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German ConstitutionalYesterday, I wrote a post about the situation within the Catholic Church in Germany. (see here)  I tried to illustrate that the local (German) situation is a bit different than that which cards. Kasper and Marx presented to the outside world at the recently concluded Secret Synod. To be more precise, the positions regarding serial adulterers divorced and remarried receiving communion and aberro-sexuals of the German Church authorities, as presented by those two clerics to the outside world, are not as monolithic among the German bishops as it would appear from their representations.

As I was writing the above post, a very important development occurred. Since my post was already rather long, I decided to do a follow-up post on this material. The important development has to do with the German Bishops’ Conference attempt to change the German Church labor law, and simultaneously secretly undermine Catholic teaching. What has however made this situation more “fluid” is that a court decision has been issued which one can only describe as : a ruling supported Catholicism and against the German Bishops’ Conference.

I reproduced an article which appeared on the Breitbart New Service website written by Edward Pentin. (see here). I have also taken the liberty to rearrange Mr. Pentin’s paragraphs to provide a more coherent picture of the issues at stake.

Background

Now if you will recall, Mr. Pentin,  is the same reporter who had the minor problem with card. Kasper at the Secret Synod (as described recently here). He provides a very good overview of the situation on the ground: (with emphasis and [comments])

Germany’s Catholic bishops are pressing ahead with reform of a controversial Church labor law that would allow employees who are in homosexual relationships or those divorced and civilly remarried to work in Church-run institutions.

What this new “reformed” Church labor law entails is as follows:

The proposed changes, allegedly being spearheaded by Jesuit Father Hans Langendörfer, Secretary of the German Bishops’ Conference, have been considered in secret for at least the past 18 months, according to sources. “It’s like a hidden bombshell,” one informed source close to the German Church said, adding that the language they will also use will be purposefully vague and therefore open to interpretation. This could be used, opponents fear, to dismiss those employees who are upholding Church teaching and being “too Catholic” on the grounds that they are the ones causing scandal by creating a “negative atmosphere.”

To tie in the last sentence to yesterday’s post, these laws will allow for the disciplining of bishops like van Elst while allowing bishops like Ackermann to do whatever they so choose. And now under not only the guise of “collegiality”, but on the basis of “the law”.

Germans and the Law

For those readers who have no contact with Germany proper, as is the case with most non-Europeans, a little explanation here is in order. The Germans take “the law” very seriously. This law abiding tradition is a national character trait that has defined the Germans from earliest times. A good example of this national respect for the law can be seen by watching how German pedestrians react when standing on a street corner during a red light. Furthermore, due to the countries unfortunate history, the post war generation has decided to secure the nation against a repeat of previous episodes through the creation and strict adherence to “the Grundgesetz” which translates into the Basic Law. The Grundgesetz is the superior law of the German land. This Basic Law is strictly enforced by the courts, and its primary purpose is to protect the German state from threats, whether foreign or domestic.

A good case in point is how the German high court, or the Verfassungsgericht ruled in the case of a constitutional complaint brought by a group of German professors against the European Central Bank’s debt purchasing program, known as the OMT. This OMT program was designed to fight the financial crisis in the wider Europe, and is managed by the Italian head of the European Central Bank, and Jesuit educated Mario Draghi. Now, the importance of the ruling is that it ties the hands of Mr. Drahgi, and creates a situation where the entire European Union could easily disintegrate, creating havoc across the entire continent. This havoc would mostly affect the Germans themselves, so it is not in the best interest of the Germans to tie Mr. Draghi’s hands, or so the argument goes. But to the German mindset, the law is THE LAW.

In an article pertaining to the latest ruling, titled: “German court parks tank on ECB lawn, kills OMT bond rescue” (see here), we read the following passage:

Germany’s top court has issued a blistering attack on the European Central Bank, arguing that its rescue plan for the euro violates EU treaty law and exceeds the bank’s policy mandate.

When reading the above, one also needs to keep in mind that the German law is FORMALLY subservient to the European law.

Another quote for more context:

The court judgment was shockingly harsh, though it left a possible way out if the OMT is redesigned and greatly limited in scope. “There are important reasons to assume it exceeds the ECB’s monetary policy mandate and thus infringes the powers of the Member States, and that it violates the prohibition of monetary financing of the budget,” said the court.

The above hopefully provide a good insight into the relationship between “the Law” as it regulates the activities of the citizen and the state. And we see how defensive the highest court can be when issues of security of the state arise.

Court Ruling on the Church Labor Law

Now that we have a better idea of how seriously the Germans take their law, we can make some observations about the Church Law court ruling itself. For this, we return to Mr. Pentins article where he writes:

Proponents of change were wrong-footed last week when Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court ruled that a Catholic hospital in Düsseldorf had the right to dismiss a senior doctor who was divorced and remarried.

The judges overturned a prior judgment of the Federal Labor Court which had declared the dismissal of the doctor invalid. The constitutional court ruled that the labor court had not “sufficiently taken into account” the meaning and scope of the Church’s autonomy.

In other words, the Church can fire individuals who do not abide by Church teachings.

And how did the German Bishops react to this favorable court ruling? This passage sheds light:

German bishops have publicly welcomed the constitutional court’s ruling, but played it down […best laid plans] and are expected to spin their new law as “more merciful”. The court ruling has shown, however, the country’s judges to be arguably more Catholic (even though some are not Catholic) than many of the country’s bishops.

Significance of the timing of the court ruling

It turns out that the best laid plans of the German Bishops were dashed by the timing of the court ruling. Mr. Pentin writes:

The timing of the ruling is also interesting as many of the bishops hoped the court would have given the ruling after they had met and decided on the new changes to the Church’s labor law.

Which leads to a very interesting question and that is this. Why did the Court issue the ruling before the Bishops’ Conference vote?

Mr. Pentin provides a very good answer to just that question. The following is the explanation:

The motives behind the court’s decision are said to be a willingness among Germany’s judiciary to uphold religious freedom in the face of Islamist threats and riots in Germany involving supporters of the Islamic State militant group.[… those people with who Francis wants to dialogue.] Realizing the Islamist threat is increasing, they have reportedly opted for a way that strengthens the Church and religious freedom. [Shocking… to the uninitiated!] The ruling also follows a similar decision taken in June this year by the European Court of Human.[…and it’s not just the Germans] Rights to uphold Church autonomy.

So it would appear that the German courts as well as the European courts are starting to view Christianity as a counterweight to the perceived threat of the “Islamification” of the European continent.

A good illustration of this perceived treat is obtained from this story that appeared in the German press recently, where local Islamic vigilantes started to organize “sharia” police units to patrol Muslim neighborhoods in Germany (see here). In the article we read:

The German government has strongly criticized nightly patrols in the city of Wuppertal by men calling themselves “Sharia police.” The 33-year-old behind the patrols claimed that their goal was only to raise attention.

Not only has the German government criticized the “Sharia police”, but it appears that the German courts are doing something about it. And that something is issuing favorable rulings in “religious liberty” cases for the Catholic Church.

Bishops Conference vote on new Labor Law

The German Bishops’ Conference wanted to quickly pass the new Church labor law. Here is what transpired. We read the following:

The bishops were to unanimously vote in favor of change on Nov. 24, [ “unanimously”. Everything is “unanimously” until it’s not “unanimously”] but decided to postpone the decision until April after a minority of conservative bishops resisted the move. They were also impeded by a federal court ruling that ironically supported the Church’s current laws that forbid employing staff whose lifestyles run contrary to Church teaching. [ Looks like a knock out one-two punch!]

So it “appears” that the vote that “the bishops were to unanimously vote in favor of change on Nov. 24″,was postponed. The reason given was that a “minority” of conservative bishops resisted the move. This is no doubt the case. This is exactly the point I raised in yesterdays post when I wrote see here):

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.

But a further question is this: since when did a minority of conservative bishops have anything to say in the Deutsche BIG Religion? Just to make the point, here is the quote from card. Marx before the Secret Synod, where he deals with the minority bishops views:

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.

So it looks like there was no need for unanimity in the German Bishops’ Conference position that card. Marx went with to the Synod, but now the German bishop have a need for unanimity to pass a “much less important” and according to its proponents a “benign” church law?

Well, not really.

Concluding

What is most likely the case, and the cause of the problems for the German Bishops’ Conference is the court decision which would supersede whatever political decisions that the bishops would have made.

Therefore, it is not clean cut whether this new Church labor law will come into effect. And by the time the Synod of 2015 rolls around, the “priorities “ of the German Bishops might be somewhere else. And the reason being that the courts will have changed their agenda.

Let’s chalk one up a small victory to the “god of surprises”.

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