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The Shifting Alliances Among Catholics And Protestants In Germany

Analysis: In the birthplace of Martin Luther, the relationship among Roman Catholicism, traditional Protestant churches and newer evangelical movements offers a laboratory for how different strands of Christianity today are united and divided by ethics mo

Monument to Martin Luther in Dresden (rs-foto)
Monument to Martin Luther in Dresden (rs-foto)
Gernot Facius

BERLIN -- When Pope Benedict XVI addressed the German Parliament last year, its president, Norbert Lammert, created a stir among fellow Catholics when he called himself a "Catholic with Protestant leanings."

Having also criticized the celibacy requirement for Roman Catholic clergy and hinted that reforms in general were long overdue in the Catholic Church, Lammert is seen as an example of Catholics who favor a "Protestantization" agenda – a more liberal approach to sexuality, feminism, bioethics, women in the clergy.

It is a very public example of what German Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller refers to as "the wrong ecumenical track," one that would lead to "self-secularization." Müller's view reflects how uneasy the Roman Catholic hierarchy feels about evangelical counterparts who have everything that Catholic reformers want.

Yet at the same time, Lammert's personal admission has altered the wider discussion in Germany around ecumenism, ie, the relationship among different Christian faiths. It has also raised the basic question of what Protestantism actually means today. Are the mysteries of Christianity on the way out, leaving in their wake organizations focused on welfare, feel-goodism, psychology and moralizing?

Theological rubble

At a meeting of the German Bishops' Conference, an internationally reputed theologian was quoted as saying that ecumenism – while leading to profound mutual understanding about basic beliefs -- was only interesting for Roman Catholics and evangelical Christians who "shared the basic belief that the manifestation of God in Christ is not a myth." Ecumenism was useless among liberal Catholics who reduced faith to a cultural phenomenon and liberal evangelicals for whom Protestantism meant being "against the Pope and Rome and authority in general."

Theologians on both sides of the fence have cleared away a lot of rubble, not least as regards Wittenberg reformer Martin Luther who, for Catholics, has gone from being a heretic and destroyer of Church unity to a teacher for all Christians, a "great figure of renewal" in the words of Cardinal Karl Lehmann.

Still, there are new areas of conflict requiring work. For example: to what extent does the German Evangelical Church (EKD) still support Lutheran positions? Or: what would re-integrating the arch-traditionalist St. Pius X Brotherhood into the Roman Catholic Church mean for the modernizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s?

The most interesting ecumenical developments are the new coalitions forming around ethics, not doctrine. Notable for example is the shift in attitude of biblically fundamentalist Protestants towards Rome; and vice-versa, as these evangelicals are no longer seen as annoying sectarians but as allies who praise the Pope for his warnings about the "dictatorship of relativism." They agree, furthermore, on issues such as protection of human life, family values, and stem cell research.

But while such a traditionalist alliance is forged, Protestant national churches in Germany are opening their rectories to ministers in same-sex partnerships, and blessing same-sex marriage. This tension inevitably creates serious problems for ecumenical relations within the Protestant community, with an impact on Roman Catholics as well, who actively work so that all Christians might speak with one voice.

But that doesn't look to be in the cards right now. If the refrain "doctrine divides – service unites' marked the early phases of the ecumenical movement, more suited to today would be something along the lines of "ethics divide – doctrine unites." Ecumenism remains a rich but complicated challenge.

Read original article in German

Photo - rs-foto

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What's Spoiling The Kids: The Big Tech v. Bad Parenting Debate

Without an extended family network, modern parents have sought to raise happy kids in a "hostile" world. It's a tall order, when youngsters absorb the fears (and devices) around them like a sponge.

Image of a kid wearing a blue striped sweater, using an ipad.

Children exposed to technology at a very young age are prominent today.

Julián de Zubiría Samper


BOGOTÁ — A 2021 report from the United States (the Youth Risk Behavior Survey) found that 42% of the country's high-school students persistently felt sad and 22% had thought about suicide. In other words, almost half of the country's young people are living in despair and a fifth of them have thought about killing themselves.

Such chilling figures are unprecedented in history. Many have suggested that this might be the result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but sadly, we can see depression has deeper causes, and the pandemic merely illustrated its complexity.

I have written before on possible links between severe depression and the time young people spend on social media. But this is just one aspect of the problem. Today, young people suffer frequent and intense emotional crises, and not just for all the hours spent staring at a screen. Another, possibly more important cause may lie in changes to the family composition and authority patterns at home.

Firstly: Families today have fewer members, who communicate less among themselves.

Young people marry at a later age, have fewer children and many opt for personal projects and pets instead of having children. Families are more diverse and flexible. In many countries, the number of children per woman is close to or less than one (Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong among others).

In Colombia, women have on average 1.9 children, compared to 7.6 in 1970. Worldwide, women aged 15 to 49 years have on average 2.4 children, or half the average figure for 1970. The changes are much more pronounced in cities and among middle and upper-income groups.

Of further concern today is the decline in communication time at home, notably between parents and children. This is difficult to quantify, but reasons may include fewer household members, pervasive use of screens, mothers going to work, microwave ovens that have eliminated family cooking and meals and, thanks to new technologies, an increase in time spent on work, even at home. Our society is addicted to work and devotes little time to minors.

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