A German bishop has hit out at what he sees as egotism and self-referentiality in the Church, saying that in Catholicism “we have too much ‘me'”.
– There are “people who celebrate themselves more than the Lord”
Bishop-elect of Augsburg Bertram Meier made the comments to German Catholic news agency KNA April 19.
“Sometimes I have the impression that, also in the Church, we have too much ‘me'”, Meier confessed, using the German term for a public limited company: “Me, PLC”.
“They are people who only see themselves, who sometimes celebrate themselves more than the crucified and risen Lord”, Meier, 59, lamented.
The prelate took advantage of Sunday’s Gospel – that of the famous episode of ‘Doubting Thomas’, the apostle who was sceptical of Christ’s resurrection until he saw and touched his wounds – to teach Catholics a lesson in the kind of fellowship they should seek.
“Thomas did not found a ‘Me, PLC’ to accept Easter belief. Easter opened up to him… in an apostolic community with justified hope”, Meier recalled.
It was precisely that idea of “community” that Meier called the Church in his remarks Sunday, but a community that exists, first and foremost for searchers.
The church should understand itself as a “search community”, the prelate said, adding that it should accompany the many searching people around today instead of merely looking after “its own interests and privileges”.
“The seekers are inside, in the middle of us, in the Church”, the Augsburg bishop-elect insisted, adding that the Church must do more to travel with those for whom faith is not second-nature like an “inherited property” but instead a path of ups and downs.
On that presence of Catholics who seek and doubt, “we have to go along with it as a Church – in the truest sense of the word”, Meier said, adding that the Church must not just “look after our interior furnishings or engage in navel-gazing”.
– In sync with Pope’s warnings against Church “self-referentiality”
Meier was to have been ordained Bishop of Augsburg on March 21, but his episcopal consecration was postponed due to the spread of the coronavirus.
In July last year, he was elected by the cathedral chapter as diocesan administrator upon the retirement of former Augsburg bishop Konrad Zdarsa, until in January this year Pope Francis named him as the new bishop of the Bavarian see.
Given the impossibility of his episcopal consecration during the COVID-19 pandemic, in late March the pontiff appointed Meier apostolic administrator of the diocese with the authority of a diocesan bishop.
Meier is considered a rising star in the German episcopate, not least of all because of his training in the school for Vatican diplomats, the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, and his experience as professor of theology in the Pontifical Gregorian University.
The bishop-elect has also been Augsburg diocesan delegate for causes close to Pope Francis’ heart: ecumenism, interreligious dialogue and the Pontifical Mission Societies.
Like Bishop-elect Meier, Pope Francis, too, has hit out on numerous occasions at Church egotism and self-referentiality, perhaps most notably in preparatory meetings to the 2013 conclave at which he was elected, when he warned:
“When the Church does not go out of herself to evangelise, she becomes self-referential; she grows ill (like the stooped woman in the Gospel). The evils which appear throughout history in Church institutions are rooted in this self-referentiality – a kind of theological narcissism”.