In recent years the number of Anglicans has steadily declined in New Zealand. In contrast, the number of Catholics has slowly grown. That is partly due to immigration: more people from dominantly Catholic countries arrive in New Zealand than from dominantly Anglican countries (such as some parts of Africa).
With its worldwide coherence and clear rules the Catholic Church also seemed more of a rock in an uncertain and confusing world.
That’s why I’m somewhat surprised by what’s happening with the Catholic Church in Germany. It has convened a series of synodal conferences to reshape the Catholic Church in Germany after many of its ideas were rejected by the Roman hierarchy and international synods.
Some of the ideas would seem thoroughly Anglican, like having synods made up of clergy and laity to govern aspects of diocesan life, allowing lay members input into the selection of the local bishop, greater input of laity in parish life, and the ability of priests to marry. Some matters were fought over in other churches several years ago: the admission of women to all offices (including ordination) and issues like divorce and sexual morality. However, the synodal conferences in Germany go further, and quite surprisingly for the Catholic Church. Recent suggestions have been the abolishment of the priesthood, a move from natural and biblical revelation to basing ethics and faith more on modern theology and science; and redefinitions of genders and “life relationships”.
While the worldwide Catholic Church is celebrating the year of the family, the German Catholic Church is emphasizing other “life relationships”. The conflict and possible schism are quite apparent. Clearly the German Catholic Church seeks to adapt to contemporary morality and outlook.
I wonder whether an earlier and more gradual reformation has not been helpful for Protestant Churches. That has meant that conformity to the spirit of the times has not been sought in everything. The Catholic Church in Germany seems intent on jettisoning tradition in one go, without evaluating what is good and faithful.
As we see the worldwide church in upheaval,
we need to remember that our faith is not based on official church structures or pronouncements, but rather on a relationship with Jesus, which is strengthened by being part of a group of fellow disciples.