Catholic culture slips a bit in Benedict’s backyard

November 9, 2007

Bavarian children greet Pope Benedict in Munich, Sept. 9. 2006The southern German state of Bavaria is one of those areas, like southern Poland, that are known for their fervent folk Catholicism. It was on full display last year when Bavaria’s favourite son, Pope Benedict, visited his native state. But Catholicism is changing even in Bavaria, as his successor as archbishop of Munich and Freising has admitted. Cardinal Friedrich Wetter told fellow Bavarian bishops on Thursday that so many candidates for the priesthood have such insufficient knowledge of Catholic teaching that seminaries will have to introduce remedial courses to bring them up to standard.

Candidates for the priesthood increasingly come from various backgrounds and apply for the admission to the seminary with sometimes quite different prior experiences of faith and the Church,” he said in a statement (here in German). “With a propaedeutic course inserted before normal theology studies in the seminary, the Bavarian bishops want to add an educational phase that fosters the seminarians’ spiritual growth and personal discernment, … transmits basic theological knowledge and allows insight into the real situation of the Church through participation in social and pastoral work.”

A further translation of that translation would be: “we need a remedial course because the incoming seminarians don’t know enough about the Catholic Church.”

Bavarians crowd central Munich to greet Pope Benedict, Sept. 9, 2006The one-year course will start in the fall of 2008 and all entering seminarians will have to take it at the Catholic theology faculties in Passau or Bamberg, Wetter said. He added that the bishops hoped this would not lengthen the overall length of study required before ordination.

According to a Bavarian newspaper, the Augsburger Allgemeine, “professors at the universities often complain about their students’ sketchy knowledge. Professors don’t want to teach catechism, they want to give theology lectures. Even Christian Hartl, regent of the Augsburg seminary, told this newspaper about students who before entering the seminary ‘were not so rooted in their parish’ and had ‘more distance to the faith’ than their predecessors just a few years ago.”

Several other dioceses in Germany have introduced remedial courses at their seminaries in recent years. Neighbouring Austria launched one for all entering seminarians in 2000, after the Vatican advised it following an inspection visit there.

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