Aug. 2, 2011 at 12:15 PM ET
Careful what you wish for, Pope Benedict XVI, you might not like what you hear.
Under His Holiness' directive, the faithful are now also the Facebooking, with social media interwoven throughout the Vatican's official online accounts, showing a greater desire for connection with followers. But now there's a website that will take that commentary to another level: Hirtenbarometer, a German-based ratings clearinghouse for priests.
Baaa-baaa, black sheep, for that's the color rating for pastors that don't make the grade on this site that lets parishioners rate their clergy, good and bad. Clergy are rated by the color of their "wool": "Barometer sheep herders are all one voice. Review the work of your pastors and give them all direct feedback. Spread black sheep for things that do not function so well and praise with the bright white sheep."
Hirtenbarometer lets users "Review the work of your pastors and see what others think of the work of your favorite sheep-herders," and spread the word of goings-on at their parishes. (We're relying on Google Translate for these interpretations. I trust our German-language readers will correct us if that's way off base. Because now we're confused. Are they the sheep or the sheep-herders? We don't see herders anywhere on the site.)
Can you imagine if this ever took off in the U.S., where we're already accustomed to Yelping and rating every other experience? Fans would take to Twitter to lobby for their favorite priests, or create Facebook pages; Foursquare check-ins would also be rife with commentary on clergy.
Blasphemy aside, it would be a useful tool for those moving to a new area who seek places of worship.
Reuters tells us that the site was launched in April and already has 25,000 parishes and about 8,000 priests registered. Andreas Hahn, who helped dream up the site, told the news service he hoped the site could function as a kind of early alert system.
For that reason, and perhaps others, the site has been more of a hit with protestants than with the Roman Catholic church, which has seemingly taken on a vow of silence when it comes commenting on the website. Then again, with decades of abuse allegations worldwide — and much more recently in Germany last year with a sexual molestation case that touched on Pope Benedict XVI and led to about 181,000 leaving the Catholic church in that country — there is reason for sensitivity in naming and rating problem priests.
But the site is also a place for praise of those who serve God, and here Pope Benedict XVI (aka Joseph Alois Ratzinger) has a rating of 3.81 (out of a possible 6) from the 288 who have rated him on the site. His highest ranking is under "Worship" at 4.1 and lowest is 3.4 under "Finger on the Pulse."
His Holiness is on the grayer side of the flock, but nowhere near black, despite the scandals. Faith, it seems, is everlasting.