Rorate Caeli

Church Labor Law in Germany and Same Sex "Unions" - Three Voices in the German Desert: "We Will Not Accept Self-Secularization Here"

For the background on the iniquitous change (enacted by the German Bishops' Conference itself, without having been prompted by any outside force), see our previous post.


Bishop Stefan Oster of  Passau, Facebook Entry, 22 July, 2015
The Church's Labor Law – a Few Thoughts From Passau About This Matter
[A Map of the Dioceses of Germany: Passau, Regensburg and Eichstätt are neighboring
dioceses in Bavaria, in the Southeast (lower right), next to Cardinal Marx's Munich-Freising.]

The bishops of Passau, Regensburg, and Eichstätt [Bishops Stefan Oster, Rudolf Vorderholzer, and Gregor Hanke] are in the process of checking whether and, if yes, when they will implement the revised Labor Law of the Church. Because of this, they are now variously called by public commentators as being either backward or as being those who put on the brakes; or as those who intend to dupe the other bishops; or as representatives of the “pure teaching”; or as those who, because of this, are acting in a way that does not relate any more to the life and the Faith of the people – which consequently helps to increase the numbers of people who leave the Church, etc., etc. Thus, I would like to add a few thoughts – from my own viewpoint, as well as from the viewpoint of Passau – for the sake of differentiation.

The Church in Germany for decades has been continuously losing the power to bind people to her and, thus, also losing the substance of the Faith. The number of those who regularly attend Mass is an important indicator of this phenomenon, though not the only one. But, here in Germany, at least at the beginning of the 1960s, around 50% of the Catholics came on Sunday to Mass:  today it is only  around 10%. The decline is very steep and continuous and it has obviously very little to do with the wider political situation of the Church– whether it is selectively perceived as being  good or bad. 

During this same period of time of the dramatic decline of the numbers of Catholics going to Mass – namely from 1960 to 2014 – the number of the Church's lay employees has increased in all areas, from around 100,000 to more than 700,000! Which means: Five times fewer people going to Mass on Sunday, but seven times more employees than fifty years ago.

It is clear that the general detachment from the Faith does not stop at where we all now are; that means that many of our co-workers are affected by it, too. We are all children of our time in which a secularization is progressing. Today, I often read in public documents that “the Church” (who is that?) should not enclose herself in her “pure teaching,” but, rather, should go out “to the margins,” as Pope Francis says. This public message is naturally also directed against me myself, who is also publicly perceived as being “dogmatic” and thus as purportedly being far away “from men.”

Concerning this last claim, I would like to say: Probably no other church worldwide is so close to the margins of society as our Church in Germany, especially in the form of Caritas which takes care of handicapped persons, people in distress, the elderly, the sick, the addicted, those in debt, and many, many more. Additionally, the Church has – next to Caritas – many other institutions for people who often are also “at the margins”: pastoral care over the phone, counseling in questions of family and life, institutions for women in distress, the Church's aid organizations for the whole world – and nearly everything is being offered for free, or financed by us, or at least partly financed by us; and it is offered to all independently of which confession the person belongs to or of whatever he might be said to believe. There is thus an unbelievable amount that is done for the people. Also in the Church of Passau. […]

Now, at the same time we also realize: often, the work of Caritas and its employees, for example, are not any more perceived as a service of the Catholic Church herself. If this would be so, one could think that the Churches would get fuller again, because, through our co-workers, people would feel : “They know a God Who truly gives them the capacity to love and makes them free for true love! Their hearts are filled to abundance with this God – I would like to get to know Him. Therefore, I will seek Him, I shall go there, too.” That would be a kind of natural logic which would – or could – follow from a [Catholic] witness stemming from a charitable work. But this is obviously and simply not the case: in spite of a continuously growing Caritas, that is to say, a continuously growing amount of (Christian?) works of mercy in the service of love – still there is the decline? Is it, then, that the powerful witness is not at all attractive? Or is it perhaps, after all, not really an explicit Christian witness, but rather, the expression of a good humanistic practice? Probably, the latter is the case. […]
The question in all of this is: How can we make sure today – in a progressing secularization – that an institution has an palpable Christian face which would differentiate it, for example, from other kind of welfare institutions? […] To put it a little bit more provocatively: Where does it exist any more, for example, that employees in our Caritas institutions rejoice –  or even strive for it – that people whom they take care of, for example, allow themselves to be baptized!? And to show joy because these employees are themselves convinced that baptism is important [and indispensable] in order to belong to Christ truly?

Let us move from here now, finally, to the question of the Labor Law: The growing institution of the Church is more and more presented with the following question: Is there in all these many service institutions – where on the outside it says “Catholic” – any witnessed “Faith” left? Do the people work here out of a Christian conviction which permeates their whole life? Or, can there now work for the Church anybody at all, just as long as he is merely acceptable professionally and economically? For adequately addressing this question, the Church has a Labor Law: a so-called Constitution. The Church is, within the legal system in Germany, a “Tendentious Enterprise” [Tendenzbetrieb], as is also the case, for example, with political parties and labor unions. She is permitted to require certain attitudes – as they concern a larger world view – as part of their own labor law regulations and conditions. As a comparison: If you, for example, work for the Christian-Social Union [CSU – a Conservative Political Party in Germany] and declare that the Social Democratic Party is making much better politics, the CSU may appropriately terminate your contract.

Comparable aspects, and those who go even further, have been granted to the Christian churches by the State and they have been articulated in the Church's Labor Constitution. This governing regulation, which has been valid up to now, has been recently and again completely confirmed by the Federal Constitutional Court – including the last and hardest possibility: namely, to dismiss those people whose way of living is in conflict with some demands of the Gospels. To these cases of dismissal also belong, in our eyes, people who live in a registered partnership [same-sex unions] and also those who are divorced and remarried.

In the course of this consideration, it is important to say: Of course, the termination of contract is indeed the last of all permitted possibilities which are available in a grave case of conflict. And there is, of course, a kind of differentiated duty to loyalty: He who works as a proclaimer of the Gospels or who stands at the front in a leading position of a Church's institution, is more closely bound than, for example, someone who works in the bureaucracy or in a technical field. […]

Now concerning the revised new Constitution [the new Labor Law] and why the three [above-mentioned] bishops still more closely investigate it (at least in my eyes): First of all, the revision of the Bishops' Conference also still does call the registered partnership and the remarriage after a valid first marriage a “serious violation against the duties of loyalty.” But, because of several of its attendant formulations, which are in my eyes too vague, it makes nearly impossible the option of any termination of contract due to conflicts with the obligations of loyalty.  […] In the future, one will likely take even less heed to fulfilling the obligation of loyalty and the conditions for employment that concern preserving the Christian worldview of the employees. […]

Nevertheless: With the present revision of the Text [Labor Law], we give away, in my eyes, out of our hands the means by which we can at least half-way resist the ongoing and continuous secularization in our institutions. […] We are thereby running the risk that, with it [those vague and weak revisions], we shall undermine all our other efforts to work on a stronger profile  and that we would thus continue, insistently, with the process of self-secularizationand with the help of a law which we have now given to ourselves!


[Translation kindly provided by Maike Hickson]