Cardinal Reinhard Marx Chairman of the German Bishops' Conference
Some weeks ago Cardinal Reinhard Marx , Chairman of the German Bishops' Conference spoke in surprising terms about the forthcoming October Synod on the Family which is the continuation of the contentious late 2014 Synod.

Briefly, Cardinal Marx told reporters that after the Synod, the German Bishops intend to produce their own pastoral document. The Synod he said, must lead to " further progress" in finding a common position on fundamental issues, but it " cannot prescribe in detail what we are to do in Germany". But he said that the German Bishops could not wait for the Synod statements.  " We are not just a subsidiary of Rome" said Cardinal Marx continuing that each episcopal conference is responsible for its own pastoral care in its own culture in " its own unique way".

This expression of view is of course totally alien to the truth and reality of the Catholic Faith. But for days it went unanswered at the highest levels. But finally it seems that " at the highest level" the pfennig dropped.

Cardinal Gerhard Muller seen here with Pope Benedict XVI
Cardinal Gerhard Muller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, himself a German with a good knowledge not only of the German culture but also of the characters of the members of the German Bishops' Conference, finally fired a devastating broadside destroying the Marx assertions.

Cardinal Muller, referring to Cardinal Marx, noted that " the President of an Episcopal Conference is nothing more than a technical moderator , and he does not have any particular magisterial authority." He reminded a French newspaper that doctrinal, or even disciplinary, decisions regarding marriage and the family are not up for determination by national bishops' conferences. 

"It is an absolutely anti-Catholic idea that does not respect the catholicity of the Church" Cardinal Muller said. " Episcopal Conferences have authority on certain matters, but they are not a magisterium beside the magisterium, without the Pope and without communion with all the Bishops." He went on " an episcopal conference is not a particular council, much less an ecumenical council . The President of an episcopal conference is nothing more than a technical moderator, and he does not have any particular magisterial authority due to this title."

"Hearing that an episcopal conference is not " a branch of Rome" gives me the occasion to recall that dioceses are not the branches of the secretariat of a Bishops' conference either, nor of the Diocese whose Bishop presides over the episcopal conference."  He continued that such an attitude " risks in fact reawakening of a certain polarization between the local churches and the universal Church, out of date since Vatican I and Vatican II. The Church is not the sum of national churches , whose Presidents would vote to elect their chief on the universal level."  The Church is " not a philanthropic organization. To say that we respect the opinions of all , that we wish for the good of all, is not enough."

Further he said " To present the Gospel as a simple therapeutic message is not very hard , but it does not respond to the demands of Jesus.'Blessed are you when people insult you , persecute you and falsely say  all kinds of evil against you because of me ' Jesus says. The first apostles, the Fathers of the Church, very often sailed against opposing winds.How could it be any different for us?"

Cardinal Cordes (left) seen here with Pope Benedict XVI in times past.
Cardinal Paul Cordes President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum and a  German originally from Paderborn in Germany was strenuous in his objections to Cardinal Marx' statements in a letter to the Editor of " Die Tagespost" on 7th March.

Speaking of Cardinal Marx ' assertions, Cardinal Cordes stated that the "We are not a branch of Rome" was more suited " to the counter of a bar" he said. 

" The President argues about the drama of the divorced and remarried! This matter reaches far beyond regional particularities of a pragmatic nature, of a given mentality and cultural background. This matter is bound to the very center of theology. In this field not even a cardinal can loosen such a complex Gordian knot in a single swordstroke. He has the sacramental theology of the Council of Trent. He has also the words of Benedict XVI, who only recently (January 21, 2012) told the Roman Rota, the ordinary court of the Apostolic See, that no-one can simply brush over binding legislation of the Church when it comes to pastoral matters. A responsible shepherd cannot be guided by a blurred 'mercy.' And while the president repeats that regarding the Magisterium, he wants to 'stay within the community of the Church,' he either ignores the limits that this Magisterium gives to pastoral care, or he is carefree in making a statement to make himself sound good.”

Cardinal Cordes lamented that in Cardinal Marx' comments, the idea of communion – among bishops, and with the Bishop of Rome – was sorely lacking, “even though the bishops expressly promised 'unity with the College of Bishops under the Successor of Peter' during their episcopal consecration. The sentence: 'We cannot wait for a synod to tell us how we have to shape pastoral care for marriage and family here' is not imbued with a spirit of 'Communio'.”

Cardinal Cordes said that the message sent by Cardinal Marx was "a deeply political strategy which creates "facts" in order to dominate the process of decision-making and to put pressure on their colleagues."He asked " Does he want to say that the dogma of the inseparability of marriage becomes intolerable because of the life situations of remarried people?"

Cardinal Kurt Koch with Pope Benedict XVI in the background some time ago.

The Swiss Cardinal Kurt Koch who had succeeded Cardinal Walter Kasper as President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity on 1st July, 2010,also spoke vigorously against the words of the German Bishop Bode who had backed up Cardinal Marx and, like Marx  is also to be a  delegate to the October, 2015 Synod. His approach was devastating : he said that Bode's words brought to mind a similar historical situation - namely "the time of the Third Reich , where the "German Christians" adjusted their Faith to the world view of National Socialism, namely its racist and nationalistic ideas."

As the National Catholic Register said " With this comment, Koch made it clear that it is not the Catholic Church's mission to adapt her irreformable teaching to the spirit of the time, the Zeitgeist,but, rather, the Church has to follow Christ's teaching all times , throughout history."

Cardinal Koch summed it up :

" To see how and in which way people are living their Faith to-day, is of course helpful and important , in order to recognize the challenges of the pastoral duties of the Church. However this ( the "life realities") cannot be a third reality of the revelation next to Holy Scripture and the Magisterium."  




Kevin Burgess said…
Important post.

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