Over at The Spectator, Damian Thompson has a good summary piece. He recaps what happened at the last Synod of Bishop, where controversy over the Kasper proposals about Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried dominated the proceedings. Damian is reacting to a wretched, pandering piece in The Bitter Pill (aka The Tablet) about how a majority of the German bishops are making a full court press in favor of Communion for the divorced/remarried.
The German bishops are calling the Church’s teaching and practice “incomprehensible”. Clearly the comprehend it. They just don’t believe what the Church teaches and they are revolting against it.
The Germans intend to put huge pressure on Pope Francis to make the changes they want, and they wield a lot of clout. As Damian points out, the German Church receives money from taxes to the tune of £4.6 billion a year! The Bishops Conference’s charity, Caritas, “employs 560,000 staff – the country’s second largest employer after Volkswagen”. Damian also points out that Churches in mission countries, such as in Africa, receive a great deal of their financial support from the Germans.
The African bishops, who are far more faithful to Catholic teaching, are not inclined to go along with the revolting ideas of the Germans, but the Germans have the money. If they can bully the African bishops into at least silence, they can probably have their way with the next Synod, with the full complicity of Card. Baldisseri, who runs the Synod.
Be sure to read all of Damian’s good summary. He doesn’t add too much more new information and he makes some points that I made here while the Synod was underway and after. But his summary is useful and timely. HERE
His piece is too long to reproduced with my usual commentary, but here are some samples with my emphases and comments:
Communion for divorced Catholics: the German bishops twisting Pope Francis’s arm
Just before Christmas, virtually unnoticed by the media, the German Catholic bishops made a plea for the readmission of divorced and remarried Catholics (or Catholics married to divorcees) to Holy Communion.
That it should be the Germans, led by Cardinal Reinhard Marx – Archbishop of Munich, president of the German bishops’ conference and coordinator of the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy – is no coincidence. In 1993, the future Cardinals Kasper and Lehmann asked the Vatican to admit couples in irregular marriages to Communion – indeed, to allow these couples to make up their own minds as to whether they should receive the sacrament. Cardinal Ratzinger kicked that proposal, and with it the liberal German Church, into the long grass.
Now Pope Francis has revived the German plan, by inviting Kasper to set the agenda for the first session of the Synod on the Family last October. That ended in disarray (my accounts here and here), leaving everyone confused about what the full Synod, meeting this coming autumn, had the authority to decide. [Answer: NOTHING. They can decide NOTHING. However, with complicity of the press, they can give the impression that they are a governing body. That creates confusion. Liberals know this, so they are creating expectations so that when the next Synod revs up, the pressure will increase.]
These vast budgets create a mindset in which German bishops feel entitled to dictate pastoral practice for Third World dioceses whose churches are overflowing but can’t afford to replace a lightbulb. The bishops of these dioceses, who will again encounter the likes of Marx and Kasper in October, are very conservative on the matter of divorce. You might think that is hypocritical, given the prevalence of priests’ mistresses in Africa, to say nothing of polygamy, but such chaos makes bishops in the developing world all the more determined to hold the line. [Polygamy, etc., is irrelevant. Sinners will always be with us. We must defend doctrine.] Also, they suspect Kasper et al of subtle racism, seeking to ‘enlighten’ people of darker skin. [Remember Card. Kasper’s recorded comments about how the African bishops should be able to tell them what to do?]
Francis’s opinions are mystery – possibly to himself, one Vatican source tells me. Yes, he wants Kasper’s ideas debated. But, although he’s become more liberal with time, he’s still a 78-year-old Argentinian Jesuit who recoils at the notions of women priests and gay marriages, neither of which innovation is entirely unacceptable to the semi-protestant German liberals. [semi?]
[NB] The danger for the Pope is that the German-led liberals will turn on him if he fails to deliver radical change, much as their predecessors turned on Paul VI when he refused to allow them to abandon the Catholic stances on birth control, married priests or transubstantiation. At which point Francis may wish that he’d made a few friends in conservative and traditionalist circles. [That is my great fear. The same atmosphere that surrounded the debate about contraception is present, except that today it is far more volatile. Today we have social media and far great, far more widespread ignorance of anything Catholic in the rank and file.]
Be sure to read Damian’s whole piece.