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Deer in Spotlight

While the big news yesterday was the papal visit to Strasbourg, where Francis was greeted by huge and enthusiastic crowds of Francis Folk (see here and here), a story appeared on the Eponymous Flower website which went almost unnoticed. The reason why I draw your attention to this story is to provide some insight into what is happening in the lands of cards. Kasper, Lehman and Schönborn. Insight that would ordinarily not reach the general public, since control over the “messaging” in Germany and Austria is quite hermetic.

According to the post, a rebellion is taking place in the diocese of Trier Germany (see here). The archbishop at the center of the revolt is none other than the Lord Bishop Stefan Ackermann, the ordinary of the Imperial City of Trier.

Background

Bishop Ackermann is a rising star (see page 9 here) within the German Bishops’ Conference. How do we know this, aside from what is written in the above article? It’s simple. The positions which bp. Ackermann has taken on a series of social issues, are contrary to Catholic teaching (see here and here). Yet these positions are perfectly in line with the personal magiteriums of cards. Kasper, Lehman and Schonborn, or what passes in the German speaking Church as its BIG RELIGION.

If one has already forgot the narrative that was created by the German speaking bishops before the Secret Synod of 2014, here is a quick reminder. This narrative can best be characterized as follows: unified position of the German speaking bishops makes the “Pastoral Aggiornamento” inevitable. In the below passage, card. Marx presents the position of the German Bishops’ Conference before the Secret Synod. The following gives a good insight into the spin. (see here): (with emphasis)

Marx announced in Magdeburg, however, that he personally, as soon as the Synod will have begun, as President of the German Bishops’ Conference has an already revised document he will present that will explain the position of the German bishops at the Synod. In any case the majority. The minority will probably have no voice at the Synod. Those German bishops who support the position of Kasper, Marx and his predecessor, Zollitsch, all are notable signatories of the document, so says the DBK-chairman. The ranks of the German bishops will be pretty close.

Yes, a pre-written and already “revised” document makes an appearance. But the more important part is that the “minority position of the German bishops will “probably have no voice at the Synod”. And this was the last time we heard about the “dissent of the minority bishops”.

Dissent within the ranks of the German Bishops.

Even though the dissenting position of the minority German bishops was swept under the rug during the anticipated great “Pastoral Aggiornamento” at the Secret Synod, it does not mean that dissent does not exist. One area where it has been quite vocal is in the criticism of our rising star of the German Bishops’ Conference, the good bp. Ackermann.

In a story that was posted at the EF blog on 15 February 2014 (see here), we read that Wolfgang Ipolt, Bishop of Görlitz said some critical words directed about bp. Ackermann. The issue was one very familiar to us by now, namely receiving communion by serial adulterers divorced and remarried. In the post, we read the following:

The Bishop of Görlitz also criticizes Bishop Ackermann: “It can” in the future not simply be a matter of adapting to life’s conventions – which are one thing today and another tomorrow, we must measure ourselves rather as baptized in the gospel.”

Just so you understand exactly what was at stake in the above quote, here is the context:

“Whether a person is in a state of grace (divorced and remarried or not), no one can say about another. But with divorce and remarriage it comes to an objective contrary to the commandment of the Lord -., Not so much about how he personally feels before God,”

And it’s not just bp. Ipolt. We also learn the following:

The Fulda Bishops Heinz Josef Algermissen, the Augsburg Bishop Conrad Zdarsa, the bishop of Eichstätt, Gregor Maria Hanke and the press office of the Diocese of Regensburg have expressed decidedly critical of Ackermann’s theses, as kath.net has reported.
So that is four bishops in total. And there is a fifth.

Dangers of holding dissenting positions

Now these bishops are not only criticizing the German Bishops’ Conference position as presented at the Secret Synod, but these bishops are also breaking an unwritten law of the “new springtime” and the law according to Francis, and that law is “forced collegiality”.

A good example of just how vulnerable these bishops become once they criticize the Deutsche “Pastoral Aggiornamento” can be seen from the example of the former Bishop of Limburgh, Bishop Franz-Peter van Elst Tebartz. Yes, this is the infamous “bishop of bling”.

In a post appearing on the blog In Caelo, an interview appear with card. Lehman (see here), the former President of the German Bishops’ Conference and the most powerful cleric in Germany (see here), who sheds some new light on the removal of the Bishop of Limburgh. Here is the relevant text:

“As president of the Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Zollitsch had asked Bishop Tebartz twice in the standing council – that is the meeting of the bishops without the auxiliary bishops – if he could tell us something about the allegations which had been raised in Limburg. Bishop Tebartz twice had 20 or 25 minutes to explain the situation. And there, I am sorry to say, he avoided all the difficult questions. When the request was then made to publish an official statement for him, some of us said, “I can’t do that, since I don’t really know what’s going on in Limburg.” Had Bishop Tebartz been more collegial and open, he would have gotten more support from us. I’m sorry.”

Got that. Are we crystal clear about why the Bishop of Limburg was removed? If you are not, here is more from the EF blog: (see here)

The outlandish Frankfurt “experiment” [where aberro-sexuals are brought into the church under the guise of “reducing their pain”] was endorsed by the Emeritus Bishop of Limburg, Franz Kamphaus. The homo-believers and the associations supporting the Catholic ground staff in Frankfurt cared not a whit to the heavy criticism that has been voiced by his successor, Bishop Franz-Peter van Elst Tebartz against the special community. [At last, some insight as to the true reason for Bishop van Elst’s treatment by the “Catholic” press, as insidiously in the service of the enemy as always.]

Oh my! The narratives differ.

But, but we all thought that bp van Elst was removed for profligate spending, (see here) when the spending by the President of the German Bishops’ Conference, which was much larger, wasn’t even noticed (see here)

So bp. van Elst was not removed for profligate spending after all. According to card. Lehmann, bp van Elst’s grave offense was “not accepting a friendly offer of collegiality”

But regardless, the problem of bp. van Elst’s “non collegiality” has been eliminated since he was removed.

Speaking of the grave offense of “non collegiality”, where have we heard that before? Oh yes, that was the explanation given for removing bp. Livieres from the diocese of Ciudad del Este. But I digress…

So that makes it at least 5 bishops who are in the minority camp. Now given that there are approximately 144 living German bishops (see here), including Benedict XVI and cards. Muller and Brandmuller, the majority positions which the German speaking cardinals presented at the Secret Synod could have been a majority position. However, what needs to be kept in mind is that the minority position is a dangerous position to hold, let alone to make public. Therefore there is no real way of gauging how many of these bishops support the leadership position of the German Bishops’ Conference.

Laity entering into the fray.

Now that we have an idea of the lay of the land on the ground inside the Church in Germany, we can examine the particular situation regarding the bishop of Trier. The archbishops problems began with the removal of a pastor from a local parish in the diocese of Trier. Here is the relevant passage:

With flaming protest, believers turned from their parish church in Beckinger to their Bishop Stefan Ackermann. At a rally they made the special trip to Trier. This followed the dismissal of the Beckinger pastor, Christoph Eckert. The altercation between the faithful and Bishop Ackermann has now drawn national attention to himself.

And what are the grievances against bishop Ackermann? (with emphasis and [comments])

Here is a short list presenting the positive case for the pastor, Fr. Christoph Eckert:

We spent years on the right track with our pastor. He gave us the beauty of the Catholic faith, [does not sound like N.O.] not only showing it but he planted it with the heart and soul of the Good Shepherd in our hearts and lived with us. He was not a cold pastoral functionary. He lived as a priest of Jesus Christ with us. [sounds Catholic with capital C] He has directed our parishes with verve and vigor!

He has worked the mind of the Church and the Church what his job is. We, who were entrusted to him, he has always brought confidence in this church.[Oh my, sounds like “doctrinal certainty”] Especially the many children and young people who have come to know the Church through his work as pastor in a time of uncertainty,[“children, young people”… definitely not N.O.] as a home in faith and life.

In August of this year, our pastor altar showed the young Christians of our parish at the  altar boy pilgrimage to Rome, [Not N.O. confirmed. No alter girls. On an aside, see here] the foundation of the Church: Peter, the rock on which the Church is founded. The rock that will guarantee the unity of the Church with the bishops.

And now the case against bp. Ackermann:

He of all people, who should be in the faith, the guarantee of unity for us, has punished our pastor, because of his clear and unequivocal proclamation, his fidelity to the Roman Church and to its tradition, with a dismissal.

He introduces himself, after a few complainants from our ranks who were chafed by the Catholic orientation of pastoral care in our parish community and those of the pastor who is a thorn in their sides because of his loyalty to the Church. [Leftist troublemaker are called out. Ackermann siding with them.]

These [Leftist troublemakers] are not representative of the believers in Beckingen! We have pointed out time and again in letters to the bishop and in public statements. You [bp. Ackermann] have not been listening to us!

So those are the facts.  I’m thinking, maybe “Had Bishop Tebartz Ackermann been more collegial and open, he would have gotten more support from us the laity.”   But that would mean that “collegiality” is a two way street. Hmmm. Can’t have that, now can we?

Conclusion

The reason why I am highlighting this particular situation is due to its uniqueness. In the above case, the unfortunate bp. Ackermann is pitted against a “real Catholic” rebellion.

In Germany and Austria, when a bishop or priest is targeted, the usual modus operandi is as follows; an individual or small group starts a letter writing campaign, the letters are written to the local media with a copy being delivered to the targeted chancellery while the cameras are rolling, the media make a big stink, and the under the guise of “non-collegiality” or similar non offense, the offending cleric is removed. We also see a similar situation in the US with Bishop Finn (see here).

This was the case with bp. Van Elst. A “false” narrative was created with the accompanying media coverage, a narrative that provided a pretext for a card Kasper type to come in and “resolve” the issue by deposing the offending cleric.

However, in the bp Ackermann case, we are actually seeing a ground roots movement. This movement not only initiated a letter writing campaign, which was ignored by bp. Ackermann, but actually was able to put “boots on the ground”. And here in lies the uniqueness of bp. Ackermann’s situation. A situation in which, because it is not “stage managed”, bp. Ackermann does not know how to respond. He refuses to speak to them.

The second important takeaway here is that this protest has become a national issue in Germany. In other words, the media has allowed the information to get outside of “its local control”. This is also significant, since in a country like Germany, the population is controlled by a strong media, whose roots are based in laws that were, for the most part, implemented circa 1933, and have been retained due to their effectiveness in controlling the population.

Furthermore, the German Catholic Church is not only wealthy, but is also Germany’s second largest employer with over 690,000 employees (see here), which makes the Catholic Church in Germany resemble a business more than a religious organization. This situation makes it difficult for Catholic dissent to originate from within its ranks, but it appears that in the ranks of the paying customers laity the ground for dissent is fertile.

Therefore, taking into account the situation above, it is heartening to see that the pockets of real resistance to the “new springtime” are not only active in the life of the church, but are becoming vocal and their story is starting to break out through the media filters that traditionally have muffled this dissent.

 

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