PopeWatch: Antje Jackelén

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Unless a major news story involving the Pope develops, PopeWatch plans in future that Saturday installments of PopeWatch will normally be lighthearted, however this installment is somewhat darkly humored indeed.  Catholics can often rightly feel that there is much amiss in the Church.  Christopher Johnson, a non-Catholic who often has taken up the cudgels to defend the Church, reminds us in a current post at Midwest Conservative Journal that the problems of Catholics might seem trivial to Christians in various sects:


This one’s all yours, partner.  Just keep it clean:

The bookmakers were right. Today it was announced that the Church of Sweden’s new archbishop is Antje Jackelén. But who is the church’s new top leader, who has chosen part of the Muslim prayer call as her motto?

Many have been taken aback by the theological opinions Jackelén revealed during a questioning in Uppsala on October 1. The candidates for the highest position in the Swedish church were asked if they thought Jesus presented a truer picture of God than Muhammed. With her evasive answer Jackelén suddenly emerged as the bishop who couldn’t choose between Jesus and Muhammed. This provoked strong reactions on some editorial pages.

Kyrkans Tidning thought that the bishop’s answer might indicate that Christ is being relegated to the margins of the Church of Sweden and Dagens Nyheter encouraged the candidates to show some theological backbone. The editorial writer at the newspaper Dagen wrote that it is time to accept the idea of a split within the church – between Christians and those who think all religions are equally good. 

The bishop of Lund’s preference for Allah has prompted one of the church’s most preeminent theologians, professor Eva Hamberg, to leave her post as a member of the church’s theological council in protest against bishop Antje Jackelén’s failure to stand behind the Church of Sweden’s profession of faith. As a reaction to what she calls ”the inner secularization of the Church of Sweden”, she has also renounced her position as priest and her membership of the church.

In a number of interviews Hamberg has expressed her disappointment that not even the top leader of the church will clearly profess a Christian faith but wavers between Jesus and Muhammed.

It is not only Jackelén’s motto and her unwillingness to put Jesus ahead of Muhammed that has evoked strong feelings among many committed Christians. During her questioning in Uppsala, the new archbishop also said that the Church of Sweden has more in common with other religions than with other Christian churches, that the Virgin Birth must be understood metaphorically, that hell doesn’t exist and that the Biblical texts should not be taken as truth.

Go here to read the comments.  Yes, Catholics do not have things so bad as that.  However, PopeWatch would warn against any complacency.  The path trod by Antje Jackelén is a path that strong forces within the Church would have the Church embark upon if they had the power.  That path is one in which clerics throw out as quickly as they are able all the supernatural elements of Christianity and replace it with trendy Leftism, so that the Church would no longer embarrass them at cocktail parties with their atheist friends.  Really, PopeWatch does not think this impulse goes much deeper than that in many cases.  Of course for those who are not superficial idiots and still support this type of Apostasy-as-fashion-statement, PopeWatch supposes there may be far darker motivations:

“What should they find incredible, since they believed no longer in a rational universe? What should they regard as too obscene, since they held that all morality was a mere subjective by-product of the physical and economic situations of men? The time was ripe. From the point of view which is accepted in Hell, the whole history of our Earth had led up to this moment. There was now at last a real chance for fallen Man to shake off that limitation of his powers which mercy had imposed upon him as a protection from the full results of his fall. If this succeeded, Hell would be at last incarnate. Bad men, while still in the body, still crawling on this little globe, would enter that state which, heretofore, they had entered only after death, would have the diuturnity and power of evil spirits. Nature, all over the globe of Tellus, would become their slave; and of that dominion no end, before the end of time itself, could be certainly foreseen.” 

CS Lewis, That Hideous Strength 



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  1. All I can think of is prayers for professor Eva Hamberg, who has a chance to lead a significant number of people out of the Church of Sweden and to Christ. In an interview after her departure, she gives the impression that she is more of an academic type rather than a bold leader type. I can hope she realizes that other Christians in the Sweden have spoken in her favor and maybe reaches out to them directly. In that same interview, she expressed an intent to join an evangelical or Pentecostal denomination, but that not need be the end of her journey. (In addition to what Christopher Johnson described, professor Hamberg is also concerned that Antje Jackelén is not adhering to the Apostles’ Creed. So, I think there is grounds for genuine hope here.)

    I don’t want to pretend to know more about professor Hamberg than what is in a couple of news items and blog, but she really just might lead Swedes away from secularization and towards orthodox Christian beliefs. Prayers can help.

  2. This story chimed in with my own reflections this morning. I had walked to early mass at Saint-Germain-des-Prés and being All Souls Day, the priest requested our charitable prayers for the faithful departed, including, amongst others, “those who lie peacefully here.” After mass I visited a number of the tombs in the church..

    There was René Descartes – his name means “born-again” (Renatus). Strange that we have no English equivalent for that Christian name par excellence. His brain, I recalled, is preserved in the Musée de l’Homme in Paris; the irony would not be lost on the philosopher of dualism.

    I visited the tomb of Chlothar II, King of all the Franks, who died in 629, more than a thousand years before Descartes. Muhammed had three more years to live. Finally the tombs of Childeric II, his wife, Bilichild and their five year old son, Dagobert, all assassinated, whilst hunting in the forest of Livry, one autumn day in 675, all baptized into the same hope as us. I lit a candle.

    Since this church was consecrated in 588, we have had the rise of Islam; the Great Schism; the corruption and disaffection of the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance Papacy; the Protestant revolt and the Wars of Religion; Quietism and Jansenism; the Deists and rationalists; the religious nationalism of Gallicanism and Josephism; the Revolution, the Risorgimento, the Ultramontane reaction; and, this morning, a Catholic priest said mass for the Holy Souls in the church of Saint-Germain-des-Prés.

  3. …prayers for professor Eva Hamberg, who has a chance to lead a significant number of people out of the Church of Sweden and to Christ.


    Sadly, that would take a miracle on the order of the multiplication of the loaves According to Wikipedia, less than 4% of the Church of Sweden membership attends public worship during an average week; about 2% are regular attendees. I’m not sure if the corresponding figures for Sweden’s Catholics are any better, but they could hardly be much worse.


    In fact, the new bishop seems to be a centrist by local standards, given that putatively 30% of CoS members are either atheists or don’t believe in Jesus, and it is Prof. Hamberg who is pushing the envelope. But even if she doesn’t do a full Sigrid Unset, I do wish her well.

  4. Sweden’s Catholics were the subject of some of Marcus Grodi’s The Journey Home programs last year, here’s one with Maria Hasselgren, Stockholm’s Diocesan Press Officer.

    If I remember correctly, there are more Catholics in the Diocese of Salt Lake City than in all of Sweden. The nation’s single diocese, the Diocese of Stockholm, was erected in 1953. The number of Catholics there is growing from both conversions by Swedes and arrival of immigrant Catholics, most of the latter are Poles.

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