Dear Editor: This letter deals with several pieces in a recent issue but a single focus: what is going on in German Catholicism.
Columnist George Weigel has been plowing the same furrow for years, that what ails the church there is insufficient orthodoxy. Two fine books that I would submit for summer reading, if they were available in English, take a different view than Weigel. I’ll translate their titles: “Capital: A Plea for Man” by Cardinal Reinhard Marx (2008) and “Heaven, Lord God, Sacrament: Stand Up instead of Step Out” by Rainer M. Schiessler (2018).
Weigel wrote recently (“Craving Approval Is Not Evangelizing,” June 6) that Cardinal Marx (president of the German Bishops’ Conference and an adviser of Pope Francis) fails to note that Bishop Ketteler was a German pioneer of the Catholic social teaching that the cardinal advocates.
To the contrary, Marx gives special attention to Bishop Ketteler in his book, which begins in an imaginary correspondence with Karl Marx (no relationship) examining where he agrees and disagrees with him. Father Schiessler is a cause célèbre in Germany, author of a newspaper column, an Oktoberfest server, radio priest, and pastor of a growing parish in Munich.
Father Schiessler asks why vocations have plummeted in Germany and many people have left the church, thereby costing it the benefit of their church tax that would be collected by the state. His answer: people feel let down by the abuse scandal and by the self-involvement and reliance upon authority of the official church.
Father Schiessler confesses he has been on the outs with many of his bishops “until recently”– which might mean until Cardinal Marx.
This brings me to a strong concurrence with the column by Father Cush, “Priests Need Prayers, Support” (Sunday’s Scriptures, July 14), who writes about the going out of the apostles in twos and of the process of pastoral formation in the seminary.
Father Schiessler recalls the influence on his pastoral formation of various individuals, including a rural pastor with whom he was placed during the year before his ordination.
From this priest he learned three clear principles that are the basis of his success in Munich: you must like people; liturgy should never be painful; and people have to feel the sacraments. I recommend these principles and books to all our readers!