The German bishops are making their ad limina visit. Every few years diocesan bishops have to go to Rome to meet with offices of the Roman Curia and, usually, the Pope.
Pope Francis gave an address to the German bishops that was clear, coherent, well-crafted and, in many respects, stinging. He painted a dire portrait of the Church in Germany.
At one point he said:
One notes in particular in traditionally Catholic regions a very strong decline in participation at Sunday Mass, not to mention the sacramental life. Where in the 1960’s everywhere just about all the faithful still participated at Holy Mass every Sunday, today there are often less than 10 percent. Ever fewer people seek the sacraments. The Sacrament of Penance has almost disappeared. Ever fewer Catholics receive Confirmation or contract Catholic Matrimony. The number of vocations to priestly ministry and the consecrated life has sharply diminished. In consideration of these facts, one can speak truly of an erosion of the Catholic Faith in Germany.
In his speech to the bishops, Pope Francis therefore directly appealed to them not to “put trust in administrative structures, in perfect organizations”. He called such a tendency “a sort of new Pelagianism” — a term reminiscent of his critique of the Italian church last week. [Most of the time I have no idea what the Pope is talking about when he uses this “Pelagian” slap. Libs titter behind their hands because they think he means conservatives and traditional Catholics. Here the Pope has shoved it smack into the faces of some of the most liberal Catholics anywhere… German bishops.]
One of the things Francis promoted, hard, was fostering the Sacrament of Penance, getting people back to the confessional.
Also, via Pentin:
Noting the sacraments are approached “less often” (a survey released earlier this year showed 54% of Germany’s priests go to Confession just once a year or less), and that vocations have “significantly diminished”, the Pope said the solution depends upon overcoming “paralyzing resignation”.
Here’s what the Pope said:
Turning now our attention to parochial communities, in which one experiences and lives the faith in a greater way, the sacramental life must be at the heart of the Bishop in a special way. I would like to underscore only two points: confession and the Eucharist. The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, which is about to start, offers the opportunity to bring about the rediscovery of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. Confession is the place where one receives as a gift the forgiveness and the mercy of God. In confession there begins the transformation of every single member of the faithful and the reform of the Church. I hope that greater attention will be given to this sacrament, so important for a spiritual renewal in diocesan and parochial pastoral planning, during the Holy Year and also after. It is also necessary to put into evidence always the intimate connection between the Eucharist and priesthood. Pastoral plans that do not give adequate importance to priests in their ministry of governing teaching and sanctifying in regard to the structures and the sacramental life of the church, on the basis of experience are destined for failure. The precious collaboration of the lay faithful above all where vocations are lacking cannot become a surrogate for priestly ministry or make it even seem simply to be optional. Without the priest there is no Eucharist.
Switching web pages we immediately find editorials at the Fishwrap (National Schismatic Reporter) applauding the Pope’s words about confession and abjuring their heretical notions about the ordination of women, which Pope Francis at other times has said is impossible.
Oooops… no! Wait. I had a monsignor moment there. Scratch that last part. As a matter of fact, I didn’t see there any report on the Pope’s stern speech to their German episcopal Liebchen.
What the Fishwrapers want is what the Germans have been up to for years. And now even Francis has called the German Church to wake up.
The Pope’s speech to the Germans was direct… linear… clear… detailed. Detailed in a way that I would not have expected from Francis. This was written for him. That’s not a surprise. Popes generally can’t write their talks, especially in languages they don’t speak about things they don’t know much about. They depend on others. Once the Pope reads it, it is his, of course. But… some German wrote this who knows well the situation of the Church in Germany. Gee… who might have been available to do that? I’m pretty sure that Benedict, when he was Pope, provided the content for his own addresses to German bishops. I mean… who better than he? Right?
And then we ask the question: why? Francis seems to have been all over the German message in the last couple years. Did he finally get tired of seeming like he was on their leash? Did he talk to enough people to finally get the message about what is really happening in the incredibly wealthy but spiritually enervated German Church?
I don’t know.
But this talk was interesting. Eventually, I am sure the whole thing will be in English