Catholic sex abuse scandal raising doubts for young German Catholics
In Germany, the birthplace of Pope Benedict XVI, the priest sex abuse scandal has shaken many young Catholics' trust in the church, if not their faith. The man who initially inspired a new 'Benedict generation' is now seen as out of touch.
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In a dozen informal interviews with young Catholics in Bavaria and Tubingen, Catholics under 30 generally disagreed with the church's absolute positions on contraception, abortion, celibacy, and the ordination of women.Skip to next paragraph
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“The Lutheran church has women ministers, and they seem to be working out,” says a young Catholic representative at a local Munich lay Catholic meeting. “I’m not closed to the idea."
Analysts say youth views reflect the very kind of modern values – some secular, some democratic – that are seen by Vatican bishops and the pope as merely mirroring popular culture, or being simply “un-Catholic.” Some analysts say young Europeans sound more like American Catholics.
“We respect Benedict but are not fond of him. We think he comes up with strange sayings and ideas,” says a young Catholic from central Germany who sports a scraggly beard and gives his name as Benoit. “When he went to Africa, he talked about not using condoms and abstinence.”
Nor is the Bavarian countryside, the traditional seed-corn for the German church, necessarily retaining small-village values. Students now move from small towns to the city, study overseas, go to rock concerts, vacation abroad, and surf the Web.
Stephan, a research assistant at Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, says he identifies strongly as a Catholic though he thinks the church is not adapting to modern problems.
“If people would obey the rules and love thy neighbor we would have fewer problems in the world," he says. "The core values of the church shouldn’t change, but the institution should change.”
Without such change, the Catholic church could face growing rows of empty pews. More than a mere revision of the old system, young Catholics want to see a permanent and significant transformation, according to theologian Tom Beaudoin of Jesuit-run Fordham University in New York City.
"[Young people] are leaving," Mr. Beaudoin says. "Unless something changes, the church will go its way, and they will go their way.”
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