F Rosa Rubicondior: Catholic Abuse News - German Congregation Walkout

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Catholic Abuse News - German Congregation Walkout

Rev. Ulrich Zurkuhlen
"I have never experienced anything like this in the 54 years of my life as a priest."
German Catholics Storm Out Of Sermon Urging Forgiveness For Predator Priests | HuffPost UK

Once upon a time, the members of a Christian congregation were nothing if not derential. Not so now though if Münster in Germany is anything to go by.

A congregation would once sit, sometimes for hours, enduring the lectures priests delivered from their pulpit. They would nod piously but silently in agreement, as the sacred words of wisdom poured forth upon the assembled godly, enlightening them, reinforcing their sense of unworthiness and their need to come back again next week to endure another lecture, hand over money and beg for forgiveness.

They would even shake hands with the priest as they left, congratulating him on another wonderful sermon - whilst scarcely remembering a word of it.

Not so today, as events in the German city of Münster showed. Gone is deference to the moral authority of the church and it's priests. Sickened by daily stories of hypocrisy and moral depravity of priests, and in this case Catholic priests, the congregation in the Holy Spirit Church answered back, loudly and angrily. Eventually half the choir walked out followed by about 70 of the congregation and held an impromptu protest meeting outside.

What angered them was the Rev. Ulrich Zurkuhlen telling them they should forgive paedophile priests. Some of the congregation were reportedly victims of paedophile priests. They were being told they weren't Christian enough for not forgiving their abusers.

Emeritus pastor Zurkuhlen, aged 79, later complained to Kirche-und-Leben (Church and Life), the Münster Dioceses online news site, that he had not been able to complete his sermon because of the "screaming mob". He also complained, "That was a real shock. I have never experienced anything like this in the 54 years of my life as a priest."

The sermon had been prompted by an overheard conversation between two women who had spoken disparagingly about their former husbands. Zurkuhlen had lectured them on how they should have forgiven their husbands and how criticising them was a blasphemy. What angered the congregation and the women in particular was when he moved on to compare women who don't forgive their husbands to victims of paedophile abuse by priests who can't forgive their abusers.

Last September a report commissioned by the German Bishops Conference revealed that there was documented abuse of 3,677 minors by 1,670 clerics between 1946 and 2014. This is 4.4 percent of all clerics whose personnel records were reviewed. Among diocesan priests, that figure was 5.1 percent. Over half the victims were under 13 years old. The authors of the report warned that the real figure was almost certainly much higher. They also reported that some relevant records had been 'manipulated' or destroyed.

The bishop of Münster, Felix Genn, has not forgiven Zurkuhlen and has reportedly told him to stop preaching.

Zurkuhlen's complaint that he had never experienced anything like it in his 54 years as a priest, is highly indicative of the changed public perception of the Catholic Church and the moral authority of priests.

Clearly, what is happening is that society, at least in the developed world, is moving on, while the churches struggle to keep up. Morality is not something handed down to the people by cleris anymore, if it ever was. Morality is now something the priests learn from their congregations in order to adapt and survive.

Faced with the paradox of needing to become less doctrinaire and dogmatically Catholic or the congregation leaving, never to return, the Catholic Church is finding it difficult. Much of its power came from its former power to control the congregation, using their naive deference to the assumed (and largely illusory) moral authority of the clerics. That gone, the church is becoming powerless and irrelevant.

Perhaps it's time more congregations started to answer back and express their disgust at a church which tolerated and facilitated predatory priests for so long and cared more about the welfare of the priests and the reputation of the church than it did about the harm done to their victims.

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