Father Benny Blumensaat, the Catholic vicar in Esbjerg, deplores in a letter in the Danish newspaper "Kristeligt Dagblad" that there are "Catholics who oppose the Pope, who oppose the Bishop (we have only one in Denmark) and who are not in accordance with Catholic faith and teaching." Father Blumensaat refers to the grassroot movement "We Are Church" and holds it to be "an expression of revolt that only will give raise to further division in the Church."
As this movement is a loose and informal network of disappointed Catholics, I can only speak on behalf of myself. But here are some of the conditions that I find critical:
that the Pope, the Curia, and the Bishops for years, if not longer, have turned a blind eye to priests', monks', and nuns' sexual abuse of children and minors and only reluctantly have been willing to co-operate with the civil authorities to investigate their crimes
that they are suppressing the fact that as a result of the forced celibacy the priesthood in the Western world has been a magnet for homosexuals just as monasticism has been it for centuries (cf. the present scandal in Austria)
that priests are forced to sign an oath of anti-modernism, that is in principle to renounce all cognitions, made by natural and social scientists in the last 200 years
that theological professors, teachers and writers can be prosecuted secretly by the the Vatican, without knowing the names of the prosecutor, the defender, and the judge (e.g. the Hans Kung-case)
that the Biblical concept of the Church, formulated by the Second Vatican Council, is forgotten, if not directly counter-attacked by the present leadership of the Church
that the Church is governed from the top down by men, who like other dictators bend the law at pleasure (e.g. the canonization of Mother Teresa), and demand a blind acceptance by and a robot-like discipline from their "subjects"
that the leaders of the Church support secular dictators (e.g. the present pope's cordial friendship with General Pinochet of Chile)
that the leaders of the Church reject measures which can prevent people dying of sickness, hunger, and poverty in the Third World
that execution of criminals and implementation of wars, by which thousands of innocent people are killed, are regarded as a lesser moral evil than abortion and mercy killing (cf. the letter of Cardinal Ratzinger to the American bishops, printed in "L'Espresso", July 3rd, 2004)
that observing legalistic principles and paragraphs are more important than the life of human beings (cf. General Vicar Lars Messerschmidt's letter in "Kristeligt Dagblad, Juli 3rd, 2004).
that women are treated as second-class Catholics in the the Curch and generally are considered to be second-class beings
that the laity must accept to be without any influence, even in areas where they have greater knowledge and more experience than the clergy (eg. in family policy)
The list is long and could certainly be made longer, especially if one includes earlier conditions, e.g. Pope Pius XII's antisemitism and sympathy with the Fascist regimes or the manipulated and falsified basis for the declaration of Papal Infallibility, made by Vatican I in 1870.
The present crisis in the Catholic Church is a crisis of credibility. It is rooted in differend concepts of the Church's essence.
Is the Church primarily a religious-legalistic institution or is it a religious-social community of human beings?
Is it exclusively the pope and the bishops or is it the faithful in their totality?
Should its leaders, globally and locally, follow a policy to the benefit of the institution only or a policy that takes its starting points in and is to the benefit of the religious and social needs of the faithful?
These controversies, here simplified, are, however, far from new. Already in the late Middle Ages a similar discussion took place concerning the Church. There were, also then, many sincere Catholics who expressed their discontent with the church leadership. In those days the pope and the curia didn't listen to the complaints and didn't change the critical conditions. The result of this papal negligence is well-known: the Lutheran Reformation.
If the present pope and the bishops don't listen to the well-grounded desire for fundamental reforms inside the Church, made by worried Catholics, one can fear a new and just as serious division of the Church. Such a fear is expressed by the prominent American theologian, Prof. Paul Lakeland in his new book, "The LIberation of the Laity. In Search of an Accountable Church (Continuum, New York, 2002).
Instead of criticizing a lay movement as "We Are Church", Father Blumensaat should rather be content. We haven't left the Church, such as about 30.000 Danish Catholics have done in the last 30 years (a lost of appr. 50 %).
Santa Fe, New Mexico: "Pope John Paul II Road"
Photo: KRJ 2004