Two further senior members of the Catholic hierarchy in Germany, namely conference president Bishop Georg Bätzing and Archbishop Ludwig Schick of Bamberg, who is responsible for world affairs in the bishops’ conference, have come out in favour of making priestly celibacy voluntary. Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich came out strongly in favour of making priestly celibacy voluntary at the beginning of February.
Schick advocated ordaining “‘viri probati’ – that is men who are tried and tested in marriage” and at the same time giving increased support to those priests who deliberately chose to remain celibate. A good mixture of married and celibate priests could prevent clericalism and abuse of power, he underlined in an article for German daily Fuldaer Zeitung.
Meanwhile, in an open letter to conference president Bätzing published in Trier on 14 February, the vicar generals of eleven of Germany’s 27 archdioceses and dioceses have advocated changing the German Church’s employment law which has up to now discriminated against remarried divorcees and queers.
Remarried divorcees and same-sex married couples should not have to face sanctions as they still do at present, the vicar-generals point out. They appeal to the German bishops “quickly to change the church employment law and dispense with all references to personal lifestyle. Employment law must not be used as a tool to enforce the Church’s sexual morality – a subject which is being widely discussed in the Church at the moment and which ignores the reality of life,” they underlined.
In Germany, employment conditions for the Church’s 1.3 million employees differ considerably from the conditions of other German employees as, according to constitutional law, religious communities have the right to self-determination and self-administration.
According to a poll by the German press agency dpa (Deutsche Presseagentur), since the publication of the Munich Report on 20 January, the number of Catholics leaving the Church in Bavaria has rocketed. The average number in Munich itself has more than doubled. In many Bavarian cities numbers have exploded and there are long waiting lists of Catholics who want to leave.
Catholics in Germany who want to leave the Church officially. and therefore not have to pay the compulsory church tax, which is 8 per cent of a person’s net income, have to go along to their registry office and officially state in writing that they are no longer members of the Church.