In February, Germany’s Catholic bishops, responding to a worldwide Vatican survey, announced that many Church teachings on sexual morality were either unknown to the faithful or rejected as unrealistic and heartless.
They said the survey, drawn up for the October synod, showed most German Catholics disputed Church bans on birth control and premarital or gay sex and criticised rules barring the divorced from remarriage in church.
The results do not strike many Catholics as news, especially in Western Europe and North America, but the blunt official admission of this wide gap between policy and practice is uncommon and bound to raise pressure on Pope Francis to introduce reforms.
Bishops in Germany, one of the richest and most influential national churches in the Catholic world, have been pressing the Vatican to reform, especially over permitting divorced and remarried Catholics to receive holy communion.
A statement from the German bishops’ conference called the results “a sober inventory of what German Catholics appreciate about Church teaching on marriage and the family and what they find off-putting or unacceptable, either mostly or completely.”
The bishops’ report stated that while Germans still respect the Church’s ideal of stable marriages and a happy family life, “the Church’s statements on premarital sexual relations, homosexuality, on those divorced and remarried, and on birth control, by contrast are virtually never accepted, or are expressly rejected in the vast majority of cases”. Similar views have been expressed in Switzerland and Ireland.
Sources: Reuters, The Tablet and The Irish Times
(Published in Quest Bulletin 69, Spring 2014)