The German Church: Nuts

kasperIn our day we finally gone beyond the decades long, post-Conciliar scandal of priest against priest when it comes to sacramental discipline.  We have now reached bishop against bishop and conference against conference.  If you are in one diocese or country, you can step across the border and have an entirely different approach on, say, absolution of people who don’t have a firm purpose of amendment and, consequently, admission to Holy Communion.

Here is an article at First Things which succinctly state the issue. It is a bit too long, perhaps, and it has some old information. However, it serves as a good review if you haven’t been keeping up.


On February 1, 2017, the German Bishops’ Conference published a press release announcing their new document, “The Joy of Love Lived in Families Is Also the Joy of the Church,” which summarizes the implications of Amoris Laetitia for sacramental discipline and pastoral care in Germany. German psychiatrist Christian Spaemann replies to the bishops in the following article. –Ed.

The time has come. The German bishops have done something that altogether exceeds their authority: They have undermined the sacramental discipline of the Catholic Church.


Thank you, Card. Kasper.

If you want to dig more deeply into this disciplinary cadaver to see what theological cancer rotted it from within, you might read the rather difficult, but dead-on right, essay by Robert Stark in Catholic World Report: German Idealism and Cardinal Kasper’s Theological Project. HERE

And we could also look at the issue of the “Church Tax” in Germany. That must be a factor in their decisions.

Pray for the faithful priests in Germany.

The moderation queue is ON.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Liberals, Pò sì jiù, The Coming Storm, The future and our choices and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. hwriggles4 says:

    This is one problem that I have had with “The new Evangelization”, which has been a Church buzzword the last few years. By the way, I live in the Southern United States, and I am a Catholic revert.

    In my large city, there are at least six parishes within a 30 minute drive. One Parish has a good pastor with inspirational homilies, while another has a congregation that shows up regularly in shorts and t-shirts with the Haugen Haas fan club choir, and complains when Mass goes longer than 55 minutes. While I am bilingual, I usually will not attend la Misa en Español solo, mostly because of the casual behavior of the attendees, although I will occasionally attend a Parish that has a bilingual Mass on Sundays that’s well done, reverent, with congregants who are modestly dressed and want to be there.

    I understand being open and welcoming, but it’s difficult when many Catholics show up to check a box, and have little desire to learn about their faith.

  2. Huber says:

    “If you are in one diocese or country, you can step across the border and have an entirely different approach on, say, absolution of people who don’t have a firm purpose of amendment and, consequently, admission to Holy Communion.”

    So, Father, you’re observing that we don’t technically have a CATHOLIC church, as the dogma and liturgy are fractured diocese to diocese, rather than one universal teaching, language, and liturgy…

  3. MarkJ says:

    Freude über alles…

  4. LeeF says:

    The German bishops dragged their feet over a new sacramentary just like English speaking bishops did. The difference is that after being forced to comply with Liturgiam Authenticam in producing it, they then tabled it in defiance of BXVI. Since they refuse to comply with the Holy See if it does not suit them, anything else they do should come as no surprise.

    Father said:
    And we could also look at the issue of the “Church Tax” in Germany. That must be a factor in their decisions.

    Heck yes that has to factor in the decisions of the German bishops. They are a rich church monetarily despite losing regular Mass goers at an alarming rate. So they can’t be forced by the discipline so many American bishops and pastors have had to deal with, of conservative Catholics directing their donations elsewhere.

    There is also another insidious aspect connected with the church tax. The various concordati with individual German states covers not just the tax and Catholic schools, but also selection of bishops, namely the cathedral chapters have much more sway than elsewhere and can’t have conservative bishops imposed on them as easily. But there is a solution. Which is next time they come up for renegotiation, the Vatican balks at interference in bishop selection and trades halving the church tax. That would probably go over well with parties to the left of the CDU especially those actively irreligious.

  5. MitisVis says:

    Christian Spaemann’s observation “God’s mercy is not for us to decree” sums up the underlying problem of ‘Empowerment’. The drive for bishops conferences or ultimately bishops themselves
    to determine doctrine or interpret teaching independently or decentralized to use a phrase, is nothing
    more than the destruction of the unity of the church. Much like “tolerance” we now can clearly
    see it’s intended meaning and purpose. Very ambiguous and conditional, these are the disastrous
    consequences. As for the Church Tax I must sadly admit, that if I receive something for nothing long enough I will eventually feel entitled instead of grateful, and forget my obligations.

  6. Imrahil says:

    A word momentous calmly hath First Things spoken.

    (That’s a German idiom…)

    The bishops’ reference to Amoris Laetitia, the post-synodal document by Pope Francis, does not justify this approach, since the pope’s text must be interpreted in the light of tradition. Otherwise it would be unnecessary to obey, since the pope does not stand above the doctrinal tradition of the Church.

    In this case, for once, if they be guilty they are only guilty of obedience.

    They are not “reading the Pope in the light of tradition”, maybe, but like good subordinates, they certainly do read the Pope in the light of what they can honestly assume to be his intended meaning.

    The Pope has said “the divorced and remarried people can, under certain circumstances, approach the Sacraments”. It was not part of the discussion that they can when living together as brother and sister, or turn back to their spouses for that matter; noone has doubted that. It was obvious how the footnote would be understood. The Pope could have corrected himself, could have repeated Familiaris consortio; he didn’t. Qui tacet, quando loqui debet, consentire videtur – the phrase is often abused, but when you actually do speak about the Thing at issue and fail to speak out nevertheless?

    Note that “anticipating the superior’s wish” and “not making the superior in need of being more explicit” and also “taking responsibility for what the superior wants, but feels imprudent to demand explicitly” have always been considered charateristics of more perfect obedience, in Germany.

    [Note also that neither “divorced and remarried people are subjectively in mortal sin” nor “people in objective state of grave sin, whether subjectively so or not, must not be allowed to Communicate”, are infallible dogmas of the Church.

    The latter of the two was a teaching of the Ordinary Magisterium; but the present Pope is apparently of a different opinion.]

  7. Pigeon says:

    “We have now reached bishop against bishop and conference against conference.”

    I suppose as long as long as Benedict is still with us that we could even have pope against pope.

  8. Semper Gumby says:

    “They have undermined the sacramental discipline of the Catholic Church.”

    May they reflect on this passage from Fr. Neuhaus’ book “Death on a Friday Afternoon: Meditations on the Last Words of Jesus from the Cross”:

    “We could not bear to live in a world where wrong is taken lightly, where right and wrong finally make no difference. In such a world, we- what we do and what we are- would make no difference. Spare me a gospel of easy love that makes of my life a thing without consequence.”

  9. G-Veg says:

    Good Afternoon Father,

    I read the Spaemann piece carefully and wonder if the sin is not removed from the person in an adulterous relationship and taken on by by the priest who absolves the sin, knowing his bishop is mistaken.

    My thinking is that the people go to their priests for guidance and a large percentage take, as gospel truth, the advice dispensed. I imagine one of our a German sisters or brothers, having heard something of this, going to their priest for guidance. Such a one may sincerely wish to take the sacraments and, having been told that it is OK, that their sin is absolved and that they are not, in fact, in an adulterous relationship, confess, have their sins “absolved,” and move on as thought their marriage was annulled.

    In such a situation, would the priest who believes his bishop to be mistaken, have both absolved the sin of the penitent and entered into his own sin?


    David Spaulding

  10. Vix crediderim. Quot minutis nunc abest hora tertia?

  11. otsowalo says:

    Sigh… Church Tax…

    When the prelates in Germany gave in to Caesar’s demand instead of following our Lord, Jesus Christ, to Golgotha.

  12. stuartal79 says:

    There are good bishops in Germany who have spoken out against giving Holy Communion to Catholics living in a state of mortal sin (adultery). These German bishops have all spoken out against it: Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Cardinal Paul Cordes, Bishop Stefan Oster, Bishop Konrad Zdarsa, Bishop Gregor Hanke, Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer, Bishop Friedhelm Hofmann, Bishop Wolfgang Ipolt, Archbishop Ludwig Schick, Cardinal Joachim Meisner, Cardinal Walter Brandmüller and Cardinal Gerhard Müller. I am certain there are other German bishops opposed who have not spoken out, as well.

  13. Absit invidia says:

    No wonder Germany is at each other’s throats. Merkel has thrown out prudence and fortitude and chose to be a merciful slob even to those who would harm the vulnerable citizens she is sworn to protect. But I guess that’s the problem, women generally don’t possess protective qualities and liberal women leaders, moreover are grossly negligent with their naivety.

  14. Imrahil says:

    Dear stuartal79,

    but (thinking not about all of these names but some)… that was when Rome still demanded Familiaris consortio. They defended the policy of higher authority downward. There were some bishops then, who demanded what the German bishops officially demanded now, but they were a minority and Rome said no then.

    Also, “we can’t give you what you want; we are a world-wide Church and this is a world-wide thing; the matter must be settled in Rome” was the standard reply until a short time ago. That may have been a mistake. But if so it is natural enough a mistake; it is not easy to defend the policy per se and tell them that past sins may be past sins, but right now they are obliged in morality to throw their new partner out of the house. (Or live as brother and sister. But that requires the two of them converting to practicing Catholicism at the same time, otherwise it probably mostly amounts to the same thing.)

    It is only the next logical step that once Rome has allowed it – let’s face it: “reading the Pope in the light of tradition” is in this case the friendly Expression for “correcting the Pope because he is not right”, to proceed the allowance downwards.

  15. Phil_NL says:

    You know what’s the real problem?

    Those German bishops are so far gone that if you tell them they’re ‘nuts!’, like the headline here, they’ll respond similarly as a German during the battle of the bulge: “Nusse? Wass meint er mit nusse?”* They simply don’t understand.


  16. tdhaller says:

    The “church tax” in Germany is… frequently misunderstood. Essentially, it’s just a “collection service” the tax offices offer to *any* denomination properly registered as a noncommercial entity, and with a minimum number of members. For which they retain a portion of the collected “taxes”. Also, any taxpayer can opt out.

    As for the concordati, they never “come up for renegotiation”. They stay in force unless both parties agree to replace or terminate them… which hasn’t happened since 1963.

  17. SimonK says:

    It is not just disagreements between bishops, I find even within the same parish there can be different approaches to sacramental discipline. I am in an “irregular situation” although I am trying to resolve that. I went to confession with the assistant priest and told him all the details. He heard my confession and gave me absolution. Some time later I went to confession with the parish priest, told him the same thing, he told me a person in my situation cannot receive the sacrament of reconciliation until the irregularity of my situation is resolved and on that basis witheld absolution. I knew I was not supposed to receive communion in my situation and so hadn’t been but I wasn’t aware that rule extended to reconciliation as well. I assumed since the assistant priest gave me absolution it must not, but the parish priest has now told me otherwise. As a lay person it gets very confusing when different priests in the same parish apply diferent rules but I guess that is just the microcosm of what is happening to the Church as a whole.

  18. mpolo says:

    It seems to me that the bishops are really trying to apply Amoris Laetitia in the sense that Pope Francis published it. A couple of quotes:

    “The indissolubility of marriage belongs to the undeniable matter of faith of the Church. _Amoris Laetitia_ puts exactly so little doubt on that as on the necessity of a differentiated vision on the complexity of the situations of life of the people.”

    “Not all faithful, whose marriage has broken apart and who civilly divorce and remarry, can without differentiation receive the sacraments.”

    They call on the married couple to see if there is a founded reason for doubt that the marriage actually existed and to use the annulment process in that case.

    In other cases, the priest is instructed to go through a process with the faithful. “At the end of such a spiritual process, which is always concerned with taking up as a member [of the church], stands not in every case the reception of the sacraments of penance and Eucharist.”

    It seems to be really trying to push the traditional teaching of the Church, while at the same time leaving the words of _Amoris laetitia_ intact.

    It is certainly possible (probable?) that the text will be misused, but I don’t think any more than _Amoris laetitia_ itself. Unless I’ve totally skipped a smoking gun paragraph in my reading just now.

  19. MarkJ says:

    The Body of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church…
    Marriage subsists in Catholic matrimony…
    The Priesthood subsists in the Catholic Priesthood…
    Holy Communion subsists in the Catholic Eucharist…

    It’s all the fruit of the Council… varying degrees of truth spread across the spectrum of Christianity. And this logic can be applied to ANYTHING.

  20. Gail F says:

    “If you are in one diocese or country, you can step across the border and have an entirely different approach on, say, absolution of people who don’t have a firm purpose of amendment and, consequently, admission to Holy Communion.”

    So we’re Episcopalians now!

    SimonK: I’m sorry to read that. I didn’t know that a person in an “irregular situation” couldn’t receive absolution either. I suppose it’s somewhat like what I read about doing research on the sacrament in the Middle Ages: After it had been pretty regularized, people could still confess to a monk or someone who was not a priest if there was no one else around to confess to, but they weren’t absolved. It was kind of a “good faith” confession. They would express their contrition (I don’t remember if they received a penance) and be told to go to confession with a priest when it was possible, which might not be for a very long time. And then everyone left the rest to God. After all, God is the one who gives absolution. It made sense to me — we do our best in the situation we live in, and trust God. Sometimes I think that’s all Pope Francis is getting at, but other times… Enough said!

    However, you’d be surprised at what priests don’t know. They don’t all know everything! Just like a doctor who isn’t aware of some treatment for some ailment, while being an expert on many other things, some priests are not aware of things that a layperson thinks should be their business to know. Maybe their one class on the subject, 20 years ago, didn’t cover that particular topic and it has never come up again since. It’s distressing when YOU are the one finding out he doesn’t know something important, but it’s not really surprising that it sometimes happens. I was surprised once to find that a deacon who performed a lot of weddings did not know something about non-Catholic ministers participating in weddings that was stressed to me, a layperson, in a class for laypeople (they are not to do anything that is part of presiding, because they are not considered ordained clergy by the Catholic Church, however they are regarded in their own groups). But he didn’t know, and he thought I was wrong. But when he checked, he found out I was correct. It wasn’t because I am a genius or a canon law or liturgy expert, but only because it had come up in a class. This deacon was a font of knowledge on many related topics. But he didn’t know this rather vital thing.

Comments are closed.