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Benedict XVI laments lack of faith within Church institutions in Germany

By CNA Staff

Pope Benedict XVI waves as he leaves his final general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Feb. 27, 2013. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Freiburg, Jul 26, 2021 / 06:30 am (CNA).

Pope emeritus Benedict XVI has expressed concern about the lack of faith within Church institutions in Germany.

The retired pope made the comments in a written conversation in the August issue of the German magazine Herder Korrespondenz, marking the 70th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

“In Church institutions — hospitals, schools, Caritas — many people participate in decisive positions who do not share the inner mission of the Church and thus in many cases obscure the witness of this institution,” he said.

In an exchange with Tobias Winstel, the 94-year-old reflected on the concept of the “Amtskirche,” a German term that can be translated as “institutional Church” and is used to refer to the large number of Church-tax funded structures and institutions in Germany.

He wrote: “The word ‘Amtskirche’ was coined to express the contrast between what is officially demanded and what is personally believed. The word ‘Amtskirche’ insinuates an inner contradiction between what the faith actually demands and signifies and its depersonalization.”

He suggested that many texts issued by the German Church were crafted by people for whom faith was largely institutional.

“In this sense, I must admit that for a large part of institutional Church texts in Germany, the word ‘Amtskirche’ does indeed apply,” he commented.

He continued: “As long as in institutional Church texts only the office, but not the heart and the spirit, speak, so long the exodus from the world of faith will continue.”

Benedict, who was prefect of Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith before he was elected pope, said: “That’s why it seemed important to me then, as it does now, to take the person out of the cover of office and expect a real personal testimony of faith from the spokesmen of the Church.”

In the conversation, Benedict also discussed an issue that he had highlighted in 2011, during his final trip to Germany before his resignation as pope in 2013.

In an address in Freiburg, a university town in southwest Germany, he implicitly criticized aspects of the German Church, referring to a tendency to give “greater weight to organization and institutionalization” than to the Church’s “vocation to openness towards God.”

Benedict called in the speech for a “Church that is detached from worldliness,” using the German phrase “entweltlichte Kirche.”

The former pope told Herder Korrespondenz that he now felt that the term was inadequate.

“The word ‘Entweltlichung’ [‘detachment from worldliness’] indicates the negative part of the movement I am concerned with,” he wrote. “The positive is not sufficiently expressed by it.”

Rather, he said, it is about stepping out of the constraints of a particular time “into the freedom of faith.”

In the written exchange, Benedict also warned Catholics against the danger of seeking a “flight into pure doctrine.”

Benedict, who was the Vatican’s doctrinal chief from 1982 to 2005, said that attempting such a flight was “completely unrealistic.”

“A doctrine that would exist like a nature preserve separated from the daily world of faith and its needs would be at the same time an abandonment of faith itself,” he said.

In the conversation, Benedict was also asked whether he was a good pastor when he served at Precious Blood church in the Bogenhausen district of Munich after his ordination on June 29, 1951.

“Whether I have been a good priest and pastor, I dare not judge,” he replied, adding that he had tried “to live up to the demands of my ministry and ordination.”


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10 Comments

  1. “Pope Francis just concluded Vatican III and declared all religions are true”! (Carl Olson 1.5.2014). Why am I finding this out now when the Council of Abu Dhabi 2.4.2019 declared it to be true in the Document on Fraternity? How could I have missed this. It wasn’t in the parish bulletin. Was it simply confirmation? And Fratelli tutti 3.10.2020 seems to indicate that all secular institutions, for example the UN, the Anglican church, Baháʼí i, Georgetown U are equal to Catholicism. As well therefore as German Church institutions. Then Benedict either must be misinformed. Or perhaps he’s not. “As long as in institutional Church texts only the office, but not the heart and the spirit, speak, so long the exodus from the world of faith will continue (Benedict XVI)”. Then if he’s right, as usual, mustn’t we reconsider our relation with the world, and conceptual globalism. Although a pure return to doctrinal adherence is unrealistic [the strict traditionalist approach]. Rather, he said, it is about stepping out of the constraints of a particular time “into the freedom of faith.” Benedict has the experiential credentials as well as the faith to envision the entire picture. We’re in the world to witness to Christ while living that median of distance from sin and Christlike example. While Benedict ends humbly questioning himself; some of us affirm his remarkable witness.

  2. Benedict said “…it is about stepping out of the constraints of a particular time ‘into the freedom of faith.’”

    Chesterton said it this way: “The Catholic Church is the only thing that frees a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age.” He also said this about any “real personal testimony of faith from the spokesmen of the Church” [Benedict]–a lost century and a half ago:

    “Those runners [messengers of the Gospel] gather impetus as they run. Ages afterwards they still speak as if something had just happened. They have not lost the speed and momentum of messengers; they have hardly lost, as it were, the wild eyes of witnesses. . . .We might sometimes fancy that the Church grows younger as the world grows old.”

    • “Ages afterwards they still speak as if something had just happened”, insight at its best in Chesterton’s words, that the Good News is news that transcends time and place. Unlike His Holiness’ conceptual time that changes the message of Christ from its spacial place, where the new gospel [Amoris Laetitia] if possessing any resemblance to the original [in chapter eight] is purely coincidental.

      • Right, the slippery notion that “conceptual time…changes the message of Christ from its spacial place.” Where did we hear that before? How about the four “principles” superimposed onto Evangelii Gaudium (2013)? About which:

        When is “time is greater than space” at risk of HISTORICISM?

        Also these:

        When is “unity prevails over conflict” at risk of CLERICALISM—e.g., amputating the “extraordinary form” from the “ordinary form” of the Novus Ordo, while also earning ever greater disrespect from the infiltrating Synodal Way?

        When is “realities are more important than ideas [concepts?]” at risk of NOMINALISM?

        When is “the whole is greater than the part” at risk of GLOBALISM (the Fundamental Option, Proportionalism/Consequentialism, as exposed in Veritatis Splendor, 1993)?

  3. When the history of popes is written, they will discover how blessed we were to have this man as pope. The era of JP II and Benedict will be considered a remarkable time. Then, they will contrast the horrifically weird time of Pope Francis.

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