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Consider the following Catholic views on sex and marriage:

* Most Catholics disputed the Church ban on artificial means of birth control (only 3% of couples rely on natural family planning)
* Most Catholics disputed the Church ban on premarital sex (Almost all couples who wish to marry in church have already been living together)
* Most Catholics disputed the Church ban on gay sex (most approve legal recognition for same – sex unions)
* Most Catholics criticize rules barring the divorced from remarriage in church.

All of this is familiar, and unremarkable – except for the source. Similar statements have been familiar to ordinary Catholics from formal opinion surveys, and from anecdotal evidence in discussion with parish peers, for years. Among lay Catholics, this is routine. But these statements do not come from secular opinion polling, or from any progressive group of church reformers, but from the German bishops themselves, as they have digested their results from the global survey on marriage and family. (Reuters report, "German bishops tell Vatican: Catholics reject sex rules")

So: German bishops have finally woken up to what has been obvious to the rest of the world, for years. What of it?

The really interesting bit, is two points of significance in the Reuters report on the bishops' findings, going beyond the bare facts presented above: In a separate investigative report into the findings across German dioceses, Der Spiegel on-line reported very similar results yesterday ("The Pope's Sex Problem: Catholic Survey Reveals Frustrated Flock") However, in an analysis of these results, and reports of feelings on the ground, the magazine also noted fears of some Germans that the bishops would hold back from reporting the findings honestly in their submission to Rome.

This has clearly not been the case: the summary of the findings as reported by Reuters are broadly in line with the much longer report at Der Spiegel - and there's more. Although the extraordinary synod on marriage and family has been presented from the start as a forum to debate pastoral care, and not an occasion for doctrinal change, the German bishops have seen the writing on the wall, and drawn the obvious conclusions from their results: doctrine must change, from prohibition based rules, to advisory ethics:

A statement from the German bishops conference called the results "a sober inventory of what German Catholics appreciate about Church teaching on marriage and the family and what they find offputting or unacceptable, either mostly or completely."

The German bishops suggested the Church should move away from what it called its "prohibition ethics" of rules against certain acts or views and stress "advisory ethics" meant to help Catholics live better lives.

In sexual morality, it should find a way of presenting its views that does not make people feel it is hostile to sex.

We must still wait for the responses from other parts of the world, but already we know from Cardinal Schonborn, that the views of Austrian Catholics are similar. We also know from published opinion polls, that the views of English, Irish and American Catholics are too. Results from the rest of Western Europe are likely also to be broadly in line. It's less clear what will come out of the consultation in Eastern Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa, but these regions too, are likely to agree with at least some of the findings.

When news first broke of the global consultation on marriage and family, I predicted that because this would lay bare the huge gulf between Vatican teaching on sex, and Catholic belief and practice on the ground, the consequences would be far greater than Pope Francis and his advisors may have anticipated. Although the synod was not called with any intention of changing teaching, it seemed likely to me that it would demonstrate the need to revise it. It is becoming clearer than ever that I was right. Change must come - and must come in consultation with those most directly affected,Re ordinary Catholics with real life experience of loving and committed sexual relationships.

(Cross - posted from Queering the Church)

Originally posted to gaycatholic on Tue Feb 04, 2014 at 03:46 AM PST.

Also republished by Street Prophets .

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Comment Preferences

  •  Catholics do one thing. RCC says different. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    HeartlandLiberal

    What a surprise.

    The fear among the bishops should be that Catholics wake up one morning and take a look at no-hierarchy, low-maintenance Christianity. For example: the Quakers.

    Bring over the saints. Bring over the calendar. If one insists bring over confession and other sacraments.

    It's a rare congregation that sings worth a dxmn -- but you could bring over a hymnal and stay for a few after the service (plus getting to find out about that Bach guy.) It would be a sin to waste the organs.

    Betcha this combo could be spliced together in an hour. And imagine the great cathedrals of Germany running services where there is nothing but silent prayer for the body of the service.

    Soul meets God.

    And no hypocrisy. As close to that goal as you can get.

    "I hesitate to agree with Ted Nugent...."

    by waterstreet2013 on Tue Feb 04, 2014 at 04:58:36 AM PST

    •  Well Said. (4+ / 0-)

      I am an agnostic, but often think if I were to seek out a place to worship, the Quakers would be an option. Been researching my family, and it appears I come from some Quaker stock at one point in the 19th century, so I think understand some of the threads of family attitude and behavior I grew up with.

      The other groups that appeal to me are the Amish and Mennonite, because of their strong sense of family and community, and insistence on simple living. If you are ever crossing northern Indiana, do NOT miss the The Menno-Hof Museum in Shipshewana, Indiana. It does a marvelous and informative job of recounting the origins and migrations and settlement in America of the two religious groups.

      If I had to be Catholic, I think I would probably make a good Franciscan. Francis of course, were he to appear and teach and speak out to day, would be labeled as the worst possible Marxist on the planet by America's religious right. Even worse than the new Commie Pope. Francis.

      I knew when he chose his name we were in for a sea change in the Church. So far, I have not been proven wrong. Watching the heads roll in the Vatican Bank recently was a moment of great SchadenFreude.

      "You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you are going, because you might not get there." “When you come to the fork in the road, take it.” --Yogi Berra

      by HeartlandLiberal on Tue Feb 04, 2014 at 05:12:55 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  How about a religion with social impact? (5+ / 0-)

      Pope Francis has shown by some of his pronouncements how riveting the social gospel based in the Beatitudes can be.  The conservative Catholic hierarchy has all but abandoned the social and economic teachings of the Latin American bishops in the 1980's, turning instead to unrealistic prudery and jaw-dropping hypocrisy on sexual matters.  But Matthew still stubbornly sits in the heart of the New Testament, and offers the Church a way to instant relevance and power in the lives of its followers.  

      A Church that preaches against avarice and poverty as its central focus would be a powerful force in the world, a force for good for a change.  A Church that challenged all its followers to live the message of the Sermon on the Mount would help catalyze a fundamental change in the capitalist rape of the world and its inhabitants.  A Church that preached good stewardship of the planet might help turn us away from global catastrophe.

      The Church is one of the few large institutions that has not been totally bought by avaricious billionaires.  It could be a great force for good in this world.  You'd think that might be an attractive option for those running it, but they seem to have other priorities.

      We have always been at war with al Qaeda.

      by Dallasdoc on Tue Feb 04, 2014 at 06:04:19 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  The problem is that while Francis can direct (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Alexandra Lynch

    the bishops to ease up on the application of doctrine in these areas, he cannot change the doctrine itself without a council.  What's listed above goes to the heart of the Church's teachings on life and marriage, and many of these teachings form the bedrock of other areas, such as social justice, the dignity of the person, the dignity of work, etc.  

    Now, whether he will call that council is another question.  Hi might, though that itself is a major undertaking....

    To be free and just depends on us. Victor Hugo.

    by dizzydean on Tue Feb 04, 2014 at 05:11:41 AM PST

  •  Part of the reason why it's German bishops (4+ / 0-)

    and not American bishops is tradition.

    Some German bishops are still co-appointed by Holy Mother Church and the local temporal authorities, who inherited that right/privilege from the local princes, dukes, etc. they replaced.  As a result, not everyone appointed was a fire-breathing hardliner.

    Unlike in the USA, which is still reeling from decades' worth of unmitigated/un"compromised" J2P2 and Ratzinator appointees.

    Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

    by corvo on Tue Feb 04, 2014 at 05:22:14 AM PST

    •  Catholic Church in Germany (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      celdd, Fishtroller01

      Is publicly funded through a compulsory tax of 8-9% on members. This tax is collected by the state and disbursed to various churches according to their registration rolls.

      "I'll believe that corporations are people when I see Rick Perry execute one."

      by bink on Tue Feb 04, 2014 at 06:04:59 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's the way it is in a lot of (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Tom Anderson

        European countries.  The Vatican loved its Concordat with Mussolini so much that it started insisting on similar terms with other countries, achieving the most success in countries with Catholic fascist regimes (e.g., Austria), other authoritarian regimes (e.g., Nazi Germany), and/or Catholic-dominated countries.  And of course such concordats, being legally binding treaties, persisted past the deaths of those fascist and/or authoritarian states.

        That's why it's a mortal sin to miss Sunday Mass in the USA, but not in any European country I've lived in: Holy Mother Church is already getting your money, so She doesn't have to threaten you with hellfire for missing the weekly collection plate.

        In any case, the co-appointment of bishops precedes these concordats, usually by centuries.  The Vatican hates this encroachment upon what it regards as its sole prerogative, but can't do much about it. :-)

        Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

        by corvo on Tue Feb 04, 2014 at 07:23:54 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Wasnt martin luther a german? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Alexandra Lynch

    if any place on earth ought to put the fear of God into the catholic church you would think it would be Germany

    •  This statement makes no sense at all. (0+ / 0-)
      •  seriously? which part? (0+ / 0-)
        •  Why would Germany be the place (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          live1

          to put the "fear of God" in the RCC?  Just because Martin Luther was German?  The reformation was not much of a re-formation at all.  It just created another parallel side show (and another circus ringmaster) that did nothing to diminish the power of the RCC in the world, and did much to cause more misery for the world. For the Jews, rather than have one dog hunting them they then had two (Martin Luther wrote Jews and their Lies).    The RCC is not afraid of anything except the loss of power and wealth. Changing the codes about sex etc. will not happen, even if all the German bishops walk out the door.   As long as the RCC has leaders like Obama coming to their doors in the Vatican and their massive money portfolios are intact, they could care less about their policies towards women or anyone else for that matter.  

          I am wondering if this diarist has read what Francis said about gay marriage when he was in Argentina in 2010.  

          •  Regadless of your detailed acct (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Fishtroller01, Batya the Toon

            which i find a little fault with, but not much, the point is that ML did drastically diminish the power of the cc-forever.

            and i really believe that still resonates with the catholic church that is currently represented in Germany.
             and to be honest my post was somewhat snarky.

            and then too i think the current this pope is all about bringing the RCC into the modern world is bunk. they could care less about women-like you mention-"...and their massive money portfolios are intact, they could care less about their policies towards women or anyone else for that matter.  " really agree with you on that

          •  Certainly I've read what Bergoglio said (0+ / 0-)

            about gay marriage in Argentina, and the context, which puts a slightly different colour to it than the simple headlines suggest. But I'm not going to go into that here, as this is not a post about gay marriage, or even about Pope Francis, but about German bishops, and the church and sexual doctrines as a whole .

  •  the reformation started with priests (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gaycatholic

    who wanted to reform the catholic church, not leave it.

    Maybe this time the church will listen, learn and change instead of driving people out.

    •  I'm convinced the Catholic Church IS changing, (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Batya the Toon, occupystephanie

      right before our eyes.

      I've lived through this before. As a South African, I clearly remember how in the late 1980's, change seemed almost an impossible dream - and within just a few years, it was a fait accompli.

      There are many parallels:

      * President FW de Klerk succeeded an authoritarian hardliner, and prepared the way (but did not create) the really fundamental transformation that followed.
      * The real change on the ground came before the political change, which simply recognized that people were widely disregarding a wide swathe of apartheid regulations.
      * A key moment in the long movement towards the final transition, was the youth revolution of 1976, which is now enshrined as a formal public holiday on June 16 - but which had been a de facto holiday decreed by the people for many years before it became law.

      See:

      Once Upon a Time, In the Vatican”: How the Catholic Church Has Changed"

      •  What you see before your very eyes (0+ / 0-)

        is all a part of a very clever PR campaign designed to stem the loss of membership and to deflect the public's attention from the massive child abuse cover ups and other corruptions.

        The RCC has shut down the nuns on these issues before and they will do so with the German hierarchy too. If the church changed their stance on birth control etc. then they would have nothing to stand on. They would have to come up with some new theological arguments for the change, and then poor Mary wouldn't be as special for being a virgin.  Hey, maybe they will find a long lost gospel (they are good at producing those) that shows that she only got pregnant because she messed up her pill cycle!

        •  What's before our eyes (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Batya the Toon, occupystephanie

          is not any PR campaign, but the obvious fact that Catholics in overwhelming numbers have been simply ignoring Vatican regulations on sex, and on much else, for decades.

          THAT is what happened in South Africa, and which inevitably resulted in formal change, later. De Klerk did not introduce change in SA - he simply acknowledged what had already happened, and the need for the country to get together and debate ways to move forward, which it did at the constitutional convention that followed.

          What is happening now, is the bishops making a belated effort to catch up. They are beginning to admit that the Church as a whole has left them behind. The extraordinary synod on marriage and the family, later this year, will be the opportunity for them to begin to think seriously what to do about it - and the next step we should expect, will be a forum for the bishops to engage on the subject with those who have the greatest expertise, and the greatest stake, in the subject - ordinary Catholics who have real -life experience of loving and committed sexual relationships

          •  Good luck with all that. (0+ / 0-)

            It doesn't matter if every Catholic runs out and has an abortion. The church is not going to change it's stand on birth control, gay marriage, abortion or anything else it has built its foundations on.

          •  I share your optimism (0+ / 0-)

            Pope Francis is not a seeker after public acclaim or a manipulative man who wants to increase his holdings. His only PR advisor is Christ and the gospel. People have reacted to it over the globe not because it is a Rarl-Rovian manipulation of public opinion but a reaffirmation of all the love and forgiveness Christ taught.

            Keep up your diaries!

            We have it within our power to make the world over again ~ Thomas Paine

            by occupystephanie on Wed Feb 05, 2014 at 08:18:22 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  the U.S. bishops way out of step (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Bronx59

             The bishops in the United States are at least 100 years out of step with their congregations. I knew this in the 70s when I left the church and it's worse now. When the evangelical churches started becoming more influential and gained members in large numbers the Catholic bishops panicked and decided to emulate them. it's really no wonder why there's such a huge gap between what Catholics really believe and what the bishops preach.

        •  True, but it's been a one sided infatuation (0+ / 0-)
          When the evangelical churches started becoming more influential and gained members in large numbers the Catholic bishops panicked and decided to emulate them.
          Corn-fed conservative Catholicism is Evangelical Protestantism with better bling.
  •  Only wishful thinking on your part, gaycatholic (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bronx59

    Neither Pope Francis nor any member of his Curia have given even the slightest hint that any of the changes requested by the faithful in all these polls will be changed. Under pressure for a PR gesture in order to maintain his insanely biased press, Bergoglio may give a little on the annulment process for remarried Catholics, but that's the extent of what you should expect.

  •  Interesting. And not unexpected. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    occupystephanie

    I disagree on one point in this diary, though.  I'm pretty sure that Pope Francis expected these kinds of results and is aware of just how great the consequences could be.  In fact, I'd be happy to wager that this is exactly what he wants and needs so that he can proceed with the so very necessary and overdue reform of the Catholic Church.

    Once it becomes clear that the vast majority of Catholics have his back, the conservative Cardinals and Bishops will increasingly lose the argument and their power, and Pope Francis will have even more incentive to surge forward.

    Tipped and recced.

    "A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle" - Mohammed Nabbous, R.I.P.

    by Lawrence on Tue Feb 04, 2014 at 07:23:49 AM PST

    •  And then a massive rainbow will appear (0+ / 0-)

      in the skies and a host of angels will fill the skies with songs of praise.  Oh, and I think there will be unicorns too!

      •  And in the greatest miracle ever to be recorded (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        gaycatholic

        Fishtroller will stop trolling the religious diaries at Kos.

        •  Excuse me Batya... (0+ / 0-)

          want to explain why you are here?

          This diarist is arguing that because of some stirrings in the German catholic bishops circles on marriage, birth control, sexuality etc. the whole RCC is going to give up its entrenched policies on these topics.  I am arguing (based on very well established evidence of past behavior) that pigs will fly before that happens... or unicorns in this case.

          Again (I am so tired of doing this).... my comments are on topic and pertinent to the diarist's arguments. And my skepticism of the rosy pictures painted about this institution and its leaders is well founded.

          The "trolling" accusation is nonsense and I think it's time you found another hobby.  Please.

  •  sex, family, and the catholic church (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    occupystephanie

    i hope the catholic church begins to move toward a more humanistic position on sexuality and the family. this is a step in the right direction.  

  •  Great diary. (0+ / 0-)

    I look forward to more.

    Growing up Catholic, I am aware of the chasm between Catholic doctrine and how it works out on the ground. I'm a rhythm method baby; after that, my brother was an unfortunate failure of birth control. It'.s hard to be a really good Catholic and often we do not measure up.

    I think that we are going to see some real change. Vatican II ain't nothing to what we are going to see.

    Pope Francis' focus on mercy, his baptizing a baby whose father was not Catholic therefore out-of-wedlock, and his clear statement that communion is not a "prize for the perfect" but nourishment sets the stage. He does not judge; he loves everyone.

    The Holy Father realizes that marriage inequality is not about marriage but families who are made illegitimate. He does not believe in withholding the sacraments.  

    We have it within our power to make the world over again ~ Thomas Paine

    by occupystephanie on Wed Feb 05, 2014 at 08:07:31 AM PST

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