Watching last fall’s Extraordinary Synod on the Family from the sidelines, what was surprising was the level of rancor (and perhaps even acrimony) manifesting itself in the debate concerning, among other matters, the Church’s prohibition of divorced/remarried Catholics receiving Holy Communion.
Media reports characterized the division this way:
- The intelligent, sensitive, and pastoral “pro-Pope Francis” mercy faction (the theological liberals) were doing battle with the unintelligent, insensitive, and unpastoral “anti-Pope Francis” truth faction (the theological conservatives).
- The leader of the former faction, Cardinal Walter Kasper of Germany, provided the theoretical “Call to Arms” identifying his faction’s much-desired, if not much-anticipated changes to Church teaching. If Cardinal Kasper’s faction prevails, there will be changes to Church teaching. Read: A very good outcome!
- The leader of the latter faction, Cardinal Raymond Burke, published a chapter in the book, Remaining in the Truth of Christ, reiterating the significance of longstanding Church teaching for the world today. If Cardinal Burke’s faction prevails, there will be no change in Church teaching. Read: A very bad outcome!
That oversimplistic, pro-Kasper bifurcation of what transpired at the Extraordinary Synod distracts attention from what may really be in the offing, namely, the rise of neo-Lutherans who may cause a schism in the Church. Armed with very clever exegetical and political skills, this faction has already artfully devised a way to contort Jesus’ unambiguous teaching against both divorce and remarriage—read Remaining in the Truth of Christ to learn how—into a teaching that would allow for both divorce and remarriage. And the media is delighted.
Using divorced and remarried Catholics—who cannot receive Holy Communion—as public relations props in a strategy to stiffen opposition to Church teaching, the neo-Lutherans are, in reality, forcing Pope Francis to choose up sides in a theological battle. The outcome of that battle could end in schism:
- If the Pope sides with the neo-Lutherans, his important words about mercy will be translated into Church teaching, all will be well with the world, and the orthodox faction will have taken quite a drubbing. At least, that’s what the Kapserites would have everyone believe.
- If the Pope sides with the orthodox Burkites, well…er…ummm…there will be Hell to pay, as the Pope’s words about mercy will end up not being quite as generous as people have been led to believe and they will turn against Rome and the orthodox faction, emptying the pews even more. Again, at least, that’s what the neo-Lutherans would have everyone believe.
Apparently, the neo-Lutherans are as serious and as stubborn as was the Augustinian friar, Martin Luther, when in 1517 he posted his 95 theses on the door of the Wittenburg Castle Church. To wit: Consider the words of the President of the German Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx. Quoted in Die Tagespost (the original article having since been expunged from the website) stating:
We are not just a subsidiary of Rome. Each episcopal conference is responsible for the pastoral care in their culture and has to proclaim the Gospel in its own unique way. We cannot wait until a synod states something, as we have to carry out marriage and family ministry here.
Positioning himself squarely on the side of the mercy faction led by Cardinal Kasper, Cardinal Marx subsequently backtracked a bit, according to Vaticanista Andrea Gagliarducci.
Even so, the neo-Lutherans are on the march.
But, before concluding an investigation, the general rule is “Follow the money.”
Follow the money: It’s a well-known fact that church attendance in Germany (as in most Western, industrialized nations) is plummeting. What that means for the German bishops, in particular, is that income to their dioceses from the government—derived from a census of those who actually attend Mass—is way, way down.
What better way, then, to increase attendance at Mass in Germany? Extend mercy to the disaffected or alienated Catholics by changing Church teaching concerning divorce and remarriage. Then, all of those other disaffected and alienated Catholics can also be brought back to Mass by changing other Church teachings. However, that will take a bit of time. Right now, what’s imperative is to get one foot into the Porta Sancta at St. Peter’s Basilica, beginning with divorced and remarried Catholics.
All or none of that may have entered into Cardinal Kasper’s thought process or the German bishops’ discussions over which Cardinal Marx has presided.
Who’s to know? Only those who are privvy to such knowledge.
Even so, if one is to understand better what the neo-Lutherans may be up to, the facts cannot be dismissed out of hand.
Follow the money: Those coffers need to be replenished if the bishops are to be good stewards of the critical infrastructure and all the other blings in their possession. As has recently been exposed:
- The Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, led by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, has spent $150M on a new diocesan service center.
- Cardinal Marx’s residence was renovated at a cost of $9M, paid for by the state of Bavaria. That’s not quite the 31m euros Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst of Limburg spent to renovate his official residence, but $9M can go a long way to make a humble hermitage feel a bit more comfortable.
Follow the money: In his National Catholic Register article, Edward Pentin carefully lays out the critics’ argument that the German Bishops’ Conference has become more of a temporal than spiritual power.
Yes, follow the money.
Isn’t that what Martin Luther did when he initiated a schism that eventuated a Reformation?
To read about Cardinal Marx’s statement (as the original Die Tagespost article is no longer available online), click on the following link:
To read Andrea Gagliarducci’s assessment, click on the following link:
To read Edward Pentin’s articles, click on the following links:
To read The Motley Monk’s daily blog, Omnibus, click on the following link: