If there’s one thing people are opinionated about besides politics, it’s religion. But most priests don’t keep comment card boxes outside their offices, and now some enterprising Germans have come up with a solution. It’s called the “Hirtenbarometer”—try saying that three times fast—a.k.a. the “Shepherd’s Barometer.”
It is an intriguing idea— www.hirtenbarometer.de allows users to rate priests for their performance in church, with youth, with the elderly, etc. There’s even a category for whether or not your priest is “up-to-date.” The results are constantly updated with the new average. With the Rhineland still reeling from the Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal, it’s no surprise that the public wants to know: can I trust my priest?
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The rating icon system is not without fault—a white sheep represents a good priest while a black one is a bad priest. If only the icon instead transformed from a cute wooly sheep to a sharp-toothed wolf as its ranking lowered. That would be more in line with Jesus’ admonition in the Gospel of Matthew: “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” All the same, the site’s founders told Reuters they hope their system may eventually provide users with a warning for a suspicious priests.
Only four months old, the young Hirtenbarometer is taking off. Already approximately 25,000 parishes and some 8,000 priests are rate-able, from Catholic, Orthodox, and Evangelical traditions. Several results may be surprising. “Papst Benedikt XVI’s” sheep is actually going gray, with a 3.8/6 score at press time. And despite his recent iPad and Twitter endeavors, B16’s lowest rating is for being “up-to-date.” On the whole, “Papst Johannes Paul II” scored only slightly higher, at 4.51/6.
There’s one catch for users on this side of the pond—you have to read German to use Hirtenbarometer. An English version is not yet available.
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