to the left and to the right of the altar, three each side, and one each holding a big flag.

One side looked like this:

vollwichs_oneside

Who EVER thought these hats would NOT look utterly ridiculous? (They are not meant to, you know.)

The other more like that:

burschenschaften

More romantic. Less ridiculous (somewhat).

Additionally, there were some 15 young men in dark suits in the pews (left and right).

Now, I will admit to some partiality towards young(ish) men in suits, or kilts, or historical uniforms. That instinctive reaction, however, was tempered, in roughly equal parts, by the GNT* reaction to anything even remotely military, and by my background knowledge, and very, very ambivalent position about/regarding Studentenverbindungen.

Them being the top adversaries of far-left student groups, they would, (a) enjoy my pre-conversion automatic disapproval, and (b) my post-conversion advance of goodwill (because most things hated by the far left are not as bad as the media make us see them).

Actually, when Communist-Germany I started to study at a western German university, meeting actually existing real-time Burschenschaftler was an experience akin to meeting actually existing real-time knights: History come alive, and you hardly believe it.

For this reason, I do not have the instinctive aversion to them that, let us say, Magdalena has. In fact, I took part in a number of activities of one particular fraternity, distinguished by having female active members (Is this a particularly bad thing, in this context, or an attenuating circumstance? At this time of the day I get confused by double-negatives.)

Still, for a ‘normal’ contemporary German (and probably anyone else), they are weird, to say the least.

Coming, at last, to the liturgical question.

These people seem to regard themselves as soldiers in gala uniform. Now we, in Germany, are neither predominantly Catholic, nor exactly demonstratively militaristic, at the moment. There are therefore no Masses with military prominently present (aka Remembrance day, etc.), here.

Now even admitting that these Studentenverbindungen have an equal position for that purpose: What should their role in the liturgy be?

German me says:

Simply kneeling/standing in the pew like everyone else, full stop. (Would be quite efficient as well, maybe, to have ostentatiously uniformed men kneeling in front of Our Lord, in Germany, today.)

What they did, however was:

Keep their more or less stupid hats on, all the time.

Never knelt.

Most of them (the disciplined left side, anyway) staring straight ahead,  not at the altar.

At the words of consecration, the left side, at least (those with the particularly silly hats), did this: The flagbearer lowered the flag, and the other two saluted. (No-one knelt.)

At recession, the priest stood for a while, ad orientem, while these chaps saluted/lowered the flag, and left before the priest.

How should this have been done (if done at all)? (Real question to the liturgists!)

At least, at 30+, I am finally mature enough to charitably think ‘Bless their little hearts!’ and smile at them (leaving the not really quite suppressible grin for when they have left), and appreciate that at least they go to Mass (and, some of them, dress well) before getting, probably, hideously drunk.

*GNT: German National Trauma

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