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German lay organization, backed by bishops, calls for changes in Church policy on marriage

May 18, 2015

An influential national body of German lay Catholics has called for dramatic changes in Church policies regarding marriage, prompting a confrontation with one German bishop, the National Catholic Register reports.

Vatican correspondent Edward Pentin writes that the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK) called for admission of divorced and remarried Catholics to Communion. The ZdK also said that the Church should bless same-sex unions, and urged the “re-evaluation of the methods of artificial contraception.”

Bishop Stefan Oster of Passau objected strenuously to the ZdK statement, calling it “incomprehensible” and “very troubling.” He said that the ZdK had gone well beyond its mandate to present the ideas of lay Catholics, and many German Catholics “no longer feel represented by the ZdK today.” Bishop Oster added that the ZdK statement was not even “remotely close” to the approach taken by Bishop Francis.

The controversial ZdK statement was unanimously adopted by the group’s leaders at an assembly earlier this month. The ZdK is subsidized by the German bishops’ conference. Felix Neumann, who edits the Katholisch.de news site under the auspices of the same episcopal conference, defended the ZdK statement, saying that it was “not a provocation.”

On the other hand Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the president of the German bishops’ conference, said that some points in the ZdK statement were “theologically unacceptable.” Cardinal Marx himself has called for Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, and has said that the German hierarchy will not wait for approval from Rome before implementing their own pastoral policies.

Citing “well-informed, high-level sources,” Pentin reported that the Cardinal Marx had approached the bishops of Poland, suggesting that representatives of the two episcopal conferences meet to establish a common approach to changes in the Church’s approach to marriage. The Polish bishops—who have been steadfast in support of Church teachings on marriage—rejected the German cardinal’s overture, Pentin said.

In a follow-up report, Pentin noted that five other German bishops-- four of them from the region of Bavaria-- wrote to Bishop Oster to congratulate on his statement and join in his criticism of the ZdK. They were Bishops Konrad Zdarsa of Augsburg, Gregory Hanke OSB of Eichstätt, Wolfgang Ipolt of Görlitz, Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg, and Friedhelm Hofmann of Würzburg.

 


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