One of Germany’s youngest and more recently appointed bishops has called for a thorough examination of how Church leaders exercise their authority, saying too often it does not conform with the model St Paul demanded of early Christian leaders.
“We urgently need to have a new look at the question of episcopal power and responsibility,” said Bishop Peter Kohlgraf of Mainz in an article that appeared on Dec. 31 in the German daily Kölner Stadt Anzeiger.
“And we must, on no account, allow the importance of this question to be played down, since it already preoccupied early Christian communities.”
The 51-year-old Kohlgraf, who succeeded the late Cardinal Karl Lehmann as bishop of Mainz in August 2017, said power is a considerable temptation for bishops.
Bishop Kohlgraf also admitted that the issue of sexual violence in the Church had put his faith to the test in recent months.
“I have never experienced the human and dark side of the Church so closely as in the 16 months since I became a bishop,” he said.
“A few days ago, I came across the following reflection by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn: ‘Perhaps we are too much Church and too little Christ!’
“I have given his words a great deal of thought ever since. Christ and His Church have not seldom been equated. I can still hear the following words in a sermon when I was young: ‘The Church is Christ who lives on’.” But he said if the Church is identical with Christ, then it becomes unassailable, its traditions unshakeable and its ministers — “as they represent Christ Himself” — discharged from all liability.