For a while now, reading about the heterodox opinions expressed by high ranking prelates in the German Church has rankled me. Though, the state of Catholicism in Germany has often been problematic throughout history: St. Boniface needed to constantly reconvert Germans who had lapsed back into paganism; of all the particular churches prior to the Protestant Reformation, Germany offered more examples of corruption amidst the clergy; concerning Humanes Vitae (an encyclical stating orthodox teaching concerning married love, responsible parenting, and contraceptives), German bishops stated–before the ink was dry on that document–that people should just follow their consciences irrespective of Catholic teaching; and now, they have espoused new heretical teachings! Well, what should we expect of priests who are so lax that the grand majority only goes to confession once a year–the bare minimum for a practicing Catholic?
At least, I hope they still pray their Divine Office, which is an official program of prayer and spiritual reading priests have vowed to pray each day. After I left seminary, I gave my volumes of the Divine Office to my brother, since I still had to psychologically divorce myself from the seminary. (Besides, he seemed to enjoy praying it with me on occasion.) Recently, my parents returned the volumes to me after visiting my brother, and I could not resist praying at least Morning Prayer and the Office of Readings. Conspicuous in the Office of Readings is that selections from St. Augustine’s “Sermon on Pastors” makes up the second reading from last Sunday until next Friday–probably covering the whole sermon. May the German priests take to heart St. Augustine’s admonition to feed the sheep rather than themselves! What do I mean? The German priests make themselves more popular to their fellow citizens through espousing secular ideas over doctrine. The following have come from various high ranking German prelates: homosexuality should not be taught as a sin (I believe they wish to go much farther than saying only the acts, not the disposition, are sins), sex outside of marriage is fine, and divorced and remarried Catholics may receive the Eucharist.
They justify the above notions by claiming that the Church’s laws are hard for modern man to follow. Is not the modern Church like the scribes who “…tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger” (Matthew 23:4)? Perhaps. But, in response to the German bishops complaints, the Pope has streamlined and simplified the process for an annulment. After all, if a marriage is really invalid, it should not take ten years to prove it, right? But, the majority of German bishops seem to want to go further than that in appeasing secular opinions. They want to declare that sins are not sins, an attitude which incurs the following curse in the Bible: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20). It is the highest pride and clear insanity to call what is evil good and good evil, which is sadly prevalent in modern times. People go so far as to deny the objective reality of good and evil and eventually lose their moral compass.
By feeding the sheep what the sheep want to hear, German priests can stay popular–unlike here in the United States where bishops have done things like declaring certain politicians excommunicated for supporting abortion and even telling their congregations that they cooperate materially with evil when they elect such persons to office. When the German bishops sow heretical opinions among their flock, they feed themselves. They do so because they fear the following scenario, which I pull from the pages of Gene Wolfe’s Pirate Freedom (the novel is much better than its title 🙂 ):
Fr. Houdek is well liked here, but we get fewer at mass every Sunday. That is how it seems to me. The people like him, but do not come. This morning, I said the ten o’clock mass. Until today, I have been careful to speak out as little as possible, keeping my homilies brief and talking only about the gospel for the day (or the bazaar). Today I was brief, too, but talked about marriage, the sacred character of it and the need for repentance. Without it there can be no forgiveness.
Where there is no repentance, forgiveness is only permission by another name. I hope I said that.
…Poets say we must follow our hearts. Anyone who reads their lives will soon see where that leads and where it ends.
The people were not smiling when mass was over. I shook their hands as I always do….Usually someone says how hard my hand is. No one did that today.
Maybe it would have been better if they had smiled. (145-146)
Priests should not fear to be hated by their parish. As St. Paul says, “I will most gladly spend and be spent for you. If I love you more, am I to be loved less?” (2 Cor 12:15) and “Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves before you? We are speaking in Christ before God. Everything we do, beloved, is for the sake of building you up” (2 Cor 12:19). St. Augustine ends his homily by saying that pastors should all speak with one voice. One voice, because it is Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, whom they represent and to whom they should conform their entire lives. I hope that one voice rings out at the Synod of the Family in October of 2015.