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German Media Roundup: Has Käßmann redeemed herself?

The Local · 25 Feb 2010, 12:30

Published: 25 Feb 2010 12:30 GMT+01:00

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Bishop Margot Käßmann, the first woman head of Germany’s Protestant churches, stepped down on Wednesday after being caught driving drunk over the weekend. She was pulled over after running a red light and blew a blood alcohol level of 1.54 per mill, according to the public prosecutor.

Her resignation came despite the church’s council leaders publicly backing her to stay on as leader. Käßmann said she no longer had the moral authority to comment on issues such as the war in Afghanistan, which she has sharply criticised.

The issue has divided German media commentators, with some praising the decisive way she took responsibility for her mistake for the good of the church and the community, and others pointing out resigning was the least she could do.

The centre-left Süddeutsche Zeitung congratulated Käßmann for quickly stepping down rather than trying to cling to her office and said the episode could even be turned into a win for the church.

“Her resignation is not the act of the weak but rather of the strong,” the paper said. “The Council of the Evangelical Church had wanted to keep her in the office and had expressed its faith in her – and thereby given her the chance to decide her future completely on her own. And Käßmann has chosen well: She positions remorse in opposition to malice, humility in contrast to humiliation.''

The paper went on to point out that not all politicians and other prominent people in Germany seemed to know when it was time to step down.

The whole incident was also an opportunity, the paper said, for all Germans to ponder the issues of morality and personal responsibility surrounding drink driving – which it branded a “mass phenomenon.” In this sense, it could be turned into a victory for the church.

“Driving under the influence is, particularly by people in important jobs and offices, a overestimation of one’s abilities. The person is, however, whatever robes they wear, whichever medals hang around their necks, still just a person of weak nature, who still has to show real strength. Margot Käßmann has just pulled herself together again.”

Centrist Berlin paper Tagesspiegel was also broadly supportive of Käßmann – saying the incident displayed she was a person like any other and that her decisive resignation “commands great respect.”

It was a “tragic and black day” for the leadership of the Protestant churches – which would have trouble finding someone as suitable as Käßmann to replace her.

Only good fortune had ensured that Käßmann was not burdened by even greater guilt the night she was arrested – by killing or harming someone else on the road, the paper pointed out.

But it also noted that she was “sympathetic, down-to-earth and unpretentious” in contrast to the church, whose image was one of “arrogance, aloofness and imperviousness.”

“She is still just a person. Such a description has been heard about few dignitaries as often has it has been about Margot Käßmann. Through her weakness, especially such a public kind … she is brought closer to the people,” the paper wrote.

“But maybe a period of spiritual reflection about the central task of the church has to follow such a thunderclap … Humility, a bit of calm, the building of new trust and the recovery of the image in the community – that is the order of priorities. After all, even Christ was human.”

Story continues below…

Conservative daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung was less forgiving. In a commentary titled, “A case of loss of authority,” the paper criticised Käßmann’s tenure as leader, particularly her war of words with Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg over the military deployment in Afghanistan.

“In recent weeks in the Afghanistan debate she yielded not one iota and she resorted to a petty war of press releases with the defence minister over the question of who had invited whom to have a discussion on the issue and who would accompany whom on a trip to Afghanistan.”

The paper said colleagues had advised her to moderate her hard-line stance but that she had rejected the suggestions.

Her free choice to resign had also been disingenuous, the paper said. By the time daily Bild broke the story, some 200 people, up to and including the Interior Minister of Lower Saxony, Uwe Schünemann, knew of the drink driving episode.

Her choice to resign was “a choice of decidedly forced freedom,” it concluded.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

15:33 February 25, 2010 by Fredfeldman
Resigning was indeed the least she could have done. Drunk driving bishops bring disgrace and dishonor upon their religion and parishoners, not to mention the damage this episode did to the legitimacy of the Christian faith and the teachings it espouses. In the future historians will note this shabby event when documenting the rapidly accelerating decline of western civilization in europe.

What a fiasco.
19:40 February 25, 2010 by fair1day
The paper said colleagues had advised her to moderate her hard-line stance but that she had rejected the suggestions.

What a goof.

She needs to resign from everything. She is clueless.

Is is mercy that enables her to walk around espousing her "opinion".
20:18 February 25, 2010 by wood artist
Whether you believe her situation was a simple mistake, a gross error in judgment, or something even worse, I think we can all agree that it is satisfying to see someone accept responsibility for their actions. She may be many things, and I suspect most of them are positive, but at this moment, she is a wonderful role model for doing the right thing after she made a mistake.

Too bad that more "public" figures can't do the same. We don't really expect them to be perfect - none of us are - but they can at least be honest, and accept the responsibility for their actions.

20:38 February 25, 2010 by Edmond Schindler
WA -

True, so in the end she is contributing something positive as a role model for others to follow her gesture of self sacrifice for the good of her institution and beliefs.

Still she would be wise to use a chauffeur in the future.
00:33 February 27, 2010 by Cincinnatus
Very interesting! A politically correct appointment as "Bishop" not only becomes the first female leader of Protestant Churches, she becomes the first Bishop to be divorced, the first Bishop to resign because of drunk driving, and comparing the photo to "older" photos of the "Bishop", it looks like she was also the first Bishop to have had a "face lift." Now that is a lot of "firsts!"
03:01 February 28, 2010 by 1FCK_1FCK
I don't see what the fuss is about. She's head of a church, but since god doesn't exist, who cares? The faux morality of any church is laughable, as is the suggestion that any church should be an example of morality. You don't have to look far to find plenty of examples of religious leaders acting quite the opposite of what many consider moral, both historically & today.
07:30 February 28, 2010 by biker hotel harz
agreed, she wont be missed
15:47 March 4, 2010 by wenddiver
This is an improvement- Now she can claim she's a drunk instead of an idiot for her comments about Afganistan.

It is noted that the article listed no achievements in spreading Christ's word
23:13 March 6, 2010 by SilberFuchs
Margot Käßmann should be encouraged to stay on. A lifetime of dedication needs not to be erased by one or two discretions. Käßmann is human after all, and we should practice foregiveness. Besides, we need the humor and have more content on web pages.
07:32 March 10, 2010 by Mh0926
It's really pity to see such news.

I wish Käßmann will cheer up and serve in church again someday.
19:23 March 10, 2010 by whatzup
Her comments about foreign affairs shows she is as confused about them as is her conduct behind the wheel. The main reactions she seems to have elicited during her tenure were dismay and ridicule.
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