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Jan Bentz Jan Bentz Follow Jan

Opinion

The real reason vocations are plummeting in Germany

Jan Bentz Jan Bentz Follow Jan

August 25, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Every year in Germany the number of young men ordained to the sacred orders of the priesthood wanes. In 2015 only 58 men were ordained in the 27 dioceses of Germany in comparison to 2013 (98 men) and 2014 (75 men). These dwindling numbers go hand in hand with the shrinking number of Catholics in Germany overall: 29% of the population (roughly 28 million of 80+ million) adhere to the Church. Still, only approximately one third of these 28 million are practicing and going to Church on a regular basis. The situation is dire.

The abuse scandals, a loss of credibility, and an alleged antiquated Church are three of many false claims given to explain the decline. However, the real reason for the lack of priests is: the Church in Germany is not interested in vocations. In fact she is not interested in spiritual leaders at all. For years the restructuring of the Church has been well underway. Although parishes get larger, vocations get fewer. Those candidates who seek out the seminary – in spite of the main stream anti-Catholicism, notwithstanding their friends’ mockery and maybe their parent’s disapproval – are bullied for whatever faith and interest in the truth they display within the very Church structure. Too frequently candidates are dismissed from the seminary right before their ordination on fictitious and bogus grounds, while in truth, it is their pious faith that seems to be a thorn in the eyes of those preparing the Church for the new age.

The main role of a parish priest in the parish is to be the minister of God, administering the sacraments and focusing on the spiritual wellbeing of the souls entrusted to him. Overburdening the priest with administrative functions is a common trend in today’s Germany – but not only that. The priest is reduced to an administrator, a role stressed even more by the creation of so-called “cluster parishes.” These conglomerations of parishes span over a wide area, making it difficult for individual priest to serve them all. Many priests today, who even just a few years ago could focus on their own individual parish and strengthen bonds with the local Catholic population, find themselves today spending more time in the car per day than exercising their spiritual vocation. The Catholic bishops’ conference of Germany (DBK) prides itself on the fact that in 2014 10,911 parishes existed as compared to 1990 (13,313). Yet as of 2014 there are a little over 14,000 priests in Germany – enough to serve each parish if that is what is desired.

But who is to take on the antiquated role of caretaker of souls? The answer is obvious: the laity. The blueprints of the new diocese and parish structure do not even mention priests, or if so, then merely as marginal footnotes. It is not rare that the daily Mass – if one still exists – has to make way for a “divine liturgy,” a pale imitation of the Mass in which one or two readings read by the laity – often women – is followed by the distribution of Communion stored in the tabernacle from the Sunday prior. A priest has to obey the liturgical “house rules” of the individual parish when he arrives to celebrate Mass: female altar servers, extraordinary distributors of Communion, and lecturers feel empowered by their place in a set schedule to exercise their “right” to take the stage in the liturgy. Few are driven by a spirit of serving. If the priest objects, then the bishop is informed, and he often takes the side of the lay activists rather than his own presbyter.

In the diocese of Limburg this movement is in progress. As a German publication notes, the program of restructuring speaks about “risking a new beginning” together with “gender equality” and “participation.” The supposed effect is that the church will “strengthen contact with the modern reality of life of men.” “The Priest cannot be in the way of the changes,” a prominent co-author of this new program said in the media. As Alexander Kissler commented splendidly: “The waning Church in Germany will become a basis oriented community of the committed.”

Because all of these lay functionaries receive a paycheck, the condition of possibility for the lay takeover is the wealth of the Church. With 1.2 million employees, the Catholic Church is the second largest employer in Germany, second only to the state itself. With over 82 billion euros in turnover, the Church outscored even electronic giants like Siemens. It stands to wonder how much of the commitment of committed laity would remain if the purse strings were tightened?

So it’s not surprising that ever fewer young men are attracted to the idea of submitting themselves for the rest of their life to a structure of that kind.

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