Catholic theologians call for end to celibacy for priests

More than 140 Catholic theologians from Germany, Switzerland and Austria called Friday for an end to celibacy as part of sweeping reforms in the wake of a sex scandal that rocked the Church.

Catholic theologians call for end to celibacy for priests
Photo: DPA

In a letter published in the Süddeutsche Zeitung daily, the group said the Catholic Church in Germany had suffered an “unprecedented crisis” last year and that “2011 must be a year of departure for the Church.”

“The Church needs married priests and women in the ministry,” the group wrote.

They also called for acceptance of same-sex partnerships and divorce, in a radical departure from current Catholic thought.

“The high value that the Church places on marriage and a celibate form of life should not be called into question.

“But this does not demand that we exclude people who live responsibly with love, fidelity and mutual respect in a same-sex partnership or as re-married divorcees,” the group wrote.

The letter marked the strongest internal criticism of the Church in Germany since the Cologne Declaration of 1989 in which more than 200 German-speaking theologians attacked the conservative teachings of then Pope John Paul II, the paper said.

The current pope, Benedict XVI, himself German, also questioned the issue of celibacy when he was Cardinal Ratzinger, the paper recalled.

Ratzinger was part of a group of nine German theologians who in February 1970 wrote a letter to bishops in Germany asking whether the practice was still necessary, the paper wrote, citing archives in Regensburg.

The 83-year-old Benedict is due to visit Germany for his first official visit to his native land on September 22 to 25, 60 years after he was ordained as a priest.

Germany has faced revelations over the past year that hundreds of children were physically and sexually abused in institutions throughout the country, all but a handful run by the Roman Catholic Church.

The Church in Germany has said it failed to properly investigate claims of abuse and that in some cases there was a cover-up, with offending priests simply moved elsewhere instead of being disciplined and reported to the police.


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German jailed for life in double police murder

A German man was given a life sentence on Wednesday for shooting dead two police officers to escape being caught for illegal game hunting during a routine traffic check.

German jailed for life in double police murder

The regional court in Kaiserslautern found 39-year-old Andreas Schmitt guilty of the killings in January this year, which sent shockwaves across Germany.

His co-defendant, referred to by the court as Florian V., was found guilty of abetting illegal poaching.

The 33-year-old was in the car with Schmitt when the officers discovered dead game in the boot, investigators said.

“We are all to this day horrified that a supposed routine control could turn into a fatal incident,” Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said in a statement after the verdict.

READ ALSO: German prosecutors say poaching led to double police murder

The victims were a 24-year-old woman police officer still in training and her colleague, a 29-year-old man.

The young woman was killed by a single shot to the head, while the man was shot four times, investigators said.

The officers were able to report that they were checking a suspicious vehicle and that shots were being fired before radio contact broke off.

When backup arrived, the woman was already dead and the man fatally injured. The perpetrators had fled the scene.

The crime in the Kusel district of Rhineland-Palatinate state triggered a major manhunt, with police deploying helicopters and sniffer dogs, sealing off roads and warning local residents not to pick up hitchhikers.