At the Catholic Day, the implosion of the church can be observed

The major events of Christian laypeople in Germany have always had a political side. But it was seldom as tight left as this year.

Catholic Day began in Stuttgart on Wednesday. It has the motto “sharing life” written in small letters and lasts until Sunday.

Arnulf Hettrich / Imago

Alexander Kissler is the political editor of the NZZ in Germany.

Alexander Kissler is the political editor of the NZZ in Germany.


You are reading an excerpt from the weekday newsletter “The Other View”, today by Alexander Kissler, editor in the Berlin office of the NZZ. Subscribe to the newsletter for free. Not resident in Germany? Benefit here.

Ascension Day has long since become Father’s or Lord’s Day. Only a minority of the baptized are able to explain the content of the feast, and only a minority of this minority celebrate it with a service. Those who are not lured outside by the handcart or Christ’s post-Easter ascension to a church can join “tens of thousands of Catholics and believers of all denominations” at the 102nd German Catholic Day in Stuttgart together with Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier “Climate crisis, pandemic and war » let explain. Or listen to SPD general secretary Kevin Kühnert answering the question “Who still needs the church?” Chancellor Olaf Scholz has also announced his coming. There is no shortage of celebrities, politics and slogans, but there is even more of believers and religious knowledge.

Catholic Days are organized by the Central Committee of German Catholics and in this respect allow a concentrated view of a parallel Catholic society. This is characterized by a whopping two-thirds majority for left-wing political projects and parties. Appropriately, the colors of Catholic Day are not the blue of the sky or even the white and yellow of the Vatican. Instead, green, red and dark red dominate.

Let’s talk about sex

Party leader Ricarda Lang, Bundestag Vice President Katrin Göring-Eckardt, Deputy parliamentary group leader Agnieszka Brugger, Bundestag and EU MPs, State Secretary for Economic Affairs Sven Giegold, Federal Minister of Agriculture Cem Özdemir and Winfried Kretschmann, the host Prime Minister, come from Bündnis 90/Die Grünen. He interprets the Acts of the Apostles and discusses his understanding of ministry.

In addition to the Secretary General, the SPD sends its religious policy spokesperson, its health policy spokeswoman and its parliamentary group leader from the Bundestag, among other things. In addition, there are the state ministers of the traffic light government for integration, Andrea Nahles, a former federal minister, and Marie Luise Dreyer, a current prime minister.

You have to use a magnifying glass to look for emissaries from the FDP and CDU; in contrast to the Left Party, the AfD is not represented at all, but the Robert Koch Institute is. Its president Lothar Wieler contributes a “digitally pre-produced” Bible study.

The titles of the events change, the topics remain more or less the same: climate protection, climate crisis, climate collapse on the one hand, transformation, integration, migration on the other. The war in Ukraine is also covered. A “specialist promoter for empowerment and intercultural opening” speaks about colonialism, and a theology student encourages “talking about tenderness, eroticism and sex”.

Always the same popular hits

The gain in distinction for the politicians is obvious: ideologically they are among themselves, appear to be thoughtful, join the post-materialist elite and get applause. But what do the organizers expect, what do the Catholic Christians expect from the ideological hook?

The popularity of the public is also pointing downwards, as is the development of membership in the large churches. The previous Catholic Days had between 40,000 and 90,000 visitors; now one would be satisfied with 30,000 and thus with around 1.3 per mille of church members. If the ever-same popular songs – within the Church these are: celibacy, the consecration of women, synodality – are repeated again and again without any visible gain in knowledge or any movement in the matter, the interest of all those involved wanes.

Anyone who, as a German Catholic, expects to be faithful to tradition and spirituality will be just as little served by his church as all those who keep formulating new desires for reform in synodal and other ways. A Catholic Day that pretends that there is only the progressive view of things will not change that.

A pope who made the German reform agenda his own, democratized the election of bishops tomorrow and ordained women priests the day after tomorrow would soon no longer be a pope. The secession of several local churches would be inevitable. So the Catholic Church in Germany remains caught between a future that scares it and a past that it rejects. Consequently, it is ground down in the present.

The abuse crisis is far from over

Adding to the Gordian knot of political activism and theological disinterest that the Church tightens every day is the self-inflicted drama of the abuse crisis. So far, neither have all victims been adequately compensated, nor have all perpetrators been adequately punished. What will become of the Cologne Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki’s offer to resign is just as unclear as the consequences of the behavior of Reinhard Cardinal Marx during his time in Munich and Trier. Only towards the end of this year will the “independent commission for the investigation of sexual abuse in the area of ​​responsibility of the Diocese of Trier” present its report.

The current chairman of the German bishops’ conference, Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg, has to be accused of promoting a priest who had been admonished for molesting two women to the position of district dean. At the Catholic Day, Bätzing, who sees himself as a reformer and likes to give advice to his counterparts, is to deny three items on the agenda.

The future will show whether the Catholic Church in Germany will disappear in the medium term. That and how it implodes can be seen at the Catholic Day.

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