statement was issued on the First Anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI (April 19,
2006). Emphases are theirs:
“The first year of Benedict’s pontificate has not
changed the problematic situation in the Catholic Church substantially. The
needs for reform are still the same”, says Christian Weisner, Chair of
the International Movement We Are Church, a world-wide reform movement within
the Roman-Catholic Church. “In this first year, we have seen several positive
signs, but there are also severe deficits, which are cause for deep concern.”
Rea Howarth, Co-director of the Quixote Center (Hyattsville, MD) and spokesperson of We Are Church in the United States says: “As we reflect upon the
past year, the International Movement We Are Church wishes to offer its
constructive analysis of the first year of Pope Benedict XVI’s papacy. We do
so as a community of faithful Catholics, in hopes that these comments will be
taken in the spirit of a constructive critique.”
XVI is not asked to follow the spirit of the times. But he must be able
to listen and, in his pontificate, must give and allow answers on the pressing
questions of the Church and society that are keeping with the times ‑
always given on the basis of the Bible and the Second Vatican Council (1962‑65),
which he himself influenced quite considerably as a young theologian.
In view of the current challenges the Christians in
the whole world expect answers that are humane on questions concerning
justice and peace, the inter‑religious dialogue and ecumenism, the
position of women in Church, sexual ethics and the world‑wide lack of
priests. Otherwise, the march not only of women out of the church will
We Are Church welcomed the new openness with which the
episcopate discussed the pastoral problems of the Holy Eucharist during the Bishop’s
Synod in October 2005. But we regret it deeply that the Bishops only
talked about the problems without any actual changes in the Church’s rules and
of leadership is more consultative and collegial than that of his
predecessor. But the continuing fixation on office and person of the Pope as
well as on the Church hierarchy does not reflect the teaching of Jesus and
cannot be a model for the youth. There is the great danger of a personality
cult and a gigantic media show which would overshadow experiencing faith.
It is not forgotten, however, how rigid Ratzinger
was for more than 23 years as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of
Faith, banning critical theologians, condemning the liberation theology,
formulating a rigid sexual doctrine, limiting women’s influence in the Church
as well as the ecumenical relations with Protestant churches.
The fact that one of the first documents licensed by
Pope Benedict XVI, the Vatican Instruction on “Homosexuality and Ordained
ministry”, discriminates against homosexual men entering priesthood is very
disappointing to many Catholics, not just to those who are most directly
Benedict’s recent comments on the role of women in
the church are both heartening and disheartening because he decisively
rejected reopening of the question of ordination.
This surely will exacerbate the priest shortage.
During the 26 years of John Paul II papacy, the number of Catholics increased
by 40% while the number of priests decreased by 4%. Currently, nearly half of
the world’s Catholic parishes and missions do not have a resident priest (Data
from the Center for Applied Research on the Apostolate at Georgetown
University, Washington DC).
The international movement We Are Church welcomed the
meeting of Pope Benedict XVI with the critical theologian Professor Dr. Hans
Kueng in September 2005 in Castel Gandolfo. But the letter of We Are Church
asking the new Pope after his election for a personal meeting hasn’t even been
The world we live in is in danger. The church has the capacity and the responsibility to
tap the gifts of all the baptized for working with people of all faith
traditions in bringing about a peaceful revolution for the good of all
humanity. So far, we do not see any clear indication that Benedict recognizes
this great challenge. His first encyclical “Deus Caritas Est”, though
broadly applauded, was much too general.
The pope has not asked for the resignations of any
bishops or cardinals associated with cover up of sexual crimes against
children and adolescents as well as the abuse of women ‑ including
nuns ‑ by clergy. This is a world‑wide problem. Benedict
continues his direct order to the world’s bishops to maintain a policy of
secrecy and silence. This policy itself is a crime against the weakest and
most vulnerable of our church.
The International Movement We Are Church offers these
reflections in hopes Benedict XVI will see within in them some reflection
of the gifts of the Holy Spirit emanating from the People of God. We
call upon him to begin a new phase of the church, by recognizing that laity is
the Church’s treasure rather than its “problem” and that those of us who raise
our voices for reform and renewal are indeed faithful Catholics, possessing a
true capacity for reflection and discernment, and a genuine love for the whole
church. Again, we invite him to participate in a true dialogue.
The International Movement We Are Church ‑
a grassroots, Roman Catholic, church reform movement of lay persons,
priests, and persons in religious orders ‑ was born in Austria and Germany in 1995 and then spread out in Europe and all continents. We Are Church is in touch with other reform movements all over the world. Its goal is to
‘continue the process of reform in the Roman Catholic Church, a process which has
been opened with Vatican II Council (1962‑1965) and in recent years came
to a stand still’.