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The role of the church as a change agent

Ambivalences and need for reform

The contribution of the Catholic Church to successful change

The credibility of the church, both towards its own believers and as an actor in society as a whole, depends largely on its ability to act coherently. With regard to social-ecological transformation, this means: demands for real change, preservation of creation and global justice can only be represented credibly and effectively if they are accompanied by a constant effort to live out these values ourselves. Knowledge of the above-mentioned levers for successful change should therefore be increasingly applied within the entire church's area of influence and responsibility. If this succeeds, the Catholic Church as a global church can bring not only its material and structural assets, but also its specific potential as a faith community into the overall social change process: its advocacy for the vulnerable and marginalized, traditions of fair measure and universal justice, a holistic understanding of quality of life as well as a spirituality that carries you through dry spells, seeks common ground and conveys hope.

In order to implement this potential even more stringently, the study recommends better organizational anchoring for a coherent sustainability strategy in all German dioceses. A consistent switch to renewable energies is required in building management. The gradual conversion of as many heating systems as possible, the use of ecological building materials and the comprehensive switch to green electricity for all church properties should be a matter of course. Furthermore, the tried and tested principle of renting out some church properties below the local market prices should be strengthened in order to promote certain types of housing (e.g. multi-generational houses) and a broad mix of different social and income milieus. There is also great potential in the consistent alignment of church procurement with social-ecological criteria. This includes church fleets and guidelines for reimbursed business trips as well as church kitchens in which more whole foods, “bio-regio” and “fair trade” should be the rule. In the area of space management, as well as in asset management, there is a need for clarification as to the extent to which the sustainability criteria that have already been introduced in many places can be further standardized and improved, which represents a major challenge given the large number of different ecclesiastical legal entities. Such a discussion would send a signal to society as a whole if it were possible to discuss the associated distribution conflicts with all those affected at an early stage and to find a common solution on the basis of shared values.

In the global context, the debate about responsible population policy and family planning is becoming increasingly urgent, as all social, economic and ecological SDGs are unlikely to be achieved at the same time given the rapidly growing population in many poorer countries.

In the past it has often been the case that grassroot democratic groups and associations have done pioneering work within the church and society as a whole to projects in active environmental protection, fair trade or sustainable financial investments and they continue to advance these works on a broad basis. Given the structural crisis of the institutionalized church, these groups represent a resource whose importance is likely to increase significantly in the coming years.

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