Bishop Heinz-Josef Algermissen recently published a letter claiming that, during an October 7 meeting with Pope Francis, the Holy Father expressed “dramatic concern” with the state of the German Church. As well he might.
Francis has always been wary of the German bishops’ synodal journey, which is being convened to discuss “authority and separation of powers,” “sexual morality,” “the priestly mode of life,” and “women at the service of ecclesiastical offices.” (That’s Modernese for Gallicanism, legitimizing sodomy, abolishing clerical celibacy, and ordaining female deacons, respectively.)
Francis has repeatedly ordered the Germans to stand down. They have repeatedly refused, insisting that theirs would be a “binding synod.” Francis fired back, saying that the synod wasn’t even “ecclesiastically valid,” let alone binding. When he wrote to his old ally Reinhard Cardinal Marx, ordering him to suspend the illegitimate synod, His Eminence replied:
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
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We hope that the results of forming an opinion [on these matters] in our country will also be helpful for the guidance of the Universal Church and for other episcopal conferences on a case-by-case basis. In any case, I cannot see why questions about which the Magisterium has made determinations should be withdrawn from any debate, as your writings suggest… Countless believers in Germany consider [these issues] to be in need of discussion.
It became perfectly clear that Cardinal Marx and his fellows were not only looking to bring the German Church into heresy and synod: they were keen to set an example for other bishops’ conferences looking to do the same. Some have argued that, even by proceeding with their synod—in direct defiance of the Pope—they are already in a state of schism.
Church-watchers have long known that Cardinal Marx is a crypto-Lutheran, though he comes less crypto with each passing year. In a 2015 interview, he insisted that Martin Luther “did not aim to split the Church but, with his calls to reform, wished to draw attention to grievances that obscured the message of the Gospel.” His Eminence went on to say that, after five decades of dialogue with German Lutherans, “it is possible for a Catholic Christian to read Luther’s texts appreciatively, and to learn from his thoughts.”
Cardinal Marx is also, unsurprisingly, a communist. In 2018, he said that Karl Marx “quite impressed” him. The Cardinal learned from his namesake that “human rights remain incomplete without material participation,” and even claimed that, “without him, there would not be any Catholic social doctrine.” (That would come as a great shock to Saints Augustine and Thomas Aquinas.) “We are all standing on the shoulders of Karl Marx,” he concluded—to which every faithful Catholic replies, “Speak for yourself, Eminence.”
Cardinal Marx wants to turn the Catholic Church in Germany into another mainline, left-wing Protestant sect which uses religion as a front for radical left-wing politics. That isn’t a conspiracy theory, because there’s no conspiracy: Cardinal Marx and his comrades are all perfectly open about their agenda, and perfectly happy to defy Church authorities who stand in their way.
Some would argue that Pope Francis is at least partly responsible for the German disaster due to his emphasis on “synodality” and interreligious dialogue, and his penchant for progressive politics. They would be correct.
These two events are happening simultaneously: the United States presidential election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, and the German “synodal journey” that will commit the Deutsche Bischofskonferenz to heresy, separating it from the Catholic Church, and potentially leading tens of millions of Germans into apostasy.
On October 3, Pope Francis published one of his longest and most sweeping encyclicals to date. Fratelli Tutti does not mention heresy or schism once, but the word “xenophobia” appears four times. “Walls” (meaning those that defend national borders) are mentioned thirteen times, always derogatorily. “Populism” appears twelve times, never in a positive light. There are also references to “local narcissism” and “violent nationalism,” among other buzzwords that might seem more at home in The New York Times than in a papal encyclical.
It seems the Holy Father is a little preoccupied, and not with the Church in Germany.
Francis’s constant forays into politics—particularly his invectives against President Trump—have always baffled orthodox Catholics. Of course, we do not defend “local narcissism,” whatever that means. And should anything like a “violent nationalism” appear in the United States, we would readily oppose it. At present, the only political violence in this country is being committed by Black Lives Matter, Antifa, and other left-wing groups supported by Joe Biden and the Democratic Party. Curiously, there was no mention of such progressive violence in Fratelli Tutti, even though several American bishops have voiced their support for these insurrectionists.
Now that I think of it, there’s no reference to the fact that Catholic churches and statues of the saints across the country have been vandalized by these mobs. It is silent on the fact that most self-identified Catholics in this country support Mr. Biden, who supports partial-birth abortion, and who blasphemously claims that his position is compatible with the Catholic faith. And the Holy Father appears to be unconcerned that Mr. Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris, has tried to bar orthodox Catholics from holding public office on account of their faith.
Francis seems oblivious to the real situation here in the United States. And why should it be otherwise? Francis is the pastor of one billion Catholics worldwide; he can’t spend all day watching Fox News and reading The Wall Street Journal. He’s also an elderly Italo-Argentinian who doesn’t use a computer; all that he knows about this country is what’s fed to him by Vatican bureaucrats. Yet that only makes his interventions into U.S. politics the more confounding.
We honor, love, and respect the Holy Father here at Crisis Magazine. But only the most fanatical Mottramist could regard Pope Francis as a qualified analyst on current events in the United States. Contrary to what some super-duper-ultramontanists suppose, the Bishops of Rome do not enjoy a universal competence. When Pope Francis isn’t speaking ex cathedra on faith and morals, it’s entirely possible that he has no idea what he’s talking about. That isn’t insolent, or even disrespectful. It’s just a statement of fact.
In fairness to the Pope, he is obviously working to bring the German bishops back into line. If he’s doing so quietly, that may be to his—our—strategic advantage. I don’t know. Francis and I rarely speak on the phone anymore, and all my spies in the Domus Sanctae Marthae were told to work from home during Covid.
All we can do is make an earnest plea, as children to our Holy Father, that he focus on cleaning up the mess in Germany. We can only pray that he does everything in his power to keep the bishops from leading their people over a cliff, and to prevent them from exporting their Modernism to other countries.
In February, Cardinal Marx announced that he wouldn’t be standing for re-election as president of the German bishops’ conference. That may be good news—or it may be very bad news. When Steve Bannon left the Trump White House, he declared: “I’m going to be his wingman outside for the entire time.” Cardinal Marx might be thinking along the same lines. He might be more dangerous as a kind of free agent, unencumbered with official duties and responsibilities.
Or maybe, having set the wheels of revolution into motion, he’s happy to sit back and let his terrible machine do its work. Last week, Crux reports that Cardinal Marx praised Fratelli Tutti, saying the Pope “dissociated himself from the apparently tempting ideological answers to economic and social challenges given by nationalism, populism and racism. He had also repeated his warning not to erect new borders and walls between people and nations, he said.” This, coming from a confirmed Marxist.
Holy Father, your dutiful American son respectfully proposes this rule of thumb: Whatever Cardinal Marx says, for God’s sake, do the opposite.
[Photo credit: Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images News]