German Bishops: ‘We Are Not Just a Subsidiary of Rome’


Wikipedia CommonsHILDESHEIM, Germany — The upcoming synod on the family must lead to “further progress” towards finding a common position on fundamental issues, but it “cannot prescribe in detail what we have to do in Germany,” the president of the German bishops’ conference has said.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday at the end of the bishops’ plenary meeting in Hildesheim, Cardinal Reinhard Marx said theological questions regarding marriage, the family and sexual morality could not be answered during the three weeks of the synod.

He said he hopes the synod will result in “a further discussion” and said that it must find a text that “would lead to further progress” towards finding a common theological position on fundamental issues.

But concerning pastoral practice, he said the German Church “cannot wait” for synodal statements, as marriage and family ministry has to be undertaken now, according to an article in Die Tagespost, translated by the blog Catholic Conclave.

Cardinal Marx, the archbishop of Munich and Freising, said as far as doctrine is concerned, the German episcopate remains in communion with the Church, but on individual issues of pastoral care, “the synod cannot prescribe in detail what we have to do in Germany.”

The German bishops want to publish their own pastoral letter on marriage and family after the synod, the article says.

“We are not just a subsidiary of Rome,” Cardinal Marx said. “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.”


Divorced, Remarried and Communion

Cardinal Marx and the majority of German bishops favor German Cardinal Walter Kasper’s proposal to allow some divorced-and-civilly-remarried Catholics to receive Communion after a period of penance. In April, they are also expected to pass new labor regulations that will permit remarried divorcees and homosexual couples to work in the country’s many Church-run institutions.

In a Jan. 22 interview with the Jesuit-run America magazine, Cardinal Marx said the Church “must look for ways” for people to receive the Eucharist. “It is not about finding ways to keep them out! We must find ways to welcome them,” he said. “We have to use our imagination in asking, ‘Can we do something?’ Perhaps it is not possible in some situations. That is not the question. The focus must be on how to welcome people.”

But senior Church figures in other countries have warned about discrepancies between pastoral practice and doctrine. Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, recently stated that detaching Church teaching from pastoral practice — which critics say the Kasper proposal would do — is a form of “heresy.”

The idea of placing the magisterium “in a nice box by detaching it from pastoral practice — which could evolve according to the circumstances, fads and passions — is a form of heresy, a dangerous schizophrenic pathology,” Cardinal Sarah said.

He added that the African Church “will strongly oppose any rebellion against the teaching of Jesus and the magisterium.” (The cardinal’s comments were published in a book by the French publisher Fayard. The book had originally been promoted as containing a preface written by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, but the preface was withdrawn without explanation prior to publication.)


Addressing Synod Participants

Cardinal Marx told reporters this week that the German bishops will be presenting a paper to the synod, which should be released in the coming weeks.

Bishops at the plenary meeting also elected officials to represent the German bishops during the synod. In addition to Cardinal Marx, Bishop Heiner Koch of Dresden-Meissen, chairman of the bishops’ marriage and family commission, and Bishop Franz-Josef Bode, chairman of the pastoral commission, will take part in the deliberations. All three delegates are known to strongly support the Kasper proposal.

Another major area of controversy at last year’s synod was an effort to emphasize the “positive aspects” of homosexual lifestyles. Although this and the Kasper proposal failed to receive a necessary two-thirds consensus, it remains in the lineamenta, or guidelines, for the upcoming October synod.

In an interview last week with a local German newspaper, Bishop Koch also called for changes in the way the Church treats homosexual people, saying that to “portray homosexuality as a sin is hurtful.” He said the Church “needs a different language when it comes to homosexuals,” adding, “I know gay couples who value ​​reliability and commitment and live these in an exemplary manner.”

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

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Vatican Alleged to Have Intercepted Synod Book


A Vatican department allegedly intercepted over a hundred copies of a new book written by five cardinals to prevent it being read by the majority of participants of a synod last October called by Pope Francis.

“Remaining in the Truth of Christ,” a commercially successful book reaffirming Catholic teaching on marriage and the family, was mailed to all the synod fathers in the Paul VI Hall, where the meeting was taking place.

Reliable and high level sources allege the head of secretariat of the synod of bishops, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, ordered they be intercepted because they would “interfere with the synod.”

A source told me that Baldisseri was “furious” the book had been mailed to the participants and ordered staff at the Vatican post office to ensure they did not reach the Paul VI Hall. Reports of the book’s interception have also appeared on German news sites in recent days.

Those responsible for mailing the books meticulously tried to avoid interception, ensuring the copies were sent through the proper channels within the Italian and Vatican postal systems. The synod secretariat nevertheless claims they were mailed “irregularly,” without going through the Vatican post office, and so had a right to intercept them.

The book’s mailers strongly refute this, saying they were legitimately mailed. Some copies were successfully delivered.

The book, whose contributors included Cardinal Raymond Burke, then-head of the Vatican’s highest court, the Vatican’s doctrinal chief Cardinal Gerhard Müller, and church historian Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, aimed to counter arguments put forward by German Cardinal Walter Kasper who had proposed a way to admit holy Communion to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics.

Kasper had opened the deliberations for the meeting the preceding February, during which he presented possibilities for reforming the church’s pastoral approach in this area. Pope Francis is known to be sympathetic to the proposal, but has never publicly endorsed it.

Opponents say the Kasper thesis would seriously undermine the church’s 2,000-year-old teachings on marriage — if it were ever approved. Some supporters of the Kasper proposal saw the book as a conspiracy against the Pope, despite Francis calling for a free and open discussion.

The divorce and remarriage issue, together with arguments put forward for welcoming homosexual and cohabiting couples, caused much heated discussion during the Synod on the Family which took place in October. The issues are expected to be revisited at a second synod on the family, to take place in October this year.

Sources say it’s not clear where the intercepted copies of the book ended up, but believe they may have been destroyed. Asked in December about the claims, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said he “knew nothing” about the allegations and said the sources did not seem to him to be “serious and objective.”

Since then the allegations have become more widely known and have been corroborated at the highest levels of the church.

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Exonerated Vatican Bank Official Seeks Church’s Favor


A former head of the Vatican Bank has said he is still waiting to be accepted by the Catholic Church after Rome judges acquitted him last year of money laundering charges.

In an email on Jan. 17, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, who was president of the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR, or the Vatican “bank”) for three years from 2009, said the church has been “indifferent” to his situation after he was suddenly sacked by the bank’s board in 2012.

At the time, Gotti Tedeschi was trying to fulfill Benedict XVI’s wish to clean up the bank by implementing an international anti-money laundering law. The overall aim was to enable the Vatican to enter the so-called “white list” of countries that abide by global norms on combating money laundering.

The Vatican stated at the time of his dismissal that Gotti Tedeschi, a devout Catholic, was removed “because he failed to fulfill the primary functions of his office.” But the Italian banker has always vigorously denied this, arguing that he was targeted specifically because he was ensuring the application of an anti-money laundering law that would involve the closure of nonreligious accounts, while at the same time rejecting any change that would provoke risks, and damage the church and the Pope.

Rome judges agreed, not only acquitting Gotti Tedeschi of having anything to do with money laundering charges leveled against him, but also recognizing that he carried out his duties for the good of the church. His attorneys said the ruling vindicated their client and “shows the unfounded . . . accusations” made by the bank’s board when it fired him.
Now the Italian financier, who lectures in economics and morality and has written four books on the subject, is concerned that Cardinal George Pell, who heads a new Vatican department overseeing the Vatican’s finances, does not know the full story.

“I fear he has not been properly informed about what happened in September 2010 when we were investigated,” Gotti Tedeschi told me, referring to an investigation by Italy’s financial intelligence unit which seized, and a few years later released, $30 million of the bank’s accounts.

He is also concerned the cardinal has not been informed about what happened afterwards in relation to the bank’s interactions with Europe’s anti-money laundering monitoring body “Moneyval.”

“Also, does he know why the banks closed their accounts with the IOR, what my reaction and my proposals were, which led to my being driven out?” he asked.

He further wondered if the Australian cardinal, whom he recognizes as “capable, determined and courageous”, also knows why he was fired and then “defamed, to discredit me in my defense, which was never allowed.”

Gotti Tedeschi says he has been forced to defend himself because the Church has not done so, even though he says Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wanted his rehabilitation. “I received official word of it [that Benedict would publicly defend him] on Feb. 7, 2013, four days before he resigned. But nothing happened afterward. Of course magistrates have now done this.”

He recognized that some have come to his aid, such as Benedict’s private secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, who defended him in a newspaper interview in October 2013. “But unfortunately I haven’t been rehabilitated by the church, by my church, whose devoted son I am,” Gotti Tedeschi said. “And what I most suffer from now is precisely this “indifference” reserved to the facts regarding me. It doesn’t really seem that they want to apply the search for truth, mercy and justice to me.”

Asked about Pope Francis’ address to Vatican officials before Christmas, in which the pontiff listed 15 “diseases” of the Roman Curia, the Italian financier said he would like to add another. “A kind of Machiavellianism that justifies the use of bad means also to pursue good ends,” he said.

But he also stressed he has known “so many” Vatican officials “who are ‘saints,’ who are exemplary and it is thanks to them that the church continues to live.”

He added: “I know my confidence in the church has never wavered. But I really miss especially Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. He has no idea how much I wish to see him, with my wife.”

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Is There a Link Between Priestly Celibacy and Sexual Abuse?


David Kerr/CNA

Baroness Sheila Hollins, a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

ROME — To say that clerical celibacy can lead to sex abuse is “much too simplistic,” because most abuse happens in the family, where the majority of the perpetrators are married men or other family members, a psychiatrist member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors said.

In an interview with the Register Feb. 16, Baroness Sheila Hollins said any link between priestly celibacy and sex abuse is “complicated, and I think it would be much too simplistic to say celibacy is the cause of it, because in fact 80% of abuse happens in the family, where perpetrators are mostly going to be married men, but sometimes, of course, they may be other family members.”

She added that to end clerical celibacy in the hope it would “in some way change this is to miss the point of it.”

Hollins’ comments follow remarks made by Peter Saunders, a clerical-abuse survivor, who told a Vatican press conference Feb. 7 that despite a common perception clerical celibacy can lead to sex abuse of minors, most perpetrators likely had problems before entering the seminary.

“People don’t enter the priesthood and become child abusers; I don’t think that’s the case,” Saunders said. “I think that they had serious issues before entering holy orders.”

Although he said “far too many” clerics have committed sexual abuse of minors, “the vast majority of priests and religious will never hurt a child. I think it’s important to acknowledge that.” Saunders, who also sits on the 17-member commission, said that the term “pedophile” is overused and that the priests who abused him, rather than having any illness, “were very lonely.”


Lifestyle Needs to Be Addressed

In Feb. 16 comments to the Register, psychologist and Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, another member of the commission, also discounted any direct link between celibacy and being an abuser, “because, otherwise, all people who live a celibate life would abuse. Since this is not the case, there cannot be a single, mono-causal link.”

But he added: “That’s not to say, in some instances, people may choose celibacy in a more or less conscious or unconscious way to avoid sexuality and to avoid a deviant sexuality.” In such cases, he said, they “may choose celibacy so they can feel [they are] in a safe haven where they don’t need to confront it.”

Such an attitude, he said, “is absolutely nonsense,” as people “cannot simply shut away their sexuality” for years and decades. “So the attempt to cut off or put it in a fridge forever doesn’t work.”

He stressed that clinical pedophilia is a condition “whose onset is at the age of 16, that is, before anyone enters a seminary.” For this reason, he said, a celibate lifestyle “in a certain way may become too difficult to bear for the person in terms of loneliness and in pressure of not living a well-established and good, self-caring — in the best sense of the word — life.”

Father Zollner added that the commission is aware of many priests who have abused 10, 15 or 20 years after they have been ordained, “so it is not celibacy, but a certain lifestyle they have developed.”

“This means we have to learn more about the formation — and the ongoing formation — of priests.” He pointed out that priests, especially celibate Latin-rite diocesan clergy, “often feel quite lonely,” and they “have to be helped to live a more healthy life, spiritually and humanly speaking.”

Hollins said what, to her, is important to recognize is that some men going into the priesthood are “not fully aware of their sexuality” and may “remain in a fairly immature emotional state and never really move on, particularly if their sexuality and relationships aren’t addressed in their formation.”

“That’s one of the difficulties,” she said, and she pointed out that the John Jay Study, a report on clerical sex abuse commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2003, showed that 80% of those abused were boys. “That’s not something that celibacy is going to cure,” she said. “The issues there, it seemed to me, were to do with priests not really seeing a relationship with a teenage boy as being an offense, possibly because they identified with them more as peers than as children.”


Human Formation

Hollins sees “human formation” as “really critical” as a means to prevent abuse. “One of the most important things is that people are honest about their sexuality,” she said. And she believes their formation should begin at an older age, as neuroscience research has found that the teenage brain “isn’t fully formed emotionally, and in other ways,” until the age of 25, longer than previously thought. She also said she is concerned that priests “are being trained in seminaries, separate institutions, all male, and they’re not meeting ordinary members of society.”

“They’re going to go through several years of [life] pretty much separated from the rest of human life,” she said, and at a time when they are “still developing.”

Hollins would also like more attention paid to Pastores Dabo Vobis (I Shall Give You Shepherds), Pope St. John Paul II’s 1992 apostolic exhortation that concluded a 1990 Synod of Bishops on priestly formation. “I’m not convinced seminaries have really fully understood and implemented its teaching,” she said. “I just feel a decent education and formation, which allows for one’s human experience to be safely explored, is what’s actually going to get to the bottom of this,” she said.

Asked about the commission and its potential impact, Hollins said she believes it will be “very effective,” in part because Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston has asked Pope Francis to write to presidents of all the world’s bishops’ conferences, asking them to draw attention to it. He is to tell them that their work “is really considered to be very important by the Holy See, and they should cooperate with us,” she said. “We’ve asked for a representative from every bishops’ conference to be identified so we can communicate with them.”

“This isn’t something that’s going to close down in three years’ time because the job’s done,” Hollins said. “This is a long-term project because, in many parts of the world, they may not even be aware of this [abuse].”

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

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In U.K.’s Brave New World, It Will Take Three to Make a Baby



LONDON — “This is primarily a very sad moment for ethics and science in the United Kingdom,” said Josephine Quintavalle, founder of Comment on Reproductive Ethics, a pro-life public interest group. “We should bear in mind that what is being proposed is the creation of a new kind of human embryo.”

Quintavalle was commenting to the Register after the British parliament voted Feb. 3 in favor of the creation of babies with DNA from two women and one man. The medical procedure, developed in Newcastle, England, will be used to prevent serious genetic diseases being passed from mother to child. Britain is the first country to legislate in favor of such technology.

But opponents warn that the science involves the destruction of an embryo, that it heralds “genetically modified” babies and that it will ultimately lead to eugenics. Some called the vote a “historic mistake,” noting the technique has yet to undergo clinical trials and that no one knows in advance the effect it might have on the child or other unintended consequences.

The technique involves mitochondria, tiny compartments with their own DNA found inside nearly every cell of the body, which convert food into usable energy. Defective mitochondria, passed down only from the mother, can lead to brain damage, muscle wasting, heart failure and blindness.

This new procedure is a modified version of in vitro fertilization — something that the Church has consistently rejected because it dissociates the sexual act from the procreative act and also because it routinely involves the destruction of human embryos —  which involves combining two embryos, one from a donor woman, to produce an embryo with properly functioning mitochondria, resulting in the destruction of the embryo created from the donor egg.

The procedure takes 0.1% of the donor woman’s DNA and inserts that into the surviving embryo, resulting in a permanent genetic change that would be passed down through the generations.

A second, related technique, called maternal spindle transfer, involves the manipulation of the egg cell outside of the womb, combining egg cells from two different women but not the destruction of an embryo.


‘A Moral Boundary’

“The objective to try and cure a very serious disease carried by the mother is, of course, a legitimate goal, but how this is achieved cannot be allowed in a moral vacuum with no ethical restrictions,” said Quintavalle. “Changing the human germline is a moral boundary we should never cross.”

She said not only is genetic modification absolutely prohibited and written into many international statements, none of the current proposals in the U.K. would cure the mitochondrial disease itself.

“The mother carrying the disease in the first place is not cured, and many more like her will continue to appear randomly in the population,” she said. “Not all the children of carriers themselves are afflicted by the disease, but those who are born with mitochondria disease (and it comes in many different degrees — not one clearly defined condition) would not be cured, just not allowed to be born.” She added that the very process of abnormal manipulation of the embryo involved in this new technique “could itself cause added abnormalities.”

Luca Volontè, chairman of the Rome-based Dignitatis Humanae Institute, a pro-life think tank, said that through “modifying the person” in such a way, “personhood is diluted, the human body is commoditized, and scientific practice gallops towards the normalization of eugenics.”

“It is a sign of how far we have come that, in less than two generations, when IVF was first successfully tested in 1978, people are now so inured to scientific ‘advancements’ many can no longer see the massive latent evil hiding under the outer aspect of ‘something good,’” he said.


Supporters’ Arguments

Those affected by mitochondrial disease welcomed the news. Sharon Bernardi, who lost seven children to genetic disease, told the BBC she was “overwhelmed” by the parliamentary approval. British Prime Minister David Cameron, who lost his 7-year-old son to cerebral palsy and severe epilepsy, voted in favor of the legislation, saying he had “every sympathy” with parents who suffer in this way.

And speaking in defense of the science, Frank Dobson, a former U.K. health secretary, argued uncertainty was “the nature of medicine and science” and that IVF would not have gone ahead if absolute certainty was needed, the BBC reported.

Cameron insisted the new technology is “not playing God with nature” and compared it to “a kidney donation or a lung donation, rather than some sort of fundamental change that is being made.” He acknowledged that few parents are affected, but said if they are to have healthy children, “we need to make this change.”

Opponents firmly rejected the arguments. “It is absurd to suggest it is like donating a kidney or having a blood transfusion,” Lord David Alton of Liverpool told the Register. “This changes the genetic heritage of future generations and is permanent and irreversible.”

The pro-life politician added that one of the two procedures involves “further destruction of human embryos,” and he stressed that Britain has “already destroyed or experimented on more than two million human embryos and permitted the creation of animal-human hybrid embryos.”

Lord Alton pointed out that Britain is legalizing a procedure banned throughout the world — including the People’s Republic of China, “which banned it after an experiment which went badly wrong,” he said.


Why the Rush?

The three-parent legislation, which was rushed through the House of Commons, has yet to be completely passed. The House of Lords will vote on it later this year, but it’s expected to go through.

The first such baby could be born next year, and estimates suggest 150 three-parent babies could be born each year, according to the BBC. Lord Alton said “stampeding” these proposals through parliament “brings no credit to the legislature or to the United Kingdom.”

But given the strength of opposition to the new techniques, many are asking how the parliament so readily approved of it by 382 votes for to 128 against and why there was seemingly little resistance in the scientific community.

David Amess, a British Catholic politician, told the Register that during his 32 years in parliament he has seen “huge changes in terms of the shrinking of the pro-life representation in parliament,” and so the result didn’t surprise him. The overriding view is that “if this procedure means this terrible disease will be defeated, it’s a price worth paying,” he said.

Parliamentarians, he added, “didn’t want to speak about the morality of having three human beings because that is really part of the overall agenda: two men having children, two women having children — anything goes.”

But Amess believes the predominant cause is financial. “It’s absolutely about business,” he said. Lord Alton agrees, saying the debate has been “driven by the lucrative bio-tech industry,” but also by an “arrogant conceit, which accuses anyone who questions the probity of what is intended of scientific illiteracy and religious zealotry.”


Scientist’s Perspective

Writing in December in The Huffington Post, Stuart Newman —  a professor of cell biology and anatomy at New York Medical College, who is not from a faith base but is considered to be one of the world’s top embryology scientists — said “a kind of omertà [sinister silence] among scientists and bioethicists” has prevented the “gravity of these alterations” becoming better known among regulators and the press.

Professor Newman warned the “health implications and the eugenic outcomes these procedures would enable are too great to ignore.”

Quintavalle said she has a “feeling and a hope” this new procedure won’t work, but warns that the process of proving this will be “trial and error on human beings.” She remains, nevertheless, hopeful that more ethical scientific research “will find real cures for mitochondrial disease” and noted that “there are already such projects in the pipeline.”

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

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Pope Francis to Open Worldwide Day of Adoration and Confession


2011 CNA David Kerr

VATICAN CITY — On March 13-14, the Vatican is hoping churches worldwide will participate in an initiative to stay open for 24 hours to underline the need for prayer, contemplation of the Eucharist and a chance to go to confession.

Pope Francis will open the Lenten initiative, called “24 Hours for the Lord” by presiding at a penitential celebration in St. Peter’s Basilica on March 13.

Following the conclusion of this service, a number of churches throughout Rome will remain open for 24 hours, with confessors available as well as Eucharistic adoration.

The Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, which is organizing the initiative, has invited dioceses, parishes and communities around the world to adapt the initiative to their local situations and needs. It has produced a poster to help with the event, as well as a pastoral booklet in Italian, English, Spanish, French and Polish.

The resource “will enable all people, be they near or distant from the Church, to reflect upon and celebrate the great gift of God’s mercy and forgiveness,” the pontifical council says. To download the poster and acquire this pastoral aid, please go to

To find out more about the initiative, the Register sat down with Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization, in his Vatican offices on Feb. 13. He explained how successful the first initiative was last year, why the sacrament of reconciliation has been largely forgotten and why forgiveness must always begin with justice.


Your Excellency, can you tell us more about the initiative and how the faithful can best get involved?

I would say the faithful will be involved at the moment in which we priests are convinced about the good of the initiative, because to open our churches for 24 hours is a challenge everywhere. But this is not just a problem of security, not just a problem of overcoming difficulties we encounter. This is a challenge of understanding how we can, for 24 hours, become a concrete sign of mercy and welcome people into our churches. Sometimes we think of coming back to the Church, and, often, there’s an invitation to come back, but we find our churches closed, and this is very sad. “24 Hours for the Lord” means giving a sign, not just any sign, but a sign of the mercy of God the Father that is welcoming of everybody — and that we can also trust in him and find courage to go on in our faith.


The emphasis appears to be on confession for this initiative. Is that right?

It’s not just confession — it’s what we call “24 Hours for the Lord,” which means that entering our churches can be a moment of reflection, a moment of prayer, a moment of contemplation of the Eucharist, a moment just to speak with a priest and, of course, a moment of most significance should be reconciliation.


Could you explain more about the theme, “God Is Rich in Mercy’?

Yes, we change the theme every year. This year it will be “God Is Rich in Mercy.” Fortunately, we also had the possibility this year to prepare an instrument [the pastoral aid] for helping people to discover this. That will also be in English and in different languages; and in the United States, it will be distributed by the Catholic Book Publishing Corp. It is already done.


The theme is consistent with the Pope’s emphasis on mercy. Is it based on the Pope’s attitude that people will come back to the Church through mercy and then discussion can take place about justice and repentance?

One of the most important words in the teaching of Pope Francis is “mercy.” This is like an aperitif, in order to prepare ourselves to be engaged in mercy. I’m sure that “mercy” is the word which, in Scripture, expresses the action of God. God is merciful. We always find this expression. The Church should be able to be a minister of mercy and to show in her own actions the capacity to express mercy.


And from that comes confession?

Confession, that is reconciliation, is the most effective sign of mercy and how God is merciful, because mercy is to love until there is forgiveness. When we speak about mercy and about love, we speak about a dynamic concept. Love starts with justice; the first step of love is justice. I would say that, increasing the idea of love, you reach the love which gives you forgiveness because you did something wrong. One is a sinner, and since we are sinners, the experience of God’s love is mercy. For this reason, there is a progress, a dynamic concept of love, so the beginning is justice, and the extreme point of love is to pardon, is to forgive.


What is the schedule during these “24 Hours for the Lord” for each parish? As well as confession and adoration, what other aspects are there?

We had a beautiful experience last year, and we suggest repeating it, because, for us, it’s also a moment of New Evangelization. This is an expression, a sign of the New Evangelization for us believers, first of all. As you know, the New Evangelization is, first of all, addressed to the Christian community, and, very often, they have forgotten the sacrament of reconciliation. It’s one of the most forgotten sacraments: reconciliation. So there you will see that, in downtown Rome, we have chosen three churches in which the experience will be expressed.

There are young people, missionaries of mercy, who reach out to other people and invite them to enter the church. To us, this is important, because it’s an experience given by youth to other youth. Also, especially, think about this: It will be done during the weekend, on Friday. Friday night is a very important moment for young people — it’s a moment of happiness in all sorts of ways; you should be happy.

What’s beautiful about this is that these people [mercy missionaries] are well-prepared people, very good believers I would say, very convicted [in their faith], and they invite others. Go to a square like Santa Maria in Trastevere on a Friday night, and you find everyone there — it’s beautiful. Last year, we can verify that up until after two o’clock in the morning the church was full of people — young people — coming to confession. The other church is in Piazza Navona, and you know what that’s like on a Friday night. There, too, the church was full of people last year. So I think it’s a great experience through which especially young people reach out to others and invite them, challenge them to have an encounter with Christ.


You say people have forgotten the sacrament of reconciliation. Why is that, in your view, and how, as well as this initiative, can the Church get people back to confession?

I think there are probably two main reasons, in my humble opinion: one is that we forget to preach the necessity of conversion, the necessity to think about ourselves and not fall into the illusion of the world. So, probably, we need to go back to the center, of preaching Jesus Christ, urging them to change their lives and believe in the Gospel. This is the beginning of the preaching of Jesus Christ: To change yourself is the theme of conversion. Probably we forget that.

The second reason is probably because we have lost the sense of community. This is paradoxical because, especially for young people today, but other people, too, in using the Internet for instance, there is a desire to belong to a community. It’s virtual, but it’s a community — it’s my community; in sport and everything, it’s a community. But it’s paradoxical because, on the other hand, we lose the sense of community. We don’t have any more a life of community, because when you live within a community, of course you understand what in your style of life is wrong, because there’s no more coherence with the life of the community. We fall into such individualism [in modern life] that probably it doesn’t allow us to understand the value of living together with another, and probably this dangerous style of life, closing yourself in individualism without community, doesn’t give you the answers and the possibility to understand the sense of sin. So, in losing the sense of community, we also lose, as a consequence, the sense of a sin.


How will Pope Francis be involved?

I think — I hope — the Pope will say a word before the event.


Will he be going to confession in public like last year and perhaps hearing confessions?

He will do that on Friday [March 13], yes.


Overall, the world needs to see the consequences of sin, doesn’t it?

Of course, the consequences of sin, and then, if you live in a culture in which the main mentality is to live your life without God, at the end, some people will believe they can be happy without God, but this is not true.

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

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New Cardinals Further Internationalize Church

Petrik Bohumil / CNA

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis issued a twofold command to 20 newly elevated cardinals over the weekend: Go forth in charity, and reach out to the marginalized, reinstating them into the Church.

The new cardinals were elevated to the College of Cardinals at the ordinary public consistory for the creation of new cardinals on Feb. 14; 12 are under age 80 and are eligible to vote in a conclave.

The nationalities and backgrounds of the new cardinals reflect the Holy Father’s wish to broaden and internationalize the college, moving away from traditional cardinalatial sees and centers of power and bringing in those from the global south, where the faith is growing fastest.

In his address in St. Peter’s Basilica, the Holy Father pointed out to the new recipients of the “red hat” that the higher one is honored the more perfect must be his exercise of charity.

“The more we are ‘incardinated’ in the Church of Rome, the more we should become docile to the Spirit,” Francis explained, “so that charity can give form and meaning to all that we are and all that we do.” In the Church, he added, “all presiding flows from charity, must be exercised in charity and is ordered towards charity.”


Cardinals of Charity

Quoting from St. Paul, Francis explained the form and essence of charity: It is “patient” and “kind, “not jealous or boastful,” nor “puffed up with pride.” Church dignitaries, he pointed out, are not “immune from this temptation.”

Charity is also “not arrogant or rude,” the Pope continued, adding that those who are self-centered “inevitably become disrespectful” and often don’t notice this, since respect leads to the ability to acknowledge others and their “dignity, their condition, their needs.”

Continuing to quote from St. Paul, the Pope stressed that charity is not “irritable” nor “resentful,” but frees us from the “mortal danger of pent-up anger” that makes us “brood over wrongs we have received.” Such an attitude of “smoldering anger,” the Pope said, is “unacceptable” in a man of the Church.

He added that charity also doesn’t “rejoice in the wrong” but “rejoices in the right.” “What a beautiful phrase!” the Pope said. “The man of God is someone captivated by truth,” he said. Lastly, the Pope underlined what he sees as a “spiritual and pastoral program of life”: to recognize that love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

“God is love,” the Pope said in closing, “and he accomplishes all this in us if only we prove docile to the working of his Holy Spirit.”

The Pope’s address was well received by the newly elevated cardinals, three of whom head archdioceses in countries that have never had a prince of the Church in their history.

Cardinal Soane Patita Paini Mafi, Tonga’s first cardinal, told the Register he could not understand all of the Pope’s Italian, but he could “read his heart,” and he praised the Pope for “always giving fatherly guidance.”

Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar, called it a “very good” speech, and he especially welcomed its theme of charity, calling it “very inspiring.”

The only Curial official to be made cardinal, Dominique Mamberti, who heads the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, told the Register it was “a really extraordinary text,” in which the Pope spoke “from his heart to our hearts.”

In his words of gratitude to Pope Francis on behalf of the new cardinals, Cardinal Mamberti said their elevation to the College of Cardinals encourages them “to unite ourselves more fully with Jesus” and to participate “more deeply and completely in his sacrifice, of being with him on the cross — which is our salvation, life and resurrection — and through which we are saved and liberated.”


Be ‘Unafraid to Embrace the Leper’

Pope Francis’ more extensive homily, delivered to the new cardinals at Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica Feb. 15, was seen by many as giving a clear picture of the priorities and mission of this pontificate.

The Pope drew out three “key concepts” from the day’s Gospel reading of Mark, in which Jesus heals the leper: “the compassion of Jesus in the face of marginalization and his desire to reinstate” lives.

Referring first to the word “compassion,” meaning “to suffer with,” he said Jesus drew near to every person in pain and was “unafraid to risk sharing in the suffering of others,” paying the price of it “in full.” Compassion, he added, leads to “concrete action”— the reinstatement of the marginalized.

Francis compared the leper to all those who suffer from sin, underlining they are not only victims of disease, but “feel guilty about it, punished for their sins.” Theirs is a “living death,” he said, cast out by society and like someone “whose father has spit in his face.” In addition, healthy people were punished severely for approaching a leper in order to “safeguard the healthy” and to “protect the righteous.”

Turning to the theme of reinstatement, the Pope said Jesus “revolutionizes and upsets that fearful, narrow and prejudiced mentality.” He does so by refusing to condemn the sinful woman caught in adultery, saving her from the “blind zeal” of those prepared to stone her. He shows, instead, “the logic of love, based not on fear, but on freedom and charity, on healthy zeal and the saving will of God.”

Jesus, the Pope said, “responds immediately” to the leper’s plea to be healed, “without waiting to study the situation and all its possible consequences.” He does not think of the “closed-minded, who are scandalized even by a work of healing, scandalized before any kind of openness.”

Francis pointed out there are “two ways” of thinking and of having faith: “We can fear to lose the saved, and we can want to save the lost.” The doctors of the Law, he continued, would remove the danger by “casting out the diseased person,” while those “thinking of God” remember his mercy, which “embraces and accepts by reinstating him and turning evil into good, condemnation into salvation and exclusion into proclamation.”

The Church, the Pope added, “has always been the way of Jesus, the way of mercy and reinstatement.” That does not mean “underestimating the dangers of letting wolves into the fold,” he said, “but welcoming the prodigal son.” It means “rolling up our sleeves and not standing by and watching passively the suffering of the world.”

The Pope urged the new cardinals to seek “fearlessly” those who are marginalized, seeing the Lord in every person who is “hungry, thirsty, naked” and those who have “lost their faith or turned away from the practice of their faith.”

Do not be tempted, he added, “to turn to Jesus without turning to the outcast, to become a closed caste with nothing authentically ecclesial about it.”

“We will not find the Lord unless we truly accept the marginalized,” the Pope said, and he recommended imitating St. Francis, who was “unafraid to embrace the leper and accept every kind of outcast.”

Vatican spokesman Father Thomas Rosica called it a “very important” homily, offering a “profound insight into the mission and vocation of Pope Francis and his hopes for the entire Church.”

He added that his words should be considered not only as relevant to the consistory, but as “a very good prelude to and preparation for the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the family in October 2015.”

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

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Pope Francis Clarifies His Vision for Church


Image: Pope Francis Clarifies His Vision for Church
  • Pope Francis set out his overall vision for the Catholic Church during a homily at Mass for 20 new cardinals on Sunday, leading some commentators and even the Vatican to describe it as one of the most decisive and important messages of his pontificate.
It also left many traditional and faithful Catholics perturbed about his obvious sympathies in the context of reform. The Pope highlighted three “key concepts” from that day’s Gospel reading in which Jesus heals the leper, linking them to “the compassion of Jesus in the face of marginalization and his desire to reinstate” lives.

In essence, he equated the leper, an outcast in Jesus’ day, with those who, because of sin, stand outside the church. Francis would like to attract them by, above all, placing an emphasis on God’s mercy rather than their sins and repentance of them.

This theme of the homily, which highlighted inclusiveness, nondiscrimination, and going out to the peripheries, is central not only to this pontificate but was a key aspect coming out of last October’s synod on the family.

That meeting in Rome of around 250 bishops worldwide was meant to examine today’s pastoral challenges to the family, but it drew controversy for proposing new pastoral practices towards civilly remarried Catholic divorcees, homosexuals, and cohabiting couples — approaches that many felt were at odds with Catholic teaching.

With this homily, observers on all sides of the church say it’s confirmed where the Pope stands on these issues. In an article for The Remnant, a newspaper of traditional Catholicism, an author writing under the Greek goddess name of Megaera Erinyes, says Francis is “clearly signaling again” his intentions for the Synod, and the terms he uses show he is “wholly on the side” of Cardinal Walter Kasper, the flag-bearer of those pushing to allow divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Holy Communion.

The scriptural passages in which Jesus teaches that remarriage after divorce constitutes adultery couldn’t be clearer, Erinyes argues. Yet, by implicitly supporting the Kasper line in his homily (Francis’ doesn’t directly mention the issue) she believes the Pope sees obedience to Jesus’ teaching on this issue as a “lack of mercy” and “marginalization.”

Rather than a merciful approach, she argues the Kasper position actually shows disobedience to the divine law and therefore a “hardness of heart” that Jesus’ teachings aimed to remedy. That the Pope sides with this position “is a frightening thought,” she writes.

For Austen Ivereigh, author of “The Great Reformer,” possibly the most comprehensive biography of Pope Francis to date, the homily was not so clear cut. He agreed it will be seen, “as one of the most defining messages of his pontificate” and it “certainly is aimed at the synod.” But he said it also captures the way Francis “sees his mission more broadly, as opening new paths for people to find their way back to the church.”

“He’s saying: it’s not enough to preach the truth and wait for people to convert and come knocking — we have to go out and tend to the lost sheep, and let God do the rest,” Ivereigh told me. “It would be wrong to read into it an endorsement of one or other strategy under discussion at the synod, although it is a clear rebuke of those who are opposed to the whole process.”

Other aspects of the homily have also caused concern, especially its central theme of equating the outcast leper with a sinner — cast out from the church. Erinyes calls this a “false premise,” a “simple rhetorical fallacy” and a “conflation” between the affliction of illness and the consequences of sin.

“A leper is someone who suffers from a disease, who does indeed need a doctor,” she writes. “A man living with a woman to whom he is not married has entered into this situation with his will. And it is with his will he can remedy the situation. He can decide, today, to sin no more, and to change his life.”

Further questions about the homily relate to the Pope’s chastisement of “doctors of law,” and his poor perception of those who “fear to lose the saved” compared to those who want “save the lost.”

Ivereigh said the Pope is contrasting two mentalities, and sees the former as reminiscent of the Pharisees of Jesus’ time (their starting point is a sense of threat to the integrity of the faith) and the latter as “Jesus in the Gospel”, starting with the pain of those “outside the channels of salvation”. For Francis, the way of the Gospel “is always to seek reinstatement through the exercise of mercy,” Ivereigh said. “It’s wrong to see this as disregard for the law.”

But Erinyes calls this a classic “false dichotomy,” and that to offer the marginalized something meaningful while “abandoning the existing flock” is an “odd and contradictory statement.”

The Pope appears to think that someone who “holds their faith in its entirety” is, by nature, “cruel and exclusionary,” she says. “But this is logically absurd, since it is that faith, that divine law, that requires (genuine) mercy and compassion for both the sick and the sinner.”

Such contentious arguments are likely to continue and strengthen as the October synod approaches. By Francis revealing his thoughts now on these issues (he earlier hadn’t done so in the interests of a free discussion) it makes it arguably harder for those opposed to them to speak out without setting themselves against the Pope.

But given how much is at stake — Erinyes says the Kasper proposal represents a one-blow strike “against the very pillars of the faith: the Eucharist and the priesthood” – signs suggest there will be more than a little resistance come October.

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German Bishops’ Conference’s Dance With the Material World


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Cardinal Reinhard Marx is president of the bishops’ conference of Germany

BERLIN — When the European Union issued a directive in January mandating the morning-after pill to be available over the counter in all member states, the Polish bishops issued a strong statement calling its use a “grave sin” and the EU directive a violation of Polish criminal law.

By contrast, the Catholic bishops of Germany were largely silent. Asked for their reaction to the directive, Matthias Kopp, spokesman for the German bishops’ conference, told the Register Jan. 26 that the prelates have “serious concerns,” but he didn’t elaborate.

Part of the reticence may be related to the German episcopate’s decision two years ago to allow use of the morning-after pill and other contraception methods for cases of rape, provided that the medication acts as a contraceptive and not an abortifacient (a chemical that induces an abortion). The decision was roundly criticized by pro-life advocates, who argued that it is impossible to guarantee the pill won’t cause an abortion.Pressed for a bishops’ response on the latest development in the EU and whether the bishops still adhere to this position, Kopp referred to the German bishops’ statement issued two years ago. That statement stresses the woman’s decision “must be respected,” but also underlines the need for more study of the issue in consultation with the Vatican. This position hasn’t changed.

Furthermore, the contrasting statements in relation to the EU’s latest decision on the morning-after pill will merely underline how many perceive the German Church: as complacent due to its enormous wealth, derived from the state Church tax, from which it receives 70% of its income. Revenues in 2013 amounted to approximately $6.71 billion, making it one of the wealthiest entities, faith-based or otherwise, in the world.

It’s likely to become wealthier still, now that a new capital-gains tax levy has been introduced on Church members. News of the introduction, first given by the media and not the Church, has reportedly made Catholics and Protestants leave the pews in droves: 178,000 Catholics left in 2013, up 60,000 from the previous year, while more than 200,000 Protestants left that year — a rate not seen since the 1990s.

Some observers allege that its wealth and ties to the German state have excessively influenced the German Catholic Church, citing the fact that the bishops have made non-payment of Church taxes an excommunicable offense, while at the same time ignoring Catholics whose public actions and statements depart from Church teaching.

In a Dec. 29 article on the German Church in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, veteran journalist Markus Günther said the Church in Germany today is comparable to the former communist East Germany “in its later days.” It looks stable, he wrote, “but it stands on the verge of collapse.”

As they did in the dying days of the East German regime, many officials “are fooling themselves,” Günther added. “Pastors and bishops, as well as many active parishioners, see blooming landscapes where there is nothing but desert. Love, as they say, is blind. And where existential threats are concerned, a calculated optimism often clouds a sober view of reality.”

But despite appearances, the future looks bleak for the German Church, which is losing members from all sides.

As the second-largest employer in Germany, the Church offers more than 1 million people secure jobs, Günther explained, but it “has finally arrived at a level of legitimization equaled only by the local garbage dump.” Only a Church that is “a community of faith, and not merely an employer or a pillar of the social system, can be taken seriously,” he wrote.

So how does such a wealthy Church square with Pope Francis’ call for a “poor Church for the poor”?

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the archbishop of Munich, has come under attack for reportedly spending 130 million euros on a “service center” in his archdiocese. He recently renovated his apartment at a cost of 8 million euros, paid for by the state of Bavaria.

Furthermore, the German archbishop reportedly has an income of 11,500 euros per month, lives rent free, and his cars include a luxury 730i BMW. Meanwhile, the archdiocese says it has a guesthouse in Rome worth 9.7 million euros but denies it is a luxury and insists it was paid for by diocesan assets and not tax revenues.

Asked by the Register about this perceived excess spending in the context of Francis’ vision of a “poor Church,” archdiocesan spokesman Berhard Kellner underlined the “subsidiarity principle,” which is the “backbone of our social architecture in Germany” — in other words, taxes raised centrally can be spent locally as required. He then quoted Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga in an interview Jan 31 interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, who was asked to define the term “poor Church” in a European context. Cardinal Rodriguez answered: “Everything depends on how wealth is defined. The history of Europe means that the Church has many properties, even takes [a] church tax. I am convinced that the Catholic Church in Germany is not only one of the richest in the world, but probably also the most generous. Many churches help the poorest of the poor, but none of them on a par with the German Church.”

Regarding the diocesan service center, Kellner said the money for the building was spent by the archdiocese, not Cardinal Marx. The center was required to provide “efficient and timely” administration for clergy and laity working in parishes, schools, nursing homes and hospitals. But stressed above all in the documentation for the service center was the number of jobs it would provide: 400 in addition to the 8,000 already employed by the archdiocese.

Concerning the cardinal’s salary, Kellner did not dispute the figure, but said that, like that of other Catholic and Protestant church leaders, it is paid by the state of Bavaria. He added that this is in line with the Bavarian Concordat with the Holy See, which guarantees Palais Holnstein as Cardinal Marx’s official residence and serves as the official seat of the archbishop of Munich and Freising. “Palais Holnstein above all is an office building,” Kellner stressed. “The cardinal lives in a three-room flat (90 square meters) in the rear part of the building.”

The Rome guesthouse, meanwhile, was not only purchased at a cost of 9.7 million euro, but the archdiocese is also spending another 4.3 million euros renovating it, according to a diocesan factsheet. The guesthouse is to serve as a “meeting house” to strengthen the “community of believers” from different cultures and “promote mutual understanding of every life.” The building will be a “place of international exchange” and act as a “point of contact with the Holy See.” It will also be used to increase collaboration with the Pontifical Gregorian University as a center for global prevention against sexual violence.

Despite the high cost of the property, it will offer just 17 guestrooms, two suites, a chapel, dining room and living room for use of the archdiocese, as well as small pilgrimages and other visiting groups, and act as a base for the archdiocese in exercising its “diverse and global interdiocesan ecclesiastical duties.”

Then, curiously, there is a large and newly renovated palazzo in an area of prime real estate close to the Vatican, which is listed in the telephone directory as belonging to the German bishops’ conference. Its buzzer also bears the same label. Kopp said the conference owns no property in Rome and that the building is rented by a congregation of German sisters, but he did not say why it is identified as an office of the German bishops.

Responding to how all this expense is justified, Kopp explained that the Church in Germany “is working for the poor all over the world” and pointed to news that 27 German dioceses offered 73 million euros for refugees who have sought asylum in Germany.

But material costs aside, criticisms persist that the German hierarchy is adapting the Church’s doctrine to suit the secular world. The Register has learned from a senior source in the German Church that the country’s bishops are “very determined” to change the Church’s labor law to allow employment of divorced-and-remarried Catholics and those in same-sex relationships. Cardinal Marx said in January that the bishops’ position is clear on this and that they “want an opening.”

The bishops, the majority of whom wish to allow some remarried divorcees to receive holy Communion, are expected to pass the reform in a vote in April.

Cardinal Marx has said he wants the divorce-and-remarriage issue, important to the October synod on the family, debated among the faithful. German Church observers believe this is merely a token gesture, as the bishops have openly made up their minds on this issue. Kopp told the Register this is “not true” and that the bishops are “discussing the subject.” The Permanent Council of the German Bishops’ Conference published the discussion in December 2014, he said.

But it’s not only those Catholics inside the Church pressing for looser Church teaching. Those outside pushing a dissenting agenda feel emboldened. On the papal plane from the Philippines, the Pope fielded two questions on contraception. Both of the reporters were German. It’s believed the journalists asked these questions because they assumed the Pope would give more confusing answers, sources say. Although the Pope’s responses were in line with Church teaching, the German media interpreted them in an anti-family way, the German Church source said.

Some fear the German Church will exert more political influence over the universal Church, especially at the upcoming synod. Cardinal Marx has considerable influence as president of the German bishops’ conference, a member of the C9 group of cardinals on Curial reform and as head of the commission of bishops’ conferences at the European Commission (COMECE) in Brussels.

Just ahead of the October synod, in September this year, all of Germany’s bishops are to meet the Pope on their ad limina visit to Rome.

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

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Cardinal May Resist Pope’s Attempts To Change Teachings


An American cardinal’s disclosure he “will resist” any persistent attempts by Pope Francis to allow Holy Communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics has further alerted Catholics to what is at stake ahead of a Synod on the Family in October.

Tensions are growing in the run-up to the meeting — the second of two synods to debate the church’s current approach to marriage, the family and human sexuality — over fears that established Catholic teaching on these key moral issues will be weakened and undermined.

In a Feb. 8 interview with France2 television, Cardinal Raymond Burke stressed he could not “accept that Communion can be given to a person in an irregular union because it is adultery.”

Based on Christ’s teachings, the Catholic Church has always upheld the indissolubility of marriage, and so it considers remarriage following a divorce to be adulterous.

Asked what he might do if the Pope persists in this direction, Burke said, “I shall resist, I can do nothing else. There is no doubt that it is a difficult time; this is clear.”

The cardinal, who Francis last year demoted from heading the Church’s highest court, was the most vociferous opponent of last October’s synod when proposals were presented for a possible opening to allow some remarried divorcees to receive Communion. Other controversial areas for discussion, ones that many delegates felt were imposed on the synod, concerned the “positive aspects” of same-sex relationships and cohabitation.

In the France2 interview, Burke said same sex relationships have “nothing to do with marriage” but are an “affliction suffered by some people whereby they are attracted against nature sexually to people of the same sex”.

Last November, he called on all Catholics to “speak up and act” against such pressure to undermine the church’s teaching, but this is the first time he has publicly acknowledged the Pope himself could lead the church in a direction he couldn’t accept.

Burke later qualified his comments slightly, stressing they related to a “hypothetical situation” and that he was simply affirming his “sacred duty” to always “defend the truth of the church’s teaching and discipline regarding marriage.”

But his remarks appear to have prompted others to speak up, not just about the synod but about a crisis in the church in general. In an open letter made public Feb. 10 on theRorate Caeli blog, Jan Pawel Lenga, archbishop emeritus of Karaganda,Kazakhstan,  wrote that his conscience would not allow him “to remain silent while the work of God is being slandered.”

He said he felt forced to write an open letter as any other method would be “greeted by a brick wall of silence and disregard.” He also criticized the Vatican for pursuing a path of political correctness, and said most bishops today resemble “the silence of the lambs in the face of furious wolves, the faithful are left like defenseless sheep.”

Lenga largely blamed poor episcopal appointments as well as Freemasons who, with the “connivance of false witnesses,” occupy some senior positions in the church. He also said he found it “difficult to believe” that Pope Benedict XVI freely chose to resign as pontiff.

The archbishop’s comments come just a week after the Polish archbishop of Warsaw, Henryk Hoser, said the church “betrayed” the teachings of Pope St. John Paul II at last year’s synod. They also follow similar outspoken statements from another Kazakh bishop, Athanasius Schneider, who last year called the synod’s final text “radical neo-pagan ideology.”

Meanwhile, there is a growing sense in Rome that the divorce and remarriage issue is simply a Trojan horse, appearing innocuous and affecting relatively few people, but if passed, would erode a key teaching of the church and so pave the way for weakening Catholic teaching in other areas such as same-sex relationships. “We all thought this was about divorce and remarriage,” one well informed source close to the Vatican told me. “It’s not, it’s about gays.”

Some of the most powerful figures pushing this agenda appear to be senior members of the German Catholic Church. Most of the country’s bishops are not only publicly supportive of allowing remarried divorcees to receive Communion, but they are also openly intent on passing a new labor law in April allowing Catholics in same-sex relationships or remarried divorcees to be employed by Germany’s many church-run institutions.

Opponents fear such a development would seriously weaken the church’s teaching in these areas, and have wider implications. “This is being done ‘under the radar’, but if this goes through, it will be presented as a ‘done-deal’ at the synod,” a source close to the German Church told me. “They’ll bring this to Rome and say, ‘There’s nothing more to discuss, we’ve already gone in this direction and if we can change this, we can change anything.’” He said he sees this as a “crucial issue” which has the potential to do “enormous damage” to the wider church.

Some orthodox-thinking Catholics therefore see preparation for what might be sprung on the upcoming synod as one of the best forms of resistance advocated by Cardinal Burke and others. Like Communists, the other side, they say, has been highly organized, while those upholding the church’s teaching have, so far, not been prepared or organized enough.

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