End of draft hits German charities

BERLIN -- With bureaucratic speed and little fanfare, Germany wound down 50 years of military conscription early this year. It was just six short weeks from the announcement in November to when the last drafted cadet had his head shorn in a Bundeswehr barracks.

Also gone is the compulsory civilian service for conscientious objectors that has supplied free labor to social service agencies, including those sponsored by Catholic and Protestant churches.

Germany’s Zivildienst had a long and storied history, coming into being when the draft did, in 1961, to provide young German conscientious objectors with an alternative to military duty. For decades their ranks -- which swelled during the 1970s and 1980s -- provided crucial staff for hospitals, elderly homes, first-aid stations and soup kitchens. At its height in 1998, some 138,000 “Zivis” were posted around the country.

German charities and social agencies are wondering where they will find the numbers to fill these slots.

144 theologians confront hierarchy

BERLIN -- “In our roles as theology professors we can no longer remain silent,” began 144 leading Catholic theologians from Germany, Switzerland and Austria in a bluntly frank open letter to the Roman Catholic hierarchy.

The letter was made public Feb. 3 and has since been published on the internet and quoted in major media.

Update: PrayTellBlog.com is reporting Feb. 15 that more theologians have signed the letter. The total now is 227 theologians from the three German speaking countries, and 249 including theologians from other countries. This link also has an English translation of the letter.

German Catholics turn backs on church

BERLIN -- By just about any measure, 2010 was not a luminous year for Germany’s Catholic church -- and the Protestants didn’t fare much better. Rocked by sex, physical abuse, and corruption scandals, an unprecedented number of German Catholics -- the most in postwar Germany’s history -- turned their backs on the church, formally renouncing their membership. Some switched to one of the Protestant churches, though those churches, in aggregate, also lost members.

Germany’s demographics find it 30 percent Catholic, 30 percent Protestant, 34 percent non-confessional, and 4-5 percent Muslim.

Bishop's critique prompts German debate on Afghanistan

BERLIN -- Merely by dint of her gender, Bishop Margot Kässmann took over the top post in Germany’s powerful Protestant church with the image of a rebel. Last year the 51-year-old theologian became the first woman ever to assume the leadership of Martin Luther’s church in the homeland of the great reformer.