FaithWorld

Ex-Catholic has no right to keep his Church job, German court rules

April 26, 2013

(A sign reading ‘Arbeitsgerichte’ (Labour courts) is pictured in the late evening in Hamburg September 1, 2012. REUTERS/Morris Mac Matzen )

Germany’s top labor court ruled on Thursday the country’s Catholic charity network had the right to fire an employee who quit the Church in protest against the sexual abuse crisis and disputed decisions by ex-Pope Benedict.

The 60-year-old teacher, challenging his 2011 dismissal, had claimed his constitutional right to freedom of opinion trumped the Church’s right to employ only Catholics who agreed with the religious mission of their jobs.

He said that his work at Caritas Germany tutoring grade-school children did not deal with religion and that pupils of all faiths were welcome there.

The decision was a victory for the mainline Protestant and Catholic churches, which together are Germany’s largest employer after the public sector, against some lay employees and unions challenging the churches’ special status in German labor law.

“The defendant’s freedom of religion and conscience is certainly very important,” the Erfurt-based court said in a statement. But it added that judges could not order the Church to employ someone who had officially given up his membership.

Pope Francis has stressed the religious aspect of Church work, saying soon after his election last month that the Church “may become a charitable NGO” (non-governmental organization) if it does social work and forgets to spread the Gospel.
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