Old Catholic bishop’s ring: Not all is well with us either

The ancient Catholic Church appeared at the end of the nineteenth century after the First Vatican Council, in contrast to the papal doctrines infallibility and des Priority of jurisdiction. Today the Church is more independent – unlike the Roman Catholic Church painted women priestessesremarried divorcees are not excluded from the sacraments, and same-sex couples are blessed and married: much of what Reformed Roman Catholics hope is possible there – and in fact there are more conversions, recently Speyer’s deputy, General Andreas Sturm, announced his conversion to Islam by resigning. But the ancient Catholics were not interested in the poaching of their Roman brothers. In an interview with catholic.de, the bishop of Germany’s old Catholic diocese, Matthias Ring, stresses that the crisis in the sister church also worries him – and calls for more relaxed ecumenism.

Question: Bishop Ring, in the Synod of the Old Catholic Diocese, I heard about it last year Ecumenical Society of Responsibility Speak in light of the crisis of the Roman Catholic Church. What do you mean by that?

bell: If the Roman Catholic Church loses its place in society, all churches will lose its place. In the end, there is no differentiation between denominational and ecumenical. Many different processes come together here: we have an increasing secularization, along with a loss of trust in the Church itself as a result of cases of abuse and inadequate treatment. It all works together in a way that we feel, too. For example, I see, depending on the region, that in politics and municipalities, the understanding of the interests of the church exists to varying degrees and sometimes even declines.

Photo: © Diocese of Speyer

Andreas Sturm served as vicar-general of the Diocese of Speyer until his resignation in May 2022. He announced that he would become a priest in the Old Catholic Church.

Question: In the ancient catholic church Increase Membership. Is this not a reason for joy for you?

bell: On the other hand, the whole thing moves in proportions that seem completely absurd considering the numbers leaving the big churches. Last year we had twice as many members as the year before, but that means 380 in absolute numbers. That’s a relatively large number of new members for us, but compared to the more than 200,000 people who have left the church for every major denomination, very little. This means: almost all who leave, leave the church in no man’s land. On the other hand, I think this is a phase that will ebb again. For further developments, the topic of the church in the secular community is becoming increasingly important to us.

Question: To what extent?

bell: Even now, and especially now, the majority of the people who come to us come from a church background, mostly Roman Catholic. But this will be less and less. This is a “medium high”. People actually come to our churches without church socialization. So we ask ourselves how we can talk about faith and inspire people to believe they’ve never heard of it.

Question: In the Roman Catholic Church, people who have supported communities with their commitment for years, and who have been active in associations, seem increasingly disillusioned. Do these people resonate with you?

bell: The priests told me that the membership profile had changed. In the past, these were often people who had not had contact with their traditional sect for years, perhaps were middle-aged and started asking themselves questions about meaning and religion, or who, in the context of raising children, asked themselves what you would like to pass on to your child. We are now experiencing that people really come from the midst of their former parish, who were lecturers there, in the parish council, and activists in various assemblies, who then say that it is no longer possible, and we can support it no more. This is a relatively recent development.

Question: What does that do to churches? Roman Catholic and Old Catholic dioceses are organized quite differently.

bell: A priest told me he hopes that those who come to us will not compare the reality of ancient Catholic society with their former Roman Catholic reality. We have diaspora congregations that extend over large areas, so that there is not a certain kind of communal life, as people from denominations used to have, where there are still more traditional ecclesiastical attitudes. Corona has also made it difficult for people to feel at home in our communities. It’s getting better now because so much is happening in attendance again, but in the past year, when joint events weren’t possible apart from the service, it was hard to feel at home in an old Catholic community beyond the formal act of joining. It is not for granted that everyone who comes to us will stay – as much as I hope they will stay, and as much as our societies try to involve these people as much as they want.

Question: People who change sect often bring injuries from their previous membership. So a church formed by converts can also be a church formed by people who have been damaged by the church. How do you deal with this pastoral?

bell: This is not a new phenomenon. We’ve always had people join us with a history of injuries. But the method has changed: 30 years ago, these were basically people who divorced, remarried and then experienced exclusion from the sacraments in the Roman Catholic Church, or people who were excluded from sacraments because of their sexual orientation come to us. Today come people who are leaving their former church because of their dissatisfaction with the reforms. Joinings from his injury history have always helped shape our church. It is important to accompany such joining well. When people come to us with a history of mischief, they may idealize the old Catholic Church as the best churches, and then experience that even in the best churches there are struggles and that all is not well. So there must already be a healing process. I worry when people continue to work in their original Roman Catholic church even years later. It was also important to me personally to finally complete the process of separation from the Roman Catholic Church and to say: I can also see the good things that I have lived and lived through this time.

Archbishop Matthias Ringe lays his hands on a woman where an ancient Catholic deacon has been ordained.
Photo: © KNA / Cornelis Gollhardt (file photo)

In the old Catholic diocese, women are also ordained deaconesses and priestesses. In the picture, Bishop Ring draws a deacon.

Question: Your diocese used to play by presenting itself as the “best” Catholic Church – just ten years ago, bags were distributed in the Church and Catholic days with the inscription “Married Catholic Priestess Celebrating Ecumenical Communion – Fiction? Reality!”. Do you keep to yourself like these tips now?

bell: Yes, and these bags no longer exist either. But we are still experiencing today that people who have just come to us say that this is exactly what needs to be emphasized. Regarding “ad tech” – if I may put it that way – I think this is completely wrong: when I buy a new car, I don’t want to hear from the car dealer that my previous car brand was bullshit. This offends my previous decision.

One could say that in the past ten or fifteen years there has been a process in our church in which we have come to realize that we are a church that has its own image. Prior to this, emergency ecclesiastical ecclesiology was dominant: we exist only because of the decisions of Vatican I; When these things are no longer needed, then we can disintegrate and return to the Roman Catholic Church. It was in similar terms in our bylaws and regulations.

Question: What caused this change?

bell: This is partly related to our Episcopal Church, the Church of the Name of Jesus in Bonn. When we were shown this church with the indication that we could use it as an Episcopal church, we asked ourselves: Do we need something like that? What does it mean? Have we, then, ceased to be a temporary sectarian arrangement? Could this building be a spiritual center for us as a church? One concern was the unfavorable reassessment of the episcopate. As part of this process, our public relations have also changed: less confrontational, we now use the motto “For all. For life. Your church.” In addition, our clergy are becoming more and more diverse in terms of their doctrinal background: there are fewer and fewer former Roman Catholic priests who come to us. Instead, we have more people who have studied Roman Catholic theology without being a chaplain and some with evangelical backgrounds.

Question: How does this affect Ecumenism at the level of church leadership out of place? How are your relations with the Roman Catholic bishops?

bell: At this level relax. Relations with the Evangelical Church have been very good for decades anyway, and there are also institutional relations, such as a discussion group with the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany, and there is a constant rotation of mutual vocations. With the Roman Catholic Church, the atmosphere has improved in many areas, but there are still relatively few opportunities for encounters. A very cliched example: we have only been invited to the annual reception by the Diocese of Cologne for a few years. This did not exist in Cardinal Meissner’s time.

In general, the situation varies from parish to parish. We can often use Roman Catholic churches for services and even ordinances. In general, I would say that the relationship has calmed down, but I have not yet talked about a lively relationship. There are separate partnerships, for example with Kindermissionswerk for the Caroling Singer campaign, but there is still much room for improvement.

Question: What is your vision of ecumenism with the Roman Catholic Church?

bell: The ability to work together without fear that one will take something from the other. I have already indicated the accession numbers. Everything is on a level that is not a threat to the existence of the Roman Catholic Church, and yet I sometimes have the impression that people are very afraid of us. I also hope that we turn to the Roman Catholic side without fear or prejudice. Basically this would be: You don’t define the relationship based on your injuries, but look: This is Big Sister, and she’s a Sister Church, not the Enemy.

By Felix Neumann

for someone

Matthias Ring is the tenth bishop of the Old Catholic Diocese of Germany since 2010. Born in Upper Franconia, he first studied Roman Catholic theology and was ordained a deacon and priest in the Old Catholic Church in 1989. The Old Catholic Church appeared in Germany in the 1870s demarcation for decisions First Vatican Council (1869-1870) regarding the infallibility of the Pope and the primacy of his jurisdiction. The German diocese has 15,000 members in 60 parishes. Since 2009, Matthias Ring has presided over the diocese as the tenth bishop. The The Church Order of the Old Catholic Church is an Episcopal Synod.

Leave a Comment