German Bishops and Candidate Clash over Family Policy

Stoiber Picks Unwed Mother as Adviser on Family Life

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BERLIN, JULY 24, 2002 ( A debate is mounting in Germany between Catholic Church leaders and Edmund Stoiber, candidate for Prime Minister of the Christian Democrat Union-Christian Social Union coalition.

Bishops have urged the two political formations to stop calling themselves Christian, given their inconsistent family policies.

The debate has compelled German Cardinal Joachim Meisner, archbishop of Cologne, to exhort the two parties to remove the letter «C» for Christian from their acronym.

The main reason for the controversy is Stoiber’s appointment of Katharina Reiche, an unwed mother, as his «shadow minister» for the family. Reiche, 28, is the CDU’s rising star, and a plus for candidate Stoiber for three reasons: she is young, a woman and the only East German in the «shadow government» that hopes to win the elections.

Reiche has been entrusted, specifically, with family issues because she has a little son, is expecting another, and has always struggled for women’s right to combine home with work and to obtain measures to facilitate this possibility.

But Reiche is also living with a leading CDU official, whom she refers to as «my husband.»

Reiche’s appointment has left many Catholics wondering if a party that calls itself Christian can ignore such a fundamental point of Christian morality. The controversy has even led candidate Stoiber to consider the possibility of removing family affairs from Reiche, and leaving her with the rest of the social issues.

Cardinal Karl Lehmann, bishop of Mainz, also intervened in the debate. «It is a mistaken decision that sends out a mistaken signal,» he said. «And this does not mean that I have anything personal against Ms. Reiche.»

Reiche is softening her stance and has let it be known that, after all, it would not be a bad idea to get married. As a first sign of rapprochement, she has agreed with the bishops in criticizing the Constitutional Court’s decision that favors equal treatment of marriage and homosexual unions.

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