Cardinal tells women to stay home, have babies
GERMAN women should be encouraged to "stay at home and bring three or four children into the world", rather than relying on immigration to solve the country's demographic crisis, the Catholic Archbishop of Cologne has said.
Cardinal Joachim Meisner compared Angela Merkel's government's family policies to Communist East Germany, where, he said, women who stayed at home were considered "demented".
Germany, which has the lowest birth rate in Europe, is seeking more workers from crisis-hit countries, including Spain, to solve its shortage of skilled labour.
In an unusually direct criticism of the chancellor, Cardinal Meisner said: "Where are women really publicly encouraged to stay at home and bring three or four children into the world? This is what we should do, and not – as Mrs Merkel does now – simply present immigration as the solution to our demographic problem."
In an interview with the 'Stuttgarter Zeitung', the cardinal said that Germany should not take away the "youth and future" of Spain and Portugal.
Germany has agreed to provide jobs or apprenticeship places for 5,000 unemployed young people from Spain each year, under a deal signed by the two countries' labour ministers in Madrid this week, part of joint European efforts to address rising youth unemployment.
Cardinal Meisner said: "We should train these unemployed people . . . but then allow them to go back to their homeland, where they are needed."
Germany has Europe's lowest birth rate, at 1.36 children per woman, according to the federal statistical agency.
In 2006, Ms Merkel introduced generous child benefit payments, worth up to 65pc of a new parent's salary, to a maximum of €1,800 a month. But the policy has had little effect on the birth rate, which continues to dwindle.
Most German schools end at lunchtime, making it difficult for parents to work full-time, although a growing number are beginning to stay open in the afternoon.
Annegret Laakmann, the president of the Catholic group Women's Dignity, dismissed the 79-year-old archbishop's views. "Age doesn't always bring wisdom," she said.
"The church can't drag women back into the kitchen. We don't live in the 1940s – women are more educated and have greater opportunity for leadership now."
Cardinal Meisner also commented on the controversy in January when two Catholic hospitals denied treatment to a rape victim, apparently because they did not want to give advice on dealing with an unwanted pregnancy.
However, he said that while rape was a serious crime, the church had to warn women against birth control methods that were not compatible with Catholic beliefs. (© Daily Telegraph, London)