The big story in this part of Germany is the revolt against the autocratic style of the Bishop of Limburg. It is a reflection of a much larger and wider revolt happening within the Roman Catholic Church here, with the people in the pews wanting changes to the church Rome, The Curia and the 'traditionalist' clergy refuse to allow. It may surprise some in the UK who love to bash the CofE about 'disunity' over many issues, to learn that there are a lot of Roman Catholics - some suggest a majority - who want married clergy, women clergy and a power structure that includes the 'Lay Voices'. At present it is almost a case of it doesn't matter what the Laity think or want, the Bishop and Clergy are the 'Church' and what they say goes.
As someone used to the British Press and some of the more 'Catholic' members of the CofE always criticising the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Church for not being dogmatic about some issues, or for being too 'liberal' in others, it is interesting to see that Rome has its problems as well. It is ironic that many of those who have 'jumped ship' from Anglicanism and 'gone to Rome' may find themselves too traditionalist even for the majority of Roman Catholics in the not too distant future.
What the row in Limburg is revealing is that the Roman Catholic Church in Germany is torn by these arguments. It is haemoraging people, revenues are falling faster than they can adjust, churches are having to be closed and even given up to other denominations. In the midst of all this, the last Pope appointed a hardline academic as Bishop of Limburg and his first action was to build himself a new HQ, ostensibly at a cost of €2 million. Unfortunately, the real cost has run out at €10 million at a time when they have had to close a large number of churches. The Dean of Frankfurt revolted over it and now we have petitions going round calling for the Bishop to either step down or to be more 'Open' and the submit to the will of his Synod. As a 'traditionalist' he seems incapable of admitting he's alienated almost everyone, or that he has made a mistake or two. In his mind he is the Bishop, he answers only to the Pope and, within his diocese, he is the sole authority.
We now even have the German Cardinals and Bishops trying desperately not to take sides, but some of the hardline traditionalists have already broken ranks and made some very unfortunate interventions. In the meantime, Roman Catholics are taking one of three options. Leaving the faith, changing to the Lutheran or Old Catholics or another, or continuing going to Mass, but refusing to pay the Church Tax. The hardline Bishops have sent round letters saying anyone in the last category must be refused communion, and there are rumblings about anyone in the other two categories as well.
None of this, of course, addresses the other issues Rome refuses to discuss, women in ministry, married priests and the role of the laity in the government of the Church itself. The feeling here is that Rome must change, must address these issues or become a rump, increasingly isolated from society. It promises to be an interesting power struggle under the current Pope ...