Cardinal Meisner Warns that Church Bureaucracy Can Dull the Faith

Structures, Commission and Secretariats Stir Endless Debates, He Says

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COLOGNE, Germany, OCT. 10, 2002 ( Cardinal Joachim Meisner urged workers in Catholic Church institutions to return to an «encounter with the person of Christ» and warned that the ecclesial bureaucracy runs the risk of obscuring the faith.

The archbishop of Cologne made his remarks in an interview published Oct. 5 in Die Tagespost magazine.

He was explaining the criticisms he made during the last meeting of the German episcopate, regarding the Church’s bureaucratic institutions. His homily to the bishops’ plenary assembly had unleashed a heated debate.

After Volkswagen, the Catholic Church is the institution with the greatest number of employees in Germany, equal to the Lutheran denomination.

Cardinal Meisner criticized the «structures, commissions, statutes and secretariats» within the Church, which he said run the risk of «obfuscating the faith.»

«There is a great positive determination and witness of the faith in Catholic associations,» he told Die Tagespost. «However, it is also the case that they serve as the basis for the diffusion of fatuous fires [endless debates]. These are alarming developments, before which we bishops cannot close our eyes.»

The Cologne archbishop, who in his homily expressed concern about the weakness of the faith of lay collaborators in the Church, told the magazine that he had not criticized anyone but merely «stated the facts.»

Referring to the task of catechists, the cardinal explained that he knew many educators «who are determined to offer a consistent witness, based on knowledge grounded in the faith.» However, there are also negative experiences that are «much more than sporadic cases,» he added.

«To deny these facts would be to flee from reality,» the cardinal stressed.

He added: «My preaching sought and seeks to point out problems faced by the bishops and to ask ourselves how we can contribute to find a solution.»

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