Pope Benedict XVI: A personal tribute to the man who resigned two years ago today

The MV Sydney 2000 - you can see the protruding front deck on which I stood (and a little later, Pope Benedict XVI) quite clearly. (CC Image via Wikimdia)
The MV Sydney 2000 – you can see the second, more narrow protruding front deck with yellow flooring on which I stood (and a little later, Pope Benedict XVI) quite clearly. (CC Image via Wikimedia)

My first encounter with Pope Benedict XVI. was marked by his absence. I stood, gently rocked by the waves of the Pacific, where he would stand in a few days’ time: on the front deck of the boat that would take him into Sydney Harbour. A number of journalists had been invited ahead of the World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney to take in the location of the events on the water; and to see “what the Holy Father would see”, as one of the organizers from the Archdiocese had put it, as we cruised out under the Harbour Bridge. I balked at the expression. This guy, the pope, was neither holy nor my father, in my view. A proud atheist and criticially-minded journalist and senior manager for SBS, like most of my colleagues I was irritated that my employer, a multilingual and multicultural public broadcaster, would even be the official network covering this religious event. And what is more, not something agreeably religious, like a nice Buddhist festival, but from that most outdated, autocratic, sexist institution of them all: the Catholic Church.

Had anyone told me, as I stood there on board the MV Sydney 2000, that in a few year’s time I would be a practicing Catholic, I would have laughed out. Loudly. Had anyone told me that I would even leave my excellent, rewarding career at SBS to work as a Catholic journalist on the other side of the planet, and along the way be the editor-in-chief of the Catholic newspaper that Pope Benedict has continually read since his tenth birthday (he is a loyal subscriber, to this day), I would have thought the person suggesting this was high on hallucinogens. Had anyone told me that in that role I would be in the arcades above Saint Peter’s Square a good decade later, covering the resignation of this “Holy Father” as a Bavarian brass band rang out across the tens of thousands gathered there, I would have checked myself into a hospital for a check-up.

And yet, this is exactly what happened.

So today is a rather special day for me too, and I would like to honour the anniversary of Benedict’s resignation by offering some points towards a personal account of what his role has meant to me, and how I see his impact not just on my personal life and many people around me, but the history of Christianity, the West, and indeed, humanity, with the humble means available to me: a personal post on this blog.

Pope Benedict XVI. (Source: CC Image, Wikimedia)
Pope Benedict XVI. (Source: CC Image, Wikimedia)

Let me just come out and tackle what several people will wonder about. Yes, I could have published something like this account in German in the newspaper I am responsible for. Or in an essay in another publication. Especially since I know that Pope Benedict reads the Münchner Kirchenzeitung (or even if he did not that week, he would be told of it quickly). The same can probably not be said for an English-language post on my personal blog which has only a few readers, and many of them come here for the stuff about swimming. Well, there are several reasons why I have decided to go down this route. Firstly, I am aware that my personal take on things may not be relevant reading to many of the people who receive the Münchner Kirchenzeitung every week. Many of them have a long relationship with Joseph Ratzinger, who after all is a son of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, and even its former Archbishop. Several have a strong personal ties to him and his family, too. Secondly, the personal nature (and with that: obvious bathos) of my claims is not suited to the writing done in the professional and neutral framework I try to provide in the MK. Thirdly, it would needlessly complicate my already challenging task of working with many vociferous stakeholders and assertive interest groups to ensure that paper is a high-quality platform for real discussion and participation. Several of these voices do not have one good word to say about Benedict, and I would need to open an actual debate on this, which at this point in time is neither a useful nor a responsible thing to do. So call it self-censorship if you want, I stand by this decision. (The paper will of course mark the anniversary).

Since I am butally short on time, I will make these personal observations in the form of an eclectic list in no particular order that centres around three thoughts:

  1. Pope Benedict XVI. is arguably the most important intellectual of the Twentieth Century, and his prescient work on the Church and society in particular not only predicted exactly what would emerge, but also how to deal with the challenges our civilization finds itself in at this hour. We need to read Ratzinger! We need to re-read his Regensburg Address on Islam, for starters, as rabid Islamists are torturing and beheading Christians not far from the cradle of civilization and countries like Turkey appears to be spiralling into an Islamic abyss whilst educating, exporting and funding preachers to Europe.
  2. As a pope, Benedict XVI. was a maligned, persecuted and slandered figure even before he took on the role. What is worse, he was hounded, betrayed and attacked both from outside and within the Church. By resigning in humility to pray, he won his final victory over the Pharisees and the many other enemies of our Church in this age and remains a powerful sign of contradiction that continues to shine and will do so in future – and not just in his actions, but his writing in particular. Contrast what Benedict says and writes to the treatment he received at the hands of his enemies, and you will see what I mean.
  3. The fruits of Benedict’s legacy is yet invisible. The effect of his work as thinker and as pope are yet to fully blossom – and they will do so when much of what is currently foremost on our minds is forgotten. This is particularly true for how the Catholic Church will “subsist” in the current and coming age, but also seemingly minor things like the future of the Society of Saint Pius X and how their role in the history of salvation pertains to the hermeneutic of continuity that is the path of the universal Church through all the ages.

Feel free to add to them or disagree with me in the comments. There are more points I would like to touch on and contextualize, but do not have the time to. Let me just scribble them down here:

  • A particularly odious and stupid expression of persecution, in no small part Germanophobic, was the smearing of the pope as a “Nazi”. How Hollywood celebrities and even liberal journalists got away with this begs further investigation and is a devastating indictment of the levels of so-called “tolerance” claimed by some particularly self-righteous individuals in positions of power.
  • Another sign of contradiction: His use of beautiful, historical clothes spoke a language our time (the Zeitgeist) was unwilling to hear, and keen to deride and scoff at. Remember the red shoes? But those with ears to listen actually heard the language these vestments, symbols, elements speak. My favourite example is the story of the young Muslim woman who was invited to do the live commentary of the World Youth Day events on SBS Radio – together with a lapsed but eloquent priest and an atheist, no less. SBS did this to ensure an “impartial” if not critical coverage and not seem too “Catholic”. The move backfired: When the priest described the names and purposes of the liturgical elements of dress, since the Muslim commentator was asking, the compelling beauty and inner logic of the narratives these clothes, items and various other elements add to the words and gestures all but converted the questioner, it seemed – and certainly made for compelling Catholic radio in a way no practicing son or daughter of the Church in good standing could have delivered. There are several important lessons in that anecdote, even if it were apocryphal, which for all I know and remember, it is not.

Anyway, I need to cut this short for the time being.

Once again, this is my personal view at the time of writing. What do you remember of him or take away from his papacy, his writings? Feel free to contribute, to disagree (or agree!) with me in the comments. And if you are the praying or at least the thoughtful type (and we all should be in my view), please consider this maligned and IMHO brilliant, humble man in your thoughts today.

Wir brauchen ein Islamgesetz

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Der Islam in Oberbayern: Die Moschee von Penzberg. Foto: Wimmer

An Deutlichkeit nichts zu wünschen übrig ließ Kardinal Reinhard Marx mit seiner Aussage zum Umgang mit dem selbst-ernannten “Islamischen Staat” (IS). Der IS muß gestoppt werden, so der Vorsitzende der Deutschen Bischofskonferenz zum Abschluß der Frühjahrsvollversammlung am Donnerstag. Er sprach damit aus, was nicht nur alle Bischöfe von Bundesregierung und Staatengemeinschaft verlangen, sondern auch die große Mehrheit aller Bürgerinnen und Bürger will, egal ob Christen, Agnostiker – oder Muslime.

Wenn wir den IS und sein mörderisches, abstossendes, gottloses Treiben stoppen wollen, dann schaffen wir das nicht allein durch Waffengewalt; wenn auch leider nicht ohne: Zurecht weist der Münchner Erzbischof darauf hin, dass Verhandeln mit dem IS alleine “offenbar sinnlos” ist. Wir schaffen es auch nicht nur mit Forderungen an unsere Regierung und andere, etwas zu tun. Wir, Christen wie die Zivilgesellschaft allgemein, müssen der friedlichen Mehrheit der Millionen Muslime, die unter uns leben, eine faire Chance geben, mit dem Grundgesetz und unseren Werten harmonierende Formen ihres Glaubens zu entwickeln und zu leben. Etwa als Körperschaften öffentlichen Rechts. Mehr noch, wir müssen dies einfordern. So klar und deutlich wir nur können. Im persönlichen Gespräch genauso wie auf der Ebene unserer Gesetzgebung.

In Österreich wird dies nun mit dem am Mittwoch verabschiedeten Islamgesetz versucht, das Muslime einerseits schützt und mehr Rechte einräumt, andererseits aber Pflichten auferlegt. Vor allem schiebt es einer Praxis einen Riegel vor, welche die Entwicklung eines friedlichen, europäischen Islam nach wie vor erschwert: Dass Prediger aus anderen Ländern importiert und von dort finanziert werden.

Solche Gesetze, in Deutschland oder ganz Europa, würden noch lange nicht das komplexe Phänomen des radikalen Islams stoppen. Aber sie wären ein Schritt in die richtige Richtung. Der IS verbreitet sich nicht nur in Syrien, Irak, Libyen. Er wuchert längst auch unter uns, in unseren Gemeinden und Familien.

(Ursprünglich veröffentlicht als “Standpunkt” auf http://www.katholisch.de)

Day 73 of the Great Big 10k Swimming Adventure: Cracking the 5k milestone (and thoughts on why I really hate sprint sets)

Yay. Have not had time to blog, but I actually reached a milestone in the Great Big Swimming Adventure this Tuesday morning: For the first time, I swam a straight 5k.

After a crappy night’s sleep (I woke at 1:30am and could not go back to sleep till about 3:30am, brain in overdrive, then woke absolutely knackered to a blaring alarm at 5am), I thought I would only be able to put in a mediocre swim. In a way, I did – I just did it for 212 lanes all up, of which I swam:

  • 250m free warm-up at 1:36/100m
  • 5000m free at 1:43/100m (that means 1 hour 25 minutes and 56 seconds) at cruise speed
  • 50m breast stroke to cool down at casual/fun speed i.e. 2:29/100m

Since 5k is my competition distance this year (10k next year), and the race is not till August, I am glad I reached this milestone in late February. Gives me confidence; the knowledge I will be able to stay the distance, even if it will be in the open ocean, instead of the confines of my local pool.

What I felt like on the last few hundred meters yesterday (CC Image via Wikimedia: Actually a really interesting "wet canoe" - google it!)
What I felt like on the last few hundred meters yesterday (CC Image via Wikimedia: Actually a really interesting “wet canoe”)

Then yesterday I went back to the pool, feeling well rested and only a hint of sore in the shoulders. So I decided to do some sprints. I only managed 6x50m, averaging high 30secs, then breathing for a few secs (ok, in the last few: 30secs!) and then pushing off again.

Why do I find sprint sets so bloody hard? Maybe it is the fact that I am over 40 years old now. Maybe because of the half-marathon distance the day before. Maybe I am just too soft for hard sprints. Whatever the reason: I had to push myself really hard for those sprints. Much harder than swimming a casual 2000m. Anyway: Lesson learned is to make sure to sleep well. Then do the hard work of sprint sets on specific days, and then do them first, then “reward” yourself with the other sets after. Overall I swam well over 3k (3.450m to be precise) yesterday:

  • 200m free warmup
  • 6/7x 50m all-out sprints (sorry, don’t have watch on me; will update times later if I get to it)
  • 600m backstroke with pull buoy (to counter the 5k set on Monday)
  • 300m kick drills mixed
  • 2x1k free at a very relaxed pace

At the end of that last 1000m set I felt queasy and off. I hit the showers and was at work very early.

No pool today, I obviouly need a day off. I swam 13k this week so far, and I am well on track in this adventure. Must not overdo things, especially at my ripe middle-old age – and yet look forward to being back in the water. Maybe I will do a slow 1000m tonight in the local pool and take the kids.

Day 70 of the Great Big Marathon 10k Swimming Adventure: Restarting the training plan and dreaming of Rottnest Island

Have you seen this stick? My Garmin ANT+ has gone missing. (CC-Image via Probike Kit)
Have you seen this stick? My Garmin ANT+ has gone missing. (CC-Image via Probike Kit)

First day back at work today – and first day properly back in the training schedule therefore! This morning, I clocked 4300 meters or 170 laps with an average time of 1.44/100m and a SWOLF of 35 all up.

Since I STILL have not found my Garmin stick to transfer the training data from my watch (argh!), here is a brief overview of the actual sets:

  • 1000m in 15:51 minutes (at 1.35/100m) at one gear higher than cruising speed, but felt comfy
  • stretches
  • 1000m in 16:48 minutes (at 1:41/100m) with paddles, no pullbuoy; felt tghe
  • 500m in 8:22 minutes (at 1:40/100m) cruising
  • 400m drills kickbord back and front, backstroke with pullbuoy
  • 1200m in 22:04 (at 1:50/100m) just cruising VERY casually, lots of bilateral breathing
  • 150m in 3:20 (at 2:13/100m) breast stroke with dolphin kick, just winding down
  • 50m just paddling about, cooling down

Man, it is so good to be in the water first thing in the morning. Words can not only inadequately describe it. Speaking of which: To make sure I get more k’s in – and avoid the morning traffic, which starts to build up at about 6am – I am actually getting up at 5am now, so I can hit the water at about 6am, when the place opens. That means I have 1.5 hours training time, and if need be, can push it to 2hrs (though that will be 2016 methinks).

Have I mentioned that I am actually a night owl, not a morning person? If someone would have predicted this regime back in the many years I ran the early news shift on radio in Australia, I would have laughed it off. And now I am loving it.

Absolutely loved the Rottnest Channel Swim. Since I was on “holiday”, I took the time to watch the coverage online – just go to http://tenplay.com.au/sport/rottnest to have a look – and see Kane Redford come out of the water first, and Grace van der Byl take first place in the women’s category in a brilliant finish. You swim for almost 20k, from the glorious Cottesloe Beach in Perth, Western Australia to Rottnest. The swimmers doing this Open Water event were absolute champs. One described it like swimming in a washing machine.

I had the good fortune of going on a dive trip to Rottnest a few years ago. I still remember how different the warm Indian ocean water and environment was from the temperate Pacific waters of Melbourne. Lots of sand and beautiful scenery under water.

After watching the coverage, I dreamt of swimming to Rottnest myself. Who knows, maybe one day I will get a chance to do so.

Rottnest Channel Swim - start of one wave back in 2004. Since then, the event has grown enormously. (CC Image via Wikimedia by Rst)
Rottnest Channel Swim – start of one wave back in 2004. Since then, the event has grown enormously. (CC Image via Wikimedia by Rst)

Goodbye, Apple. A farewell letter of sorts on Valentine’s Day

Goodbye, Apple.

Goodbye, Macbooks. For many years, you were the daily tools of my journalistic, academic and creative trades. I wrote articles for websites and newspapers on you. I recorded audio and video on you, edited and distributed it. I blogged and shared and tweeted on you. I lay-outed newspaper pages and academic presentations, workshops and interventions using your operating systems and applications. And occasional stints of extended gaming were like vacations with you.

No more.

Oh Apple, where did you go wrong? Is it you or me? You used to be the hardware that got the job done. Rugged, safe, reliable. Snazzy and slick. Sure: Your software was always a bit predatory in staking a claim in my private files. Sure, you had your phases, but they were just that. Sure, you really stuffed things up with your embarrassing catastrophes moving from @mac to @me.com and then @icloud. Not to mention your social network disasters and other failures and rip-offs. But I could put up with those faults. You see, you were worth it. You had the ethos and the purpose.

Rotten Apple (CC Image by Kasman/Pixabay)
Rotten Apple (CC Image by Kasman/Pixabay)

No more.

Goodbye, iPhonesI even gave up my beloved Blackberry Pearl and Bold when you came out. But now, as you moved into the sixth iteration of your mobile appearance, as you have started going gold, I am finally leaving you. In a few days, I will move to a Blackberry Classic. And so will several other people I know.

You see, I don’t need a luxury toy and distraction machine. I don’t need a gold one in particular. I need to get work done; I need to communicate. And when I am on the train, I see children and confused old people are the majority of people using you.

And now, the Apple Watch. Really?

Ach, Apple. It is not me, it is you.

To me it is clear: You have lost your way. Your sense and purpose. Breaking up is hard to do. But we are no longer part of the same world. And it is time to say goodbye. I am writing this farewell letter to you on my new ChromeOS box. It cost one tenth of your lovely new iMac, and a third of the money my early 2011 Macbook Pro would bring in, if I were to sell it today.

So this is good bye. I have moved my stuff and my files. I have upgraded my tools and thrown out the gold hammer for a steel one. And I am hitting those nails again!

Sure. I still have my iPad Air, and it will continue to come with me to meetings and conferences for a while yet. But not because it offers something others don’t. I still have my Apple TV hooked up. But not because ChromeCast is not better and cheaper and more suited to my needs. It is just that I will use these two devices till they also get replaced by Android or similar devices that are better, cheaper, more flexible and advanced.

So yes, it is good bye. Unless you change your ways and return to your roots. If you do, drop me an old fashioned email. I still have an @mac.com Email address. Get in touch when you are back on track.

Day 61 of the Great Big 10k Marathon Swimming Adventure: Mountain hiking, tobogganing and evening swims

Screengrab of the Hörnle webcam at www.hoernlebahn.de
Screengrab of the Hörnle webcam at http://www.hoernlebahn.de this morning

There is an abundance of snow and glorious sunshine here at the moment in the Bavarian Alps. The day before yesterday, with all kids finally well enough to be ferried off to their respective schools and kindy till lunch time, the wife and I grabbed two toboggans and hiked up the Hörnle mountain. We also had Barry the Appenzeller dog with us, who loves the snow so much he keeps rolling in it and eating it.

How different is this from swimming! I thought to myself, huffing and puffing up the steeper inclines, drawing deep breaths in the pure Alpine mountain air. How different is this from swimming! I thought to myself, hurtling down the serpentines of an icy mountainside, tasting the powdery snow your heels kick up, the blue sky blazing above between the dark green firs and the pearly snow. How different is this from swimming! I thought it to myself as I swam a sound 3.000 metres that night, hitting the pool just after 7pm. It was not as sensational as hiking and skiing and all the rest of it is. But I was home. In my element.

The first week of “holidays” is drawing to a close, and it has been fantastic – it feels like an emotional taper. next week will be even busier, with a book chapter to write and three additional children staying with us for most of the week, but I intend to keep swimming in the evenings nonetheless – a minimum of four days.

How the media is problematizing large families

Full disclosure: I am not only a father of four children but also a passive member of the association quoted below.

There is some extremely interesting research and – speaking not just as a blogger but editor-in-chief of a weekly newspaper – devastating analysis of how the media creates and perpetuates stupid prejudices against families, especially

Source: Verband kinderreicher Familien
Source: Verband kinderreicher Familien

those with three or more children. This in turn leads to a messy, unfair and deeply disturbing misrepresentation of families. This analysis is coming from the association of “child-rich” (love that term!) families in Germany (this is their home page).

As the multilingual website “FamilyandMedia.eu” reports (check them for the full story here), the prejudices against families with three kids come about in four ways:

1) The media speaks about large families only in relation to problems: too many financial burdens, conflicts from living together, and unstable accommodations. By rule, with a few exceptions in the popular press, they are represented with negative clichés, such as “families with many children are abnormal” or “only families with immigrant parents have many children.” The image that results is that large families are excessive or only proper to socially marginalized categories.

2) 41% of the examined articles offered a negative image of the traditional family, understood as a family in which the father works and the mother is at home, with one or two children (an image that, coincidentally is also far from reality).

3) While news about the family in general is mostly related to politics, those concerning large families are always presented in relation to specific and problematic cases.

4) The topic of family and of the number of children was treated in a reductive way, giving space only to opinions that were based on common places and stereotypes, which in turn were often supported by the voices of so called “experts.”

Sure, they “only” analyze German media, but does this not apply to most Western media? I reckon so.

For readers of German and those not afraid of Google Translate, here is an excellent interview with the spokesperson of the association, Florian Brich, about the “conceptual hurdles” that families need to tackle to have a fair voice, representation and coverage in the media.

Day 56 of the Great Big 10k Marathon Swimming Adventure: Shovelling snow instead of hitting the pool

Brrrr
Brrrr – view from the window

With temps hitting around minus 11 degrees Centigrade again, snow piling up around the house (we live about 900m above sea level), and both the wife and most kids sick with a nasty stomach bug, my first day of holidays went rather differently as orginially planned. I got up at 6am to help the last healthy child to some brekkie and then see her off to school; then I shovelled snow for a good one and a half hours, listening to a very good podcast about Phenomenology (even poor old Melvyn Bragg was cold, sneezing off mic at one point). Then I spent most of the day drawing up some urgent strategy papers for work, getting at least the bare minimum of emails done and redacting an article on a monastery which is going into print tomorrow. Phew.

Unsurprisingly, I am feeling a bit under the weather too, so I wisely decided not to give my 7pm training a go today. Instead, I read up on some local (i.e. Bavarian) open water comps and events this year. Looks like there is a lot going on and I will check out the details later. In the meantime, have a gander at my linklist; I will try and compile a useful collection of information and links to stories there.

Now it is past 8pm and I am ready for a quiet evening (pray the kids go to sleep soon) with my recuperated better half. Look forward to the second day of holidays tomorrow – and hopefully a proper training session.

Day 54 of the Great Big 10k Marathon Swimming Adventure: Being “Pool-Blocked” …and a major life lesson about what matters most

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CC Image by Peter Nguyen / Pixabay

Too much has happened again. Quick recap since my last update three days ago:

Work trip to Augsburg meant I could give the indoor pool in Haunstetten a go – it was en route and I left a good hour earlier to swim there beforehand. Place is 1970s throwback to steel, glass and concrete; needs a refurb to be sure, but the water is clean  and facility seems well managed. There is no cashier: You get in by purchasing a ticket from a cash-only machine, so bring change. Unfortunately, the pool was so crowded, what with two school classes and the morning round of a good dozen seniors and housewives, that I ended up DIVING under two elder gents who were actually “lapping” up and down in order to get some mileage in. Mileage? Make that 1500 meters or so – not counting diving and swerving and weaving between people. Though everyone was very friendly, they certainly weren’t going to let this whippersnapper with goggles just swim up and down minding his own business. Nein. Ah well. That was the second day in a row that I got “pool-blocked”, so I used my frustration to remind myself how lucky I am to be able to swim in the first place and have this kind of luxury problem to worry about.

That said, since I had planned to do a 2x2k or 4k swim, I was very ready for a proper long-distance set the next day (i.e. yesterday). And since this was my final day for a fortnight in the “working week pool”, I got up fifteen minutes earlier, left the house at 5:20 or so, and was in the water even earlier than normal. Turns out leaving just a few minutes earlier gets you a substantial amount of time more in the water. If I can toughen out a 5am instead of 5.30am get up, it will be very worth it in the later stages of the adventure.

Summary of Friday swim: 4400 meters including warmup and cool down. Took 1:07 to swim the 4k.

This was only the second time in my life I swam a straight 4k (if I remember right). It was very different from the last/first time, in as much as I did not get into a “zone” and experienced no excruciating boredome either; it was, not just psychologically speaking, an utterly banal experience. Did some laps breathing on the left, which still sucks, and practiced my bilateral breathing, which is getting more comfortable, but otherwise just cruised through.

Felt very happy, focused and energised for the rest of the day, despite having eleven hours of straight-up work to power through. Driving home after 7:30 pm on this epic Friday, I spent my meditation and prayer time reflecting in gratitude of how much I an thankful for – both the frustrating aspects and of course the fantastic experiences of swimming: They both give me so much that in turn allows me to work well, too – and arguably more importantly, come home relaxed and happy, not exhausted and distracted, to spend quality time with the wife and kids. My wife needs and deserves a relaxed and observant husband, not a stressed-out commuter and office jockey.

So, here’s the insight, or rather life lesson, which is simple but one I have struggled with a lot: There is no point in just tiring yourself out, burning the candle at both ends, even if you do it for what matters most: to be a good provider (or, in my case, a good Christian)! You have to look after yourself, within reason: Sleep enough, work out, eat well, and take the time you need to reflect/meditate/pray. Only then can you fully be the best person for the people who need you: Your wife or husband, your children, family, work and friends.

Wenn der Watschenbaum umfällt

Wie jeder Familienvater (und wohl auch jede Mutter) kenne ich die Momente, wo mir die Hand ausrutschen könnte. Leider ist sie mir auch schon ausgerutscht, obwohl ich es nicht wollte, und für völlig inakzeptabel halte.

CC Image of Pope Francis
CC Image of Pope Francis

Wie manches Kind gestresster Eltern weiß ich auch, was eine Watschn für den bedeutet, der sie einfängt. Gott sei Dank haben auch meine Eltern mich nie geschlagen. Aber das eine Mal, wo ich zu meiner Mutter so unverschämt war, dass sie mir wie im Reflex eine geschmiert hat, werde ich nie vergessen – und sie auch nicht. Heute sage ich: Die Watschn hatte ich verdient, und sie hat mehr erreicht, als alles reden und maßregeln.

Widerspricht sich das nicht? Lüge ich mir in die eigene Tasche, wenn ich gegen jede Form der Gewalt (nicht nur physische!) gegenüber Kindern bin, aber selber meinen eigenen Maßstab schon mal nicht eingehalten habe? Wenn ich sogar einmal eine “verdiente Watschn” kassiert habe, obwohl ich behaupte, dass es keine gibt? Keineswegs. Gerade weil es für meine Eltern wie für mich als Vater nicht akzeptabel war und ist, war die eine Watschn eine wirkmächtige Ausnahme, eine absolute Verletzung der eigenen Regeln. Und vor allem: der Würde.

Meine Kinder lachen sich schief, wenn der Papa sagt “Jetzt fällt gleich der Watschenbaum um! Zimmer aufräumen!”. Gott sei Dank. Ich könnte mir nicht verzeihen, wenn sie tatsächlich Angst vor mir – oder irgendjemand anderen – haben müssten.

Umso weniger verstehe ich die Aussage des Papstes zu diesem Thema. Es gibt einen liebevoll Klaps, klar. Aber es gibt keine Züchtigung in Würde. Weder für den Täter noch das Opfer. Punktum.

Was mich noch mehr verwundert: Die Watschen-Debatte, die nun in den weltlichen Medien losgestreten wird, ist keine echte Debatte. Hier findet vielmehr ein Spiel statt, das mittlerweile in die mindestens dritte Runde geht: Der Papst und die Presse. Ein Schlagabtausch der besonderen Art: Franziskus verteilt metaphorische “Klapse”, und die Öffentlichkeit, genauer die Medien, reagieren. (Crossposted from “Wimmers Woche” on Münchner Kirchennachrichten).