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From abuse crisis, Germany's Roman Catholics seek reform

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But reform voices also include that of Wolfgang Sturm, a craggy-faced mechanical engineer who for 19 years has been part of a lay Catholic council in Munich. Mr. Sturm says he "is in the church because I believe Jesus Christ's message from 2,000 years ago." Last week at a sprawling Catholic school and sports complex in a Munich suburb, Sturm called, along with some 150 other lay Catholics, for church leaders to fess up clearly.

"I want them to stand in front of the people and say it doesn't matter how much pedophilia there is in the secular world, or in families, or by soccer coaches. I want them to stand and say this crisis is our responsibility and we admit it. It is the only way to ever be credible again," he told one smaller group.

With the priesthood in crisis, many lay council members want to go into the community and try to restore the image of the church. Sturm, like an estimated 70 percent of German Catholics, has "no problem" with married priests and thinks the rules on mandatory celibacy should be changed.

For retired Munich businessman Rudiger Bruggemann, a lifelong Catholic, the crisis has brought to a head the "main question" of his life: "Do you stay in the church or do you leave? I stay because it is the only way to help. You have no voice if you leave," he says. "But at this point, after 74 years, I can no longer take things at face value. Our problems are extensive, and we need the message of Christ, not of institution."

Taking priests down a notch

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