ROME, February 11, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – One hundred and forty-four German-speaking Catholic theologians around Europe have called for changes in the Catholic Church, including female and non-celibate priests, acceptance of homosexuality and contraception. While the “progressive” wing of anti-Catholic dissidents have been calling for these changes for at least four decades, this time they say that it is all part of an effort to protect children from clerical sex abuse.

The group, representing about a third of all German theology professors at universities in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, issued their call for “reforms” last Friday, according to a report in the German daily “Süddeutsche Zeitung.”

The crisis of the sexual abuse of minors by clergy sweeping Germany and other European countries is an indication that “deep reforms are needed,” said the letter. These include “recognition of freedom, maturity and responsibility of individuals,” and parishioners participating in “democratic structures at the direction of their community.”

“The Church needs married priests and women in the church office,” the letter continued. The Church must have “confidence in the decision-making and responsibility … especially concerning the area of personal life choices and individual lifestyles.”

This means that Catholics should be allowed to divorce and remarry, and that the Church should “not exclude” those whose “love, loyalty and mutual concern” are expressed “in a same-sex partnership.”

“Self-righteous moral rigor of the church is not good,” the letter continued. This moral rigor is a “perversion of the biblical message of freedom in a rigorous moral [law] without mercy.”

The letter also warned against the growing trend, popular among the younger, post-Vatican II generation, toward more traditional liturgical practices, including a revival of interest in Latin and Gregorian Chant and sacred polyphony in the Mass.

“The service must not freeze in traditionalism,” said the theologians.

One UK parish priest and popular blogger said the demands are business as usual for the graying remnants of the 1960s revolt. Fr. Ray Blake, who writes from his parish in Brighton, said, “The movement to the ‘left’ it strikes me, is a really a continuation of the very things that have caused our problems.”

“It is [a] position favoured by the liberal establishment, an embracing of the modern world.”

The “progressive” wing of the European Church, Fr. Blake said, has always had these “democratic” yearnings for the Catholic Church. In this theological school, the authority of “popes, saints, lay theologians and personal whim are all the same, except that personal whim tends to win out.”

“It is attractive at first, but then, as in liberal Protestantism, it cuts mankind off from God. Scripture, Tradition, the magisterium, the hierarchy are not there to reveal God because ultimately even God is a human construct.”

Peter Seewald, a German journalist and author of two books on Pope Benedict XVI, said the German letter is nothing more than a “rebellion from the nursing home.”

Calling the letter’s authors the “chief priests of the zeitgeist,” Seewald said, “Here is a concerted action of neo-liberal forces at work to accelerate the rebuilding of the Catholic Church of their nature.”

The letter was welcomed, however, by Father Hans Langendörfer, a Jesuit and secretary of the German bishops’ conference, who responded by saying that the professors only “wish to contribute to the conversation about the future of faith and the Church in Germany.”

Father Langendörfer said that the theologians have been engaged in “beneficial” “structured dialogue” with the German bishops for 20 years and that the letter includes “ideas often discussed together.”

“In a number of issues, the memorandum is in tension with theological beliefs and Church determinations of a highly binding nature,” he said. “The relevant issues require urgent further clarification.”