27.05.2022, Baden-Württemberg, Stuttgart: Irme Stetter-Karp, Präsidentin des Zentralkomitees der deutschen Katholiken (ZdK), nimmt an der Zentralen Friedenskundgebung «Solidarität mit den Menschen in der Ukraine» beim Katholikentag teil. Foto: Marijan Murat/dpa +++ dpa-Bildfunk +++

The president of the Catholic Central Committee, Irme Stetter-Karp, triggered a crisis in her organization and beyond less than a year after taking office. In the “Zeit” supplement “Christ und Welt”, the head of the lay organization had commented on abortions and, among other things, advocated “ensuring that the medical intervention of an abortion is made possible across the board”. This has provoked considerable protests inside and outside the ZdK.

Stetter-Karp is particularly hard attacked internally. Among others, the Association of Catholic Entrepreneurs wrote to her and asked for clear restraint of her own opinion in such public statements. As ZdK President, she represents the entire breadth of Catholic laypeople in Germany, and the range of positions in society on abortion is wide. This also applies to lay Catholics.

According to the prevailing understanding of Catholic Christians, it is “certainly not the task of the ZdK or the President” to promote a nationwide abortion offer. Stetter-Karp is being asked by an increasing number of Catholics to take positions that show respect for differing opinions.

The General Assembly of the ZdK is made up of 230 lay representatives from various groups and dioceses. Stetter-Karp comes from Caritas.

Conservative Catholics, meanwhile, have already called for the Bishops’ Conference to intervene. The Central Committee of Catholics advises the Bishops’ Conference, but is independent of it. Irme Stetter-Karp does not have to fear consequences from the bishops; especially because their new general secretary used to work for Stetter-Karp in the diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart.

She is also co-president of the “Synodal Path”, the major reform project of the Catholic Church in Germany. In a recent note, the Pope rejected its content again. The chairman of the bishops’ conference, Georg Bätzing from Limburg, wants to avoid a conflict with those who are willing to reform in the ZdK and its president.

Stetter-Karp defends himself by pointing out that it has been shortened and exaggerated. Nothing has changed in her organization’s basic position on abortion since the 1990s.

However, her internal opponents argue that Stetter-Karp has been openly opposed to the Catholic Church’s clear no to abortion since 1999 – at the time as a co-founder of the “Donum Vitae” association, which offers pregnancy conflict counseling. In contrast to Catholic counseling centers, he also issues the counseling slips, which in Germany are the only means of aborting a pregnancy without being punished.