Germany: Politicians call on bishops to commit themselves to ordaining married men

Source: FSSPX News

Annette Schavan,Minister of Education and Norbert Lammert, President of the Bundestag (German parliament).

In a declaration published January 21 in Berlin, politicians of the Christian-Democratic Union (CDU) cited the distress of many priestless communities that are deprived of Sunday Mass to challenge the German bishops.  They ask the prelates to lobby “insistently and above all in Rome” in favor of ordaining married men in the Universal Church or, if that fails, for an exceptional arrangement that would apply only in Germany.

Among the signatories were Norbert Lammert, President of the Bundestag (German parliament), Annette Schavan, Minister of Education, and the former Ministerpräsidenten (prime ministers) Bernhard Vogel, Erwin Teufel and Dieter Althaus.  Their document is entitled:  “How to remedy the increasing priest-shortage”.  According to them, laymen who have proved themselves in their service to the community should be allowed access to priestly ordination, as “viri probati”, and they cite statements by Archbishop Walter Kasper, today a cardinal, as well as remarks along these lines about “new forms of ministry” made in the 1970’s by the theologian Joseph Ratzinger.

Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg-im-Breisgau and President of the German Bishops’ Conference, had expressed his opinion on priestly celibacy in 2008 in the German weekly magazine Der Spiegel. Saying that he was opposed to “prohibitions against considering it,” the prelate had declared that the link between the priesthood and celibacy was not “necessary from the theological point of view”.  Celibacy, which is a “great gift”, is required in the Latin tradition, but other traditions—such as the Catholic Eastern-rite Churches—have the practice of ordaining some married men.  However, at that time he had thought that “it would be a revolution which would not be followed by one part of the Church,” explaining that this question would depend on a new council and would concern the Catholic Church as a whole and not one country in particular.

On January 26, the President of the Bundestag, Norbert Lammert, repeated his critiques in Die Zeit, a daily newspaper in Hamburg:  “Someone who clings at all costs to obligatory celibacy for priests is dragging parishes into pastoral distress.”  He had in mind the shortage of priests in Germany:  “In 1960, more than 15,500 priests were active in pastoral ministry;  today there are no more than 8,500.  And in 2010 only 150 men wanted to become priests in the Catholic Church [in Germany].”

On the contrary, the German Cardinal Walter Brandmuller, former president of the Pontifical Committee of Historical Sciences, declared that politics have no say in the matter.  For this prelate, the initiative of the politicians of the CDU concerns not only the celibacy, “but constitutes a first step towards another Church”.  To propose a particular course for Germany leads, “to a situation close to a schism, to the creation of a national Church”.  The recourse to the penury of priests as an argument against celibacy, next to the decrease in the frequenting of the churches and in the number of believers, seems to be as “a narrow perspective”.  The German historian defended the celibacy that is an integral part of the tradition of the Catholic Church.  “It is clear, according to historical researches, that in early times, married men were consecrated priests and bishops, and that, after their ordination, they continued their family life but abandoned their conjugal life.”  The priest who lives as a celibate takes the life of the Master as his model.  The universal Church and even an ecumenical council should not and cannot ignore this apostolic tradition, he declared.

The Forum of German Catholics, too, condemned the initiative of the politics of the CDU.  “Do not touch upon questions that belong to the Church's internal order”, warned their spokesman, Hubert Gindert.  Politicians would do better to “attend to their first and most essential tasks, that is to say, the global protection of the human being, from his conception to his death, and therefore of the common good”.  He recalled that it belongs to the faith of Catholics to “sentire cum Ecclesia”.  This disposition aims at accepting, with heart and mind, the heritage Jesus left to His Church, at preserving it faithfully and putting it into practice in daily life.  It is in the name of the Forum, but also of other groups of Catholic laymen, such as “Youth 2000”, the association of Catholic Women called “Marian league”, and “Generation Benedict XVI”, that Hubert Gindert spoke.

In a text published on February 1, by the diocesan newspaper of Mayence, Glaube und Leben, Cardinal Karl Lehmann, former president of the Conference of German Bishops, criticized the position of certain commentators who reproached the ecclesiastical personnel with being incapable of replacing itself.  But he also expressed his regret for the tone displayed by Card. Walter Brandmuller, who condemned the politicians of the CDU for taking sides.

Also on Feb.1, Fr. Franz Schmidberger declared at Stuttgart: “As the Priestly Society of St. Pius X's District Superior of Germany, I am amazed to observe that this taking of sides constitutes a clear infringement upon the decisions of Vatican II.”  And he charged the politicians of the CDU to withdraw their decision.  Recalling that for the Society of St. Pius X the conciliar texts that are in conflict with tradition require corrections, the German priest reproached the signers of the text asking for access to the priesthood to be authorized for married men, for their “free service mentality”.  “One has the impression that the Council is transformed into a buffet of decrees where one takes what one likes.  The rest is sent back to the Roman kitchen.  He who promotes the recognition of the Council in its integrity should also hold to it,” he declared. (Sources: Apic/kna/FSSPX-Allemagne – DICI no.230, Feb. 19, 2011)

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