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Intense Conflicts . . . Is The Catholic Church In Germany In Danger Of Apostasy?

May 25, 2015 Featured Today No Comments

By MAIKE HICKSON

For several weeks now, the German Catholics — bishops and laymen alike — have been in debate and disagreement over Catholic moral teaching and its continuing validity for Catholics today. After the German Bishops’ Conference came out on April 16 with its report to be sent to Rome for the upcoming October 2015 Synod of Bishops on the Family, the prominent lay organization Central Committee of German Catholics (Zentralkomitee der deutschen Katholiken — ZDK) also published a statement about their proposals for the upcoming Synod of Bishops. Let us now consider both reports.
In their own report of April 16, the German Bishops’ Conference sums up the opinion of those who responded to the questionnaire about marriage and the family as promulgated and circulated by the Vatican in the October 2014 Lineamenta. In their press release of April 20, they say:
“The responses show, that the model of marriage and family still finds broad acceptance among the faithful. However, for the most part, they [those who responded to the questions] expect an increased understanding of the responsible Church authorities toward those forms of life that do not fully correspond to this model.
“Most commentaries answered those questions that relate to the question of how to deal with remarried divorcees, with couples who live together in a mere civil marriage or without any marriage certificate and with homosexual couples. In this matter, a majority of the faithful expect a further development of the Church’s teaching and a greater openness toward the current life reality.”
With this report, the German bishops show that the German Catholic faithful, in large numbers, do not anymore concur with the moral teaching of the Church concerning marriage and the family; and they argue in favor of a relaxing of the Church’s earlier discipline. Already in February of 2015, the head of the German bishops, Reinhard Cardinal Marx, boldly indicated that the German bishops might allow remarried divorcees to receive Holy Communion, independently of what Rome may decide.
Now, on May 9, 2015, the ZDK (Central Committee of German Catholics) goes one step further and not only called for the admittance of “remarried” divorcees to the sacraments, but also for an acceptance of many forms of cohabitation, for the blessing of homosexual couples, and even for a “reconsidering of the question of contraception.” Their document says:
“With the notion ‘family,’ we also mean those nonmarital forms of lived partnerships and of generational responsibility which make a great contribution to the societal cohesion and which have to be treated justly. . . . Also in other forms of communal living are values to be found which signify the marriage as the covenant between God and men: the unbreakable [sic] ‘yes’ to the other person, the constant readiness to reconcile, as well as the perspective upon a fruitful relationship in exchanging gifts of persons.
“These forms of living and family have to be honored, even if they are not to be found in the form of the sacramental marriage. We think here of enduring partnerships [cohabitation], civil marriages, as well as civilly registered partnerships [i.e., homosexual unions].”
More stunningly, perhaps, the document also calls for a “reevaluation of the methods of artificial contraception, since in no other area is there to be found such a great discrepancy between the papal Magisterium and the personal conscientious decisions in the daily life of most faithful Catholics.”
It further requests that the Church be disposed “to perceive the pastoral change that Pope Francis has called for, both as an encouragement and as a chance for the Bishops’ Conferences [then] to develop pastoral walking paths [sic] concerning marriage and the family that are appropriate and theologically responsible.”
It is of worth, moreover, to note that both organizations — the German Bishops’ Conference as well as the Central Committee ZDK — introduce the same arguments and general lines of thought, namely that the life realities of the Catholics of today decisively have to influence and change the Catholic moral teaching. Both groups assent that there are good elements to be found in other forms of relationships outside of the Sacrament of Marriage, and that the purported Sensus Fidelium — the sense of the faithful — has to be taken into account.
Several of these arguments seem in part to derive from the writings of Walter Cardinal Kasper, himself a promoter of the liberalization of the Catholic moral teaching. The combined or converging proposals also indicate that these organizations now work rather closely together in an attempt to pressure the universal Church into agreeing with this form of heresy, which is far away from the continuous traditional moral teaching of the Catholic Church.
Since the claims of the lay organization ZDK have been so bold and even explicitly revolutionary, they caused several counter-reactions in Germany. Several German bishops have now come out and declared their resistance to these gravely dangerous and objectively heretical statements that, in the eyes of the well-respected and well-informed Rome correspondent, Edward Pentin, could well lead to a schism.
The first bishop, Most Rev. Stefan Oster, SDB, of the Diocese of Passau in southern Germany, declared on his Facebook page that the ZDK barely represents the German Catholics anymore when speaking thus. He stated that “the requests of the ZDK would mean a dramatic change of much that has been held to be valid concerning marriage and sexuality” and restates the doctrine that, following Revelation, any “lived sexual practice has its only legitimate place within a marriage between a man and a woman, both of whom are open to the procreation of life and both of whom have made a bond that lasts until the death of one of the spouses.”
Bishop Oster rebukes the ZDK for leaving out the “Biblical image of man and the Biblical understanding of Revelation. And it is very troubling for me that it [the ZDK] goes along this path obviously together with the majority of its representatives.”
His comments were supported on May 16 by five other German bishops who wrote to him a letter of gratitude.
Another German bishop, Most Rev. Franz-Josef Overbeck, recently made the statement that one should not have overly high expectations of the upcoming Synod of Bishops concerning marriage and the family, and that he himself does not see any way for the Catholic Church to bless homosexual unions, saying: “That is legally not possible for me.”
The German author and critic, Mathias von Gersdorff, has additionally pointed out that, in the document of the ZDK, the expressed ends of marriage are severed from the primary end of marriage, the procreation of life. He says: “The document [of the ZDK] makes clear that sexual acts may also be practiced outside of marriage, and that the primary end of marriage is not procreation.” He comments:
“If marriage is not primarily for procreation, and the sexual act is not only to be practiced within marriages, then the Catholic moral teaching will collapse altogether. Therefore, the ZDK might as well have demanded from the Synod [of Bishops on the Family] that they abandon the [Church’s] teaching on marriage and sexual morality altogether….Nobody needs a ZDK which is not at all Catholic anymore.”
Facing such resistance, the head of the German Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Marx, came out on May 15, saying in a press release that the propositions of the ZDK are “theologically unacceptable.” He continues:
“The demand for a blessing of same-sex partnerships and for a second marriage after a civil divorce is not in accordance with the teaching and tradition of the Church. The claim for an ‘unconditional acceptance’ of forms of cohabitation in same-sex partnerships also contradicts the teaching and tradition of the Church.”
These words from Cardinal Marx come as a surprise and might show that he has realized (although perhaps unwillingly) that there is too much resistance (at least for the moment) against his own liberal agenda. As von Gersdorff puts it:
“The Catholic Church of Germany with its positions is completely isolated with respect to the upcoming Synod on the Family in the fall of 2015. No delegation except the German delegation supports unanimously the ideas of Cardinal Kasper concerning the admittance of remarried divorcees to Holy Communion.”
However, as von Gersdorff also realistically points out, Cardinal Marx has still kept his options open by saying at the end of his press release that these themes “are in need of further theological clarification and not of premature, simplifying claims.”
Further confirmation for reasonable suspicion about Cardinal Marx’s true intentions and methods is the fact that, only two days before Cardinal Marx’s own press release, a reporter of the German bishops’ own official website, katholisch.de, came out with a strong defense of the ZDK’s statement. For, on May 13, the journalist Felix Neumann said:
“For more and more Catholics, the question how to deal with homosexuals has become a question of conscience. They [as well as I] do not want any more to do damage to the life luck [sic] of people whose nature is just as it is, and whose love is directed toward a person who has the same sex, and not the opposite sex.”
And Neumann concludes with a typical progressive (and sentimental) twist by accusing those who hold on to Christ’s teaching as being cold and heartless:
“That there is this decision [by the ZDK], is not the scandal. But it is a scandal that it is still necessary to demand respect and estimation for [homosexual] love.”
The battle for the German Catholic Church is definitely not yet over. It therefore seems reasonable and even urgent for all concerned Catholics to stay attentive and to make a contribution, wherever possible, to strengthen the traditional teaching of the Church on marriage and the family so as to ensure that the teachings of Jesus Christ will not be derided or unfaithfully weakened.

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