March 6, 2012 / 3:23 PM / 7 years ago

Some Germans going from profession to confession

BERLIN (Reuters) - While some men splash out on flashy sports cars as they reach middle age, a number of men in one southern German community are turning from profession to confession — giving up careers, money and sex to become priests.

In the diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart, a lawyer, doctor, manager, and teacher are among the latest group of men to swap white collar jobs for the clerical collar, beefing up the dwindling number of Catholic priests in Germany.

“I used to be an ordinary churchgoer, but suddenly my love for God snowballed into what became a powerful avalanche,” said Andreas Braun, 31. He quit his manager job to start training as a priest in Rottenburg, Braun told Bild newspaper on Tuesday.

Another career-switcher, 44-year-old Uwe Stier, said he grew tired of his job as a lawyer because he had to deal with divorces where families were falling apart in battles over money and children. He would rather work to keep families together.

“As a priest, I want to help people save their marriages,” Stier told the newspaper.

In giving up their former lifestyles for the Church, the 10 unmarried men mostly between the ages of 30 and 50 are bucking a trend in western popular culture which characterizes middle age as a crisis period, prompting rash decisions and impulse buys.

The diocese in which the men were ordained as deacons last week, the first step on their way to becoming priests, said they were part of a growing trend.

“Before there were many who followed a more traditional route, studying theology before going into the church as young men but in the past few years this has shifted,” Thomas Broch, an official for Rottenburg-Stuttgart diocese, told Reuters.

“In this particular group there was an unusually high number of people who came who had been following a completely different career path,” he said.

“They bring a great amount of life experience to the role.”

The Catholic church in Germany, as in other countries, has been experiencing a shortage of priests, and German bishops estimate that two-thirds of all Catholic parishes in the country will not have their own priest by 2020.

Last year several prominent Roman Catholic politicians urged German bishops to lobby their countryman Pope Benedict for a change in Church policy to ordain married men in response to a worsening shortage of priests.

The German bishops have been merging parishes to have the dwindling clergy minister to ever larger areas.

German Catholicism was shaken by the sexual abuse scandals that swept through Europe last year. Some critics blame clerical abuse of minors on celibacy, a link the Church denies. In the wake of the scandals, polls found that about a quarter of German Catholics are considering leaving the Church.

Reporting by Alice Baghdjian, editing by Paul Casciato

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