Articulating the “Sensus Fidelium”: a German Example

This interesting e-mail landed arrived in my mailbox overnight, from “Wir sind Kirche” (We Are Church, Germany) .  The lifting of the excommunication is back in the news, with reports that Benedict XVI was warned in advance about the holocaust denying views of Bishop Williamson, before  he went ahead.

However, the main feature that interests me is just the technique.  I have an impression that in the church we are allowing the neocath right wing to hog the limelight of public visibility, with public outcries and organised appeals to the hierarchy, while representing only a small minority of Catholics. This is odd, as progressives have never been slouches at political organising in the secular sphere, in the US or elsewhere.  Why, then, are we content in the church to settle for simply addressing fellow progressives in blogs or journals like NCR?  Is there any reason why we should not be able to organise more effectively to address the hierarchy directly?

The church has an accepted, but neglected, obligation to pay attention to the views of the people, the sensus fidelium. They not created a vehicle to formulate such a voice.  Where formal structures do not exist, we must create our own.

And now, the e-mail received – English translation by  Google  (edited by myself where I could untangle it).

If you want to support this appeal by a personal letter or an email to the German Bishops’ Conference and / or individual bishops:
The information (email addresses), the BTB and the German bishops can be found here: # addr

We are the Church’s appeal to the bishops’ conference: “Hold the course of the council!”
to the Fall General Assembly of the German Bishops’ Conference 21 to 24 September 2009 in Fulda

Munich / Fulda, 21 September 2009

Dear Mr. Chairman Archbishop Dr. Robert Zollitsch,
Dear lord cardinals, archbishops, bishops and auxiliary bishops!

On 24 January 2009  the announcement of the unconditional lifting of the excommunication of the four bishops of the Society of St Pius X  led the Roman Catholic Church into a deep internal crisis. Although Pope Benedict XVI intended his actions as an act of reconciliation and unity, the crisis caused by it has still not been resolved a long time later.
The Pope’s decision was problematic, but also aroused a new interest in the dynamics and the direction of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). This is most welcome, given the upcoming 50-year anniversary of the council.

The Church People’s Movement We Are Church, therefore, urgently appeal to you, as you meet in your Fall General Assembly 2009 in Fulda, “Keep the Roman Catholic Church faithful to the course of the Second Vatican Council!”
Stay faithful to the liturgy in the rite made by the Council!
The Liturgical Constitution “Sacrosanctum Concilium” aims at “full, conscious and active participation” of the entire people of God in the liturgy in the mother tongue through the community gathered around the altar. Even  if the Pope speaks of the “twofold use of the same rite,”  the Tridentine Mass Rite is built on a completely different, pre-conciliar image of and community.
We urge you to support and encourage the communities in their worship practice on the basis of the Second Vatican Council and to develop further!
Do not stray from the ecumenical course !
The progress in the ecumenical movement since the Council has contributed much to the credibility of Christianity. The current exhortations, consolations, and appeals for patience are theologically questionable calls by the church leaders and disappoint the church people more and more. Thus is the motto of the forthcoming Ecumenical Church Council 2010 (ÖKT) “So that you have hope” – at least for the ecumenical movement itself – very questionable. At the ÖKT in Munich, all questions of ecumenism and the question of the common eucharist must be open for discussion!
Consider the special responsibility for the development of ecumenism, since the reformation of our country has gone!
Stop the destruction of mature and proven pastoral structures in our country!
The canonical link between office and community leadership means that half of our parishes in the near future will be without an ordained pastor and regular celebration of the Eucharist  – or will no longer exist. The priest centred pastoral approaches disguise the impending collapse of pastoral care and prove to be a dead end. “Where the Church is no longer found on the ground, it loses  visibility and concreteness, as it becomes mere assertion. … Pastoral care is and remains a task that wants to be perceived primarily on the ground and the “soul” will be lost if it becomes “entörtlicht” (?). “(Jürgen Werbick 2002).

Allow the exercise of pastoral care through volunteer laity and permanent deacons , as is possible under canon law (c. 517 § 2 CIC)! Sit down in Rome to tackle the world’s pressing problems of the pastoral care!
Take the laity seriously in their responsibilities  in the church!

Parish councils, diocesan councils and the Central Committee of German Catholics are essential elements of the Church as God’s people, as set out in  the Second Vatican Council  Constitution on the Church “Lumen Gentium”. In May 2009 Pope Benedict proclaimed, relying on the 2 Vatican Council, that  laity should be made aware of the new their important role in the community of the Church: “We need a change of mentality, especially with regard to the laity. They should not only be considered as employees of the clergy, but as genuine co-controllers of the existence and action of the Church. ”

Accept the laity as contributors and dedicated people of God! Seek  a dialogue with the Central committee of German Catholics and the other lay bodies, highly developed in Germany, to promote the participation of the laity by openness and respect for its decisions!
Make the conciliar desire for collegiality of the bishops with the Pope come true!
Since the Second Vatican Council, community (communion) has been an essential principle of life of the church, but requires a dialogic structure. Our church in its variety of tasks in the world can only meet its obligations if it once again remembers the original catholic principles of collegiality and subsidiarity . This is especially true for the Pastoral Office of Bishops (conciliar decree “Christus Dominus”).

(Not yet edited:)

Pope Benedict XVI. has, at its option open to the collegiality of the bishops and to the heritage of the Second Vatican Council known.

Sign up clearly in Rome to speak, if only the impression arises that the Vatican would make in the coming talks with the SSPX concessions in the interpretation of the council! The church people will look closely, as the talks proceed between the doctrinal congregation and the SSPX, and what they will bring.
The documents of Vatican II are irreducibly to the Catholic tradition, as you have in your “Statement on the current path of the Catholic Church” made clear by March 2009 to express. The Church can and should the overwhelming majority of the then reigning bishops and approved by then-Pope Paul VI. not provide signed documents of the Second Vatican Council’s disposal, not in parts!

We wish you a blessed and successful history of your Fall General Assembly.

Dietgard Heine, grave Sigrid Meier, Herbert Tyroller and Christian Weisner

for the federal team of the Church People’s Movement We Are Church

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