Speyer, Germany, May 17, 2022 / 08:10 am (CNA).
A senior German priest has announced that he is no longer Catholic, citing his disappointment over a lack of “reforms” in the Church and admitting to having broken his promise of celibacy.
Sturm, who is joining Germany’s Old Catholic community, said that he had “lost hope and confidence over the years that the Roman Catholic Church can truly transform itself.”
“At the same time, I experience how much hope is placed in ongoing processes such as the Synodal Way. But I’m no longer in a position to also proclaim and honestly and sincerely share that hope, because I simply don’t have it anymore.”
The former vicar general described the ordination of women to the priesthood, as well as “the abolition of compulsory celibacy, dealing with queer people, co-determination of the laity, blessing ceremonies for homosexuals and overall sexual morality in the Church,” as the most important topics that he believed were not being addressed.
Admitting in an interview to having broken the promise of celibacy, Sturm told the local newspaper Mannheimer Morgen that he had long doubted whether the Catholic Church was “a good fit for me,” even in seminary and as a pastor.
“But in the office of vicar general, it was easier for me to ponder these doubts and think about quitting,” said Sturm, who led the Speyer diocese for several months during the prolonged absence of its bishop for health reasons.
In a number of interviews with German newspapers, Sturm said that he was launching a book about his experience. The title of the publication, scheduled for release in June, is “I have to get out of this Church,” with the subtitle “Because I want to remain a human being. A vicar general speaks out.”
According to a press release by the publisher Herder, Sturm said: “For me, there was only ever the Roman Catholic Church and my life in it and with it. In the meantime, I have been asking myself for some time whether I am not also co-dependent. Co-dependent on this Church. This image with co-dependency came to my mind because people write to me over and over again: ‘Because of you, I’m not leaving the Church.’ But do I want to?”
Old Catholics belong to a movement originating primarily in the Netherlands, Germany, and Switzerland, consisting of Catholics who were excommunicated over their refusal to acknowledge papal authority in dogmatic matters following the First Vatican Council. In Old Catholic communities, women can be ordained, remarriage after divorce is possible, and homosexual unions are blessed.
Sturm is not the only prominent German Catholic figure to gravitate to the Old Catholics.
Another notable case is that of Anselm Bilgri, the former prior of the Bavarian abbey of Andechs. The ex-Benedictine monk made headlines in Germany on May 17 over claims that Pope Francis had dismissed him from the clerical state for reportedly conducting Catholic weddings and baptisms, despite having left the Church and joined the Old Catholics in 2020.
Speaking to the German tabloid Bild, Bilgri accused the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising of having “snitched” on him and said that the pope had “punitively dismissed” him from the clergy for “persisting in Church schism.”
Frank Ewerszumrode, a former Dominican friar, joined the Old Catholics several months ago. He previously taught Catholic theology at various colleges and universities. Like Bilgri, Ewerszumrode is openly homosexual, CNA Deutsch reported.
Matthias Ring, who serves as bishop of the Old Catholics in Germany, said in April that there had been a general uptick in interest among German Catholics, according to katholisch.de, a website funded and run by the German bishops’ conference.
There were an estimated 15,500 Old Catholics within the community’s single German diocese in 2017.
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