Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Rate Your Priest!

It seems like you can find a site on the Internet that will let you rate just about anything. Thanks to a new web site in Germany, priests can now be added to that list. The site allows parishioners to rate their priests according to various factors and makes those ratings available to the public.

"Pastoral work should be qualitative," Andreas Hahn, one of the founders said of the original idea behind the site, adding they hoped "to stimulate dialogue to improve pastoral work."

Also, "many parishes work well but their performance doesn't become public," Hahn said of the platform's function.

He hoped the site could also contribute to some kind of an early alert system, so that potential problems might be recognised before they become actual problems.

Launched in April, the site has been well received by users. "We are overwhelmed by our own success," Hahn said. With 25,000 parishes and some 8,000 priests registered so far and the option to add more, the site's reach is growing.

One might think that churches would welcome such feedback, and the number of priests signing up for the site certainly seems to bear this out. However, the response to the site shows a real split between Catholic and Protestant authorities.

But while the site has proven a hit with users, reaction from the Roman Catholic church, which has been rocked by abuse allegations in the past year and witnessed a record number of parishioners leaving the church, has been more muted.

Neither the archbishopric in Berlin nor the German conference of bishops wanted to comment on the website.

The protestant church said that it found the rising interest in public feedback as embodied by the hirtenbarometer concept a "positive development," according to a recent press release.

From the standpoint of the hacker ethic information wants to be free, and these sorts of ratings constitute a great tool for anyone looking around for a congregation to join. There are real differences between individual priests in terms of attitude, outlook, competence, and spiritual realization, and all of those factors contribute to the experiences of individual congregants. Not only does the rating system provide some insights into particular churches without anyone having to walk in the door, it also seems likely to inspire those members of the priesthood who choose to participate to strive for greater excellence in their vocations.

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