Over at Crux, there’s a Catholic News Agency report by Anian Christoph Wimmer on the priest-shortage in Germany and whether it is a deliberate strategy or a response to conditions.
As one foreign priest currently serving in a South German “pastoral unit” who wished to remain anonymous told CNA, contact with the parishioners is diminished and fragmented. He rotates between several parish churches in the unit to say Mass, while other “pastoral workers” teach, engage in youth activities, or perform other apostolates.
Furthermore, making contact is not always easy in the first place, he said.
“People want to be private,” he told CNA, and seem reluctant to interact with the priest outside of his “sacramental function.” Unlike in his homeland, where parishioners ask him to mediate in family conflicts, seek his advice on personal matters, and invite him over for dinner, he notes that German people prefer not to have him take an interest in their private lives.
That reminded me of something I noticed from the times I went to Mass in Italy last spring. Unlike here in Canada, I never saw the priest stand at the doors of the church to greet people individually after Mass. Instead, after Mass, they all retreated to the sacristry. I was told it is much harder to have individual contact with a priest there than in Canada. Imagine what it must be like in Germany then, or France!
But this reminded me of a conversation I had the other day with a diocesan priest here in Ottawa. He wears his clericals when he is out and about, even to hockey games but he said even few Catholics will acknowledge his presence and say “Hello, Father.” Mostly, they avoid eye contact, he said.
Back to Wimmer’s article:
In several German dioceses today, it is not uncommon to have a female pastoral specialist, dressed in a white alb, conducting a Catholic funeral, and even giving the homily during Mass in diocesan Churches, even if that may be frowned upon officially.
Given this reality on the ground in German dioceses, demands for women to be ordained as deacons are not just common-place, but considered reasonable among Catholics in the Church’s employ; not to mention for theologians – with tacit or open support of many a German bishop – to demand further changes along the lines that both Drobinski and Kissler describe, albeit from different points of view.