The Holy Father loves
Germany very much. What else can explain the fact that this
very country was honored with four fine new cardinals nominated
at the consistory of February 21, 2001, unless the appointments
are treated not as an honor but as a symptom of a particularly
acute crisis in the land of Luther, Lehmann, and Kasper?
In reality, the situation
of the Church in Germany, a nation of 84 million people,
is very serious, even though the number of nominal Catholics
has recently surpassed that of Protestants.
Germany thrives on
fragmentation, tensions and divisions. In 1871, the united
national movement, representing internal Prussian colonialism
(the German Piedmont), elevated the Hohenzollern monarchy
to German Empire. It then quickly burst out of the wings
as Kulturkampf—a. struggle for culture-which weighed
heavily on Catholics, and continued to make waves. And even
before this, the 1701 elevation of the Prussian dynasty
to monarchy, on the secularized corps of the Teutonic
Order, was not recognized by the Holy See for a long time.
A hundred years later, the monarchy avenged itself when
the Holy Roman Emperor was buried and the ecclesiastical
state was secularized. The consequences of this theft of
ecclesiastical goods-perhaps the most remarkable in the
entire history of the Church—are making themselves felt
The Prussian king,
who also added "Summits Episcopus” to his title
reinforced the subordination of religion to the State. A
note on this is that the last Prussian king, William II,
even delivered sermons in Church on Sunday. By order of
the monarchy, Calvinism and Lutheranism were unified, and
this is why German Protestantism desisted from dogmatic
controversy, so as to transform itself into simply a bulwark,
in the sense of its being obliged by the monarchy to be
a civic, bourgeois decoration.
Only much later,
in the 19th century, did the Catholic Church rally from
blows inflicted on it by secularization. Statist rewards
conferred on parishes and bishops ought, in effect, to have
made up for it, but this always brought with it a considerable
dependency on the state. Moreover, the Catholic Church was
always suspect because it was governed by an ultramontane
entity [Rome-Ed.]. Thus, "Kulturkampf” was
only a reflection of the secularized Protestant point of
view, which saw the Pope as Antichrist (Luther). Because
it is the Prussian-Protestant surrogate for God, the German
state tolerated no dissidence, and so the Catholics were
culturally marginalized. Today, when the Catholic Bishops
are constantly and vigilantly on guard against "ghettoization,"
it is because there was a time when our Holy religion was
defamed as the religion of female servants and obscurantists.
Today, a Church That Is Too Rich
Today, the Catholic
Church and Protestant confessions, each comprising a third
of the population with another third made up of atheists,
particularly the German communists or ex-DDR [former East
Germany-Ed.], have a high level social organization:
1. pastors are
paid very well by the state; they make more than a Cardinal
of the Curia;
2. a separate Faculty
of Theology in state universities, with paid assistants,
libraries, and funds for study;
3. princely incomes
thanks to a State-imposed tax. For instance, the annual
budget of just the Archdiocese of Cologne is around half
a million dollars; this is why there are funds to pay
professionals, even to maintain a school of liturgical
4. well paid lay
theologians who are adjuncts in such a way as to constitute
a second hierarchy;
5. state financing
of schools, hospitals, etc.
In Germany, after
the state, the Catholic Church and the Protestant churches
are the largest employers. There's a bad joke in circulation
that says the Church in Germany would be able to survive
for ten years or more after the death of the last Catholic.
In the Protestant community, there is another sort of reality.
I myself know an evangelical pastor who attends the Catholic
Mass on Sundays because no one in his community comes to
hear his sermons.
Because of all of
this, extrinsic criteria, particularly economic ones, predominate
in the Catholic Church's government. Not long ago, the Bishop
of Treviri, whose antecedents were at one time among the
main electors of the Holy Roman Emperor, was called into
court as a witness. The director of a huge organization
of the Episcopal Caritas to had been sentenced to
seven years in prison because he had financed the strangest
projects, diverted funds, and corrupted politicians. The
Bishop, who was the president of a related checks and balances
organization of Caritas, was saved by the miracle
of being a witness for the prosecution. This case is significant
as an illustrative symptom of the problems of a Church that
is too rich.
"License to Kill"
The situation becomes
really difficult when morality is a factor, and even more
so when the Roman Curia is involved. Many have noted the
In Germany, after
the horrors of the Nazi era, the federal constitution or
"fundamental law" strongly suppressed
the influence of Catholic natural law. But Germany also
has a strong juris-positive tradition that was reinforced
after the unification of the two Germanys via the welcoming
reception for "the defeat of socialism."
Let's take the example
of abortion. German jurisprudence on abortion is unique
in the world. The Court has ruled that the unborn are human
beings and have the right to life from the moment of conception;
therefore abortion is a crime. But, then, at this point,
enter the Hegelian dialectic: crime yes, but non-punishable
when the abortion occurs following counseling. In fact,
this represents the abolition of all limitation on abortion,
because the only impediment favors abortion. This impediment-a
veritable fig leaf-can be easily eliminated by obtaining
a certificate from an approved counselor that proves the
consultation took place, and so, favors abortion.
centers are maintained by very diverse organizations, including
those within the Church. Thanks to state recognition, they
receive public funding. But the condition for being recognized
and state-funded is the distribution of the certificates.
And to do this is nothing less than to be complicit in decriminalized
This gross behavior
has been occurring since 1994. The Vatican has criticized
this practice, and at the start, even criticized Bishop
Lehmann since he is president of the German Episcopal Conference.
Various letters from the Secretary of State, Cardinal Ratzinger
and even from the Pope were sent prohibiting the distribution
of this license to kill. But Bishop Lehmann, as president
of the German Episcopal Conference, interpreted these letters
according to his own light, made distinctions, and changed
the perspective of the Pope's clearly expressed directive
until it had nothing to do with this homicidal system. Then
he turned to the laity. The question, "What do you
think of the certificate system?" became the litmus
test of the Catholic conscience.
As of the beginning
of the year, the Bishops had stepped away from the murderous
system, except for one, Kamphaus, the Bishop of Limburg.
In the past, the "parallel hierarchy" set up by
the Central Commission of German Catholics, a co-opted web
of associations and politics, among them many influential
socialists, Greens and Christian Democrats, was openly ranged
against the Pope. Thanks to Bishop Lehmann's latitude, it
put into place a veritable network of counseling centers
which still distribute the notorious certificates, cynically
called "donum vitae” [gift of life-Ed.].
The fact is that
Catholics, through their professional occupations, notably
the state-subsidized lay theologians, who are often open
unbelievers and who also work for the Church, have known
perfectly well that the State would not maintain a Church
which contradicts it in moral matters. A Socialist minister
often made it clearly understood that Germany needs a Church
that makes abortion acceptable.
Trauma of Good Catholics
The Bishop of Limburg
still hesitates from exiting the system, and in the Limburg
Diocese there is still abortion, covered by the certificate,
and with the Episcopal stamp of approval; and so abortion
can be obtained by interested mothers, or better, by their
In recent years,
having lost faith in the German hierarchy, many good Catholics,
and "Pro-Life" advocates have looked to Rome.
At the moment, the Vatican has given the Bishop of Limburg
another year, notwithstanding the months during which Cardinal
Sodano had raised the problem of the certificate system's
incompatibility with the Magisterium's position, and Cardinal
Ratzinger had spoken of schismatic tendencies implicit in
the ongoing distribution of the "donum vitae."
This concession has
traumatized honest German Catholics. The Vatican is not
acting because it fears a schism. But now it has even elevated
the two principal protagonists in this case, Kasper and
Lehmann, to Cardinals. But whoever believes that the Cardinal's
hat makes someone faithful to Rome is grossly mistaken.
The nominations of
Cardinals Lehmann and Kasper seem a farce. Some say that,
in both cases, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the
Faith, presided over by Cardinal Ratzinger, may not have
been consulted. It also struck one as strange to see Fr.
Leo Scheffcyzk, a meritorious German theologian who has
written decisively against the Catholic-Protestant Declaration
on Justification, a product of "ecumenical consensus"
approved by Cardinals Lehmann and Kasper, in the pre-chosen
list. Probably this choice would say to the few true German
Catholics, "We have not forgotten you after all."
was named by the Secretary of State only after massive pressure
was applied by the German State, not only by ex-Chancellor
Kohl, but also by the national president, the Protestant,
Rau, and by Thierse, President of Parliament. SiSiNoNo
has reported indiscrete leaks from the Holy Father's
circle, according to which this pressure was applied just
a few days before the second announcement of nominations.
We have already illustrated
in previous issues of SiSiNoNo the nature of the
"theology" of Cardinal Kasper, Küng's ex-assistant,
and of Cardinal Lehmann, Rahner's ex-assistant. Here, two
notes suffice. For Cardinal Kasper, dogma is for the stupid,
superficial and authoritarian; for Cardinal Lehmann, Luther
is a "master" of the Faith, above all in his catechesis.
In the eyes of German
Catholics, the nomination of these two individuals is an
auto-diminution of papal authority. Even Cardinal Meisner,
who, like Cardinal Ratzinger, is Pope John-Paul II's man,
sought, even two weeks before the event, to stop Lehmann's
nomination. In an interview, Cardinal Meisner conveyed to
the public that for years Lehmann has opposed the Pope's
expressed wish that the German bishops revise their so-called
"Declaration of Konigstein," which de facto
authorizes German Catholics to use the birth control
Too, Kasper and Lehmann
take the side of those German Bishops who would like to
give Holy Communion to the remarried divorced. And this
long, scandalous, obstinate rebellion against the Church
is now rewarded with the purple biretta! This is a misfortune
for the Catholic Church in Germany, which in the last decades
Cardinal Lehmann has yoked to the anti-Catholic path. It
is also a misfortune for the defense of life in today's
debate on bioethics, since the "Pro-Life" movement
has lost reliable supporters not just in the German Bishops,
but also in the Vatican.
for Angelus Press by Suzanne Rini from the Italian edition
of SiSiNoNo, No.9, May 15, 2001.)
Courtesy of the Angelus
Press, Kansas City, MO 64109
translated from the Italian
Fr. Du Chalard
Via Madonna degli Angeli, 14
Italia 00049 Velletri (Roma)