Church and State: Where Catholic Beliefs and Public Needs Collide

Catholic Church under fire

By Frank Hornig, Barbara Schmid, Fidelius Schmid and Peter Wensierski SPIEGEL.DE

Rape victims are being turned away, and divorced employees are losing their jobs. Catholic hospitals, kindergartens and nursing homes — which are primarily tax-funded — are causing problems for Germany’s social welfare state. But some politicians are fighting back.

The origins of the Cellitine sisters and their beneficial ministry date back to late 13th-century Cologne, when the nuns devoted themselves to the “care of the sick, the weak and the poor.”

Their original mission has expanded into a corporation encompassing 16 nursing homes and 10 hospitals. The only problem is that care is precisely what has been lacking there recently. Wanting nothing to do with a possible early termination of a pregnancy, doctors working for the Cellitines turned away a woman who was seeking help shortly before Christmas, despite the strong suspicion that she had been raped.

Last week, the order publicly downplayed the case when it made national news, calling it “very regrettable” and “a misunderstanding.”

Turning away rape victims can hardly be called a misunderstanding. On January 10, Sylvia Klauser, the order’s chief ethics officer, explained to an emergency doctor the hospitals’ procedures for handling rape victims. The notes the doctor made on the conversation reveal an astonishing aspect of the order’s policy: As long as patients who have been raped are “responsive and capable of being moved,” they are to be transferred “to a city facility.” The apparent goal of the policy is to ensure that the nuns and doctors will not be confronted with a possible abortion.

The case reveals how far the Roman Catholic Church has distanced itself from German society, especially — but not only — in the area of sexuality.

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