The subject puts the Bishops' Conference into a quandary. They must fight against resignations from the church, but no matter what it does, they will inevitably be suspected of being only tough about their tax revenue. Simultaneously critics accuse the bishops of ignoring the will of the Vatican. Accordingly the negotiating position of the German bishops was difficult, who on this issue wanted to matters absolutely clear.
The evil word "excommunication" is avoided
The paper now presented represents a compromise with Rome. The German bishops have prevailed with their desire that participation in Catholic life is virtually impossible after a resignation. But they symbolically have not used the word "excommunication" - even the "legal consequences" decided on for resignation mean virtually the same thing.
This compromise was preceded by a month-long tug of war. Cardinal Karl Lehmann of Mainz, Bishop Heinrich Mussinghoff of Aachen and Archbishop Ludwig Schick of Bamberg prepared the text and then sent the document on its way through the many levels and hierarchies of the Catholic legislative process.
The German prelates show a cutting edge
The General Assembly of the German Bishops' Conference already approved the text in March 2011, after which representatives in Rome of the CDF, the Congregation for Bishops and the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts have deferred. Even the Pope has taken action.
Only a few days ago, the German Bishops' Conference has finally got the green light from Rome. Diplomatically it is a success for the German prelates. They have now papal backing for their course to show a cutting edge and for leaving the church to be interpreted as apostasy.
Many Catholics who live in clear commitment to their church and expect others to do so are likely to be satisfied. The signal is that there is no such thing as a bit Catholic, there is only full membership or nothing.
Let your yes be a 'yes'
Catholics, who want to save on taxes, but still want to keep up organ music at the wedding or incense at the funeral will be faced with a clear choice. They must reckon for themselves and decide if they really wish to and can do without church life completely. "Let your yes be a 'yes', and your no be a 'no'” as it says in the Bible.
Yet the bishops should be aware that they are taking a high risk. The risk of being considered cruel and relentless, as happy with penalties and greedy for money. So they unintentionally increase the risk that some undecided or those who have already resigned will make the final break. And the centuries-old debate about who actually belongs to the church and who does not answer their individual manner: I do not belong.
Cathcon- this gives a whole new meaning to Pay and Go (mobile communications package in the UK and I think beyond). The next step will be credit card access at turnstiles- he says half-jokingly. It is morally worse than the sale of indulgences, as while the purchase of an indulgence was a pious act, it was not the only means to salvation. I have visions of crowds of Germans assisting at Mass in France or other neighbouring lands on a Sunday.