It is a consequence of the opening of Catholic theology at Humboldt University: the state of Berlin will sign a state treaty with the Catholic Church for the first time. As the KNA news agency was the first to report, the Berlin House of Representatives “took note” of the state treaty last Thursday without objections and without a parliamentary debate. The contract can now be signed by the Governing Mayor Franziska Giffey (SPD) and the Apostolic Nuncio Nikola Eterovic.

“We are very pleased about these developments,” said Linda Kannellos-Okur, the deputy head of the Catholic Office Berlin-Brandenburg when asked. “The state treaty is intended to regulate the cooperation between the state of Berlin and the Catholic Church in the field of Catholic theology, which is anchored at the university.”

In fact, such agreements are not new: before the institute was founded at Humboldt University, there had already been a seminar for Catholic theology at Freie Universität. The state of Berlin and the Catholic Archdiocese of Berlin had already laid down its status in 1970 in the “Concluding Minutes of Discussions between Representatives of the Episcopal Ordinariate of Berlin and the Berlin Senate on the Regulation of Commonly Interesting Questions”.

To this day, this document fundamentally regulates the relationship between the state and the Catholic Church in Berlin. It has a complicated name: because unlike the Evangelical Church and unlike in all other federal states, there is no general state-church contract between the Catholic Church and the state in Berlin. Corresponding negotiations were interrupted in 1999 mainly because of differences about religious instruction.

In the new state treaty, the Catholic Church is granted, as is customary in the theological subjects nationwide, extensive rights to have a say in the appointment of professors, in the design of the study and examination regulations and in the establishment of new courses at the Institute for Catholic Theology.

However, the following sentence in the text of the contract could be of particular importance for the country: “If an aforementioned teacher is accused of a violation of the teaching or of the requirements of a way of life according to the order of the Catholic Church by the If the Archbishop of Berlin raised a complaint, this teacher can no longer teach and examine Catholic theology.”

In 2003, the Archdiocese of Berlin had revoked the teaching license of the theologian Michael Bongardt, who was then teaching at the FU Berlin: The Catholic priest had married and thus violated celibacy. Since he could no longer be employed at the seminar for Catholic theology, Bongardt became professor for comparative ethics at the Free University in 2006. Today he trains future ethics teachers there.