The above article on NCR adds more details to the story coming out of Germany about Catholics being refused the sacraments if they opt out of paying the Church Tax. As with all news stories, one must be cautious about believing sensational head lines. And this head-line, to our North American sensibilities, is sensational indeed. It raised my ire when I first read about it, but I kept hoping that perhaps there was some miscommunication…some cultural nuance that we were missing.
Well, recent statements by Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg, president of the German Bishop’s Conference, leave no room for nuance…
“Clearly, someone withdrawing from the church can no longer take advantage of the system like someone who remains a member,”
The church is a ‘system’ that we ‘take advantage’ of? What happened to graces freely given and freely received? What about the institutional church taking advantage of the people she is called to serve?
“We are grateful Rome has given completely clear approval to our stance.”
What??? This kind of bullying tactic has the approval of the Vatican? This does not bode well for the “New Evangelization”. While bishops from around the world prepare to gather next month to discuss how to draw souls back to the the faith, some are intentionally alienating those who are struggling to stay in the midst of this mess. They just don’t get it!!!
The archbishop said each departure was “painful for the church,” …and “The Catholic church is committed to seeking out every lost person.”
OK, call me a skeptic…but is the pain coming from lost souls, or lost income?
“At issue, however, is the credibility of the church’s sacramental nature. One cannot be half a member or only partly a member. Either one belongs and commits, or one renounces this,”
I respectfully disagree – vehemently – with the good bishop. There are many good souls in our church who struggle with certain teachings or issues. In the midst of their struggles, some stay. Some need to take a voluntary exile to ponder and rethink their faith. Some just cannot afford to give large donations to the church. Some choose not to give financial support as a protest. Through it all, many still identify themselves as Catholics. After all, the sacrament of baptism is indelible. Do not judge our faith or our commitment based on the money we give. It is not only unfair. It is offensive.
In his opening address Monday to the bishops’ meeting, Zollitsch said the church needed “a long perspective, deep breath and patience” to cope with current challenges, as well as a capacity for dialogue with “social groups and circles alienated from the church.”
This really does have to be the kicker! Spot the hypocrisy anyone? This comment screams a lack of understanding. Yes, WE need to take a long, deep breath and have patience with these church leaders. Their actions and tone reflect an authoritative need for control and power, not a desire for dialogue. They need to take a closer look at the cause of the alienation of so many from our church. Perhaps a mirror would help in this regard.
Sigh….. Please forgive my own tone in this rant. Anger does little for dialogue. But sometimes I just need to let off some steam…