The Rhine Flows Into The Tiber - Again

Martin Luther burns the Papal bull in the square of Wittenberg in the year 1520.
Oil Painting on Canvas by Karl Aspelin 1857-1922

'The Rhine Flows Into the Tiber.' Well, not exactly. The Rhine River in Germany doesn't really flow into the Tiber River in Italy, but it was the title of a great book, written by the Reverend Ralph M. Wiltgen. It has since been retitled 'The Inside Story of Vatican II'. The book highlights the profound influence of German-speaking bishops on the Second Vatican Council. It seems that post war Germany asserted a lot of influence on the Catholic Church over the last several decades, including many Germans holding high ranking positions at the Vatican, and one who even served as pope for eight years. However, the influence of German bishops has been a mixed bag. German clergy apparently only come in two flavours: uber-orthodox and uber-liberal. For example, Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI, fits into the uber-orthodox category, as does Cardinal Gerhard Muller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. There are others too, both inside and outside the Vatican. Meanwhile, examples of the uber-liberal faction include Cardinal Walter Kasper and the current head of the German Bishops Conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx. Both have a significant following in the Catholic Church in Germany.

Perhaps much of this can be explained by the collection methods of the Catholic Church in Germany. You see, in Germany, officially state-recognised churches are subsidised by the state in what is commonly known as the kirchensteuer or 'church tax'. There are a handful of European countries that do this, but Germany has the most notable version. Under the kirchensteuer German citizens are required to declare their religion on their tax forms. If they declare Lutheran, for example, a small percentage of tax revenue collected from them goes to the Evangelical (Lutheran) Church of Germany. If they declare Catholic, than a small percentage of tax revenue collected from them goes to the Catholic Church. etc. This amounts to about 8% to 9% of their annual taxes to the church in which they officially belong on paper. So you can imagine how incredibly convenient this is for the average church-goer. There is no need to put money in the collection plate, unless you want to throw in a few euros for good measure, because a good chunk of your annual income is already going to your church automatically. You never even see it. As it just comes out of your paycheck. For example; if you're a Catholic, and you make €50,000 annually, then you pay an annual income tax of 20% or €10,000. Now, of that €10,000, about 8% to 9% (depending on where you live) goes to the German Catholic Church. That's about €800 to €900.  In Germany, about 70% of all Church revenue comes from the kirchensteuer, so the churches are highly dependent upon it. Still, that's regular income, and it's steady income. This has made the Catholic Church in Germany one of the most well funded churches in all of Europe, indeed all the world! The Catholic Archdiocese of Cologne in Germany reportedly has assets at over €3.35 billion, which is more than the entire Vatican at only €2.64 billion! Now keep that in mind that this is just one single archdiocese -- the Archdiocese of Cologne. The Catholic Church in Germany consists of 7 archdioceses and 20 dioceses. The operating budgets of these dioceses are enormous, and it has made the Catholic Church in Germany one of the nation's largest employers. It has also created what some have called a 'lavish lifestyle' for many high ranking clergy within the German Catholic Church.

There is another dynamic going on in Germany in addition to this. The number of young people who continue to associate with the Catholic Church, even just on paper, is falling, as is the case with all Christian affiliations. While church attendance has reached a record low, numbers continue to drop, with no end in sight. With a drop in numbers also comes a drop in revenue, because even though Catholics remain legally associated with the Church on paper, a growing number of young Catholics, who no longer attend mass, are declaring 'no religion' to avoid paying the kirchensteuer. So the German Catholic Church is finding itself becoming increasingly irrelevant in the emerging German culture, and in order to maintain its revenue from the kirchensteuer, the Church has to make itself as attractive as possible, to as many people as possible.

Thus enters the Kasper-Marx proposal, which is to change the application of Catholic teaching on marriage and sexuality, allowing the divorced and remarried, along with practising homosexuals, to receive communion and no longer 'feel excluded from the life of the Church'. In typical liberal ideology, the answer to the failed liberal policies of the German Catholic Church is, of course, more liberalism! However, the German Catholic Church has a little problem. Unlike the Evangelical (Lutheran) Church in Germany, it cannot change its beliefs and practices with a simple majority vote of German bishops. It must get the worldwide Catholic Church, especially the Vatican, to go along with it.

By now you can clearly see that the German Catholic Church of the twenty-first century has fallen a long way from the German Catholic Church of the 1960s. Whatever moderate-liberal tendencies it had back then, have now degenerated into outright moral relativism, and many are saying that the love of money is the cause behind allot of this. I cannot stress this enough. The German Catholic Church of the 1960s was an entirely different church than it is today. The German-speaking bishops at Vatican II aren't even around any more. Those running the German Catholic Church today are their successors, and what we are seeing from many of them is a stunning lack of faith. Now, that doesn't include every German bishop. There are still a few good ones left. One cannot paint with a broad brush on these matters. I'm speaking of the majority here, not every single bishop or priest.

While there is no shortage of liberal bishops around the world, it is the German bishops who are pushing the new liberal agenda in Rome today. This is important, because as the Extraordinary Synod on the Family unfolded last year, many were taken by surprise, and the average lay Catholic simply did not know from whence the extreme push came. Sadly, Pope Francis took the brunt of the backlash for this, even though it is clear now that he was not the source of the problem. Now we know, not only what the problem is, but also from where it comes. The problem is a new push for sexual liberation within the Catholic Church, and the troublemakers are primarily the German Catholic bishops. As I said, there are other bishops too, from other places, but it is Germany that leads the charge. Furthermore, we also know why, or at least, we have a pretty good idea why. The German Catholic Church has an enormous operating budget, and it needs to keep that machine running, even if it means at the expense of orthodoxy.

I have made a personal promise to myself that I would not blog on the events of the upcoming Ordinary Synod on the Family as they happen, or for some time afterwards. I might comment on some official statements that are made, but as far as the inner workings go, I'll leave that up to more competent media sources, such as Church MilitantLifeSiteNews, the National Catholic Register and EWTN. Right now, however, a lot of new information is coming out about the German Catholic Church, and I believe it would be beneficial to all Catholics to know what it is, who is behind it, and how they want to use it. The German Episcopal Conference has released their working document for the upcoming October Synod on the Family. The full text of the document can be viewed in English here. I will pull out some notable highlights below, with my own commentary in RED...
...As a matter of principle, the faithful expect everyone to be accepted both in the Church and in society, regardless of their sexual orientation, Actually, what the faithful expect and what the Church teaches are often two different things. Still what should be expected is acceptance of the individual person without acceptance of the sinful behaviour. and that an atmosphere of appreciation towards all be promoted in the parishes. Hmm. Almost all responses concur with the view that is put forward in the human sciences (medicine, psychology), So now human sciences trump the word of God? namely that sexual orientation is a disposition that is not selected by the individual It is true that we often cant chose our temptations in life. and that it is unchangeable. Ha! Tell that to the thousands of homosexual persons who have changed. It is therefore confusing for the questionnaire to speak of “homosexual tendencies”, and this is considered to be discriminatory Ah! Discrimination. The greatest of all sins according to the liberal mindset....
...Only a small number of respondents fundamentally reject homosexual relationships as constituting a grave sin. Oh. So if German Catholics say its not a sin, then it must not be a sin. Right? The vast majority expects the Church to carry out a differentiated moral theological evaluation Wait! I thought this was only supposed to be about practice not doctrine!?! which takes account of pastoral experience and of the findings of the humanities. Most Catholics accept homosexual relationships if the partners practice values such as love, faithfulness, responsibility for one another and reliability, What a crock! The German bishops have nobody but themselves to blame for this and they know it. They refused to teach Catholic sexual ethics for decades. So it's no surprise that most German Catholics think homosexual relationships are okay. Now the German bishops are trying to tell us that because their clergy and laypeople no longer believe in Catholic sexual ethics, they must not be relevant any more. They create the problem, then they turn around and try to use the problem to change the teaching of the entire Catholic Church. but they do not thereby place homosexual partnerships on the same footing as marriage. For now! It is a matter of appreciating whilst at the same time stressing differentness. Gawd! Seriously? Some of the statements also favour a blessing for such partnerships which is distinct from marriage I'm sure they do. So what they want is Episcopalianism? That's not exactly a model of growth and success...
...On the basis of our pastoral experience, we would therefore like to explicitly emphasise the question which Cardinal Walter Kasper posed in his address before the College of Cardinals on 20/21 February 2014: “But if a divorced and remarried person is truly sorry that he or she failed in the first marriage, if the commitments from the first marriage are clarified and a return is definitely out of the question, Has anybody in Germany ever heard of an annulment? if he or she cannot undo the commitments of a second marriage without new guilt, Annulment anyone? if he or she strives to the best of his or her ability to live out the second civil marriage on the basis of faith Annulment? and to raise their children in the faith, Bueller?... Beuller?  if he or she longs for the sacraments as a source of strength in his or her situation, do we then have to refuse or can we refuse him or her the sacrament of penance and communion, after a period of reorientation?” Of course they're going to back the Kasper question, but what about Marx? Seriously, why are they even asking?
I mention Cardinal Marx here because the last question above is a joke. They know what the answer is. They just want Rome to officially say it, or back down to this kind of passive-aggressive question. Ideally, they would like Rome to back down, and give Germany permission to go ahead with their plans to admit to communion the divorced and remarried (adulterers) and practising homosexuals (sodomites). If Rome gives them permission, they win! However, if Rome does not give them permission, they win anyway, but just in a different way, because they make Rome out to be the bully, while they make themselves look like the poor oppressed German bishops who are just trying to give the people what they want. Cardinal Marx has already openly stated that the German Catholic Church will go ahead with their plans with, or without, Rome's approval. So, according to Marx and the German Bishops Conference, it doesn't matter what happens at the upcoming synod. It doesn't matter what Pope Francis has to say about it. Their minds are made up. The appearance is, they need to do this to secure their financial future, and like any common corporation, they will do whatever they have to do to secure the bottom line -- money! Orthodox Catholicism be damned, they need to secure their revenue!

If you would like to learn more about the situation in the German Catholic Church, a recent video on the matter was done by Church Militant. It can be viewed here. They of course are not the only ones who have touched on this topic. A growing number of Catholic media are beginning to recognise the grave situation that exists in Germany, and that what we saw at the Extraordinary Synod last year was in actuality the upheavals in the German Church surfacing among their episcopal emissaries in Rome. Just as we might see a child's tantrum as a sign of a deeper problem, so too the chaos that erupted at the synod last year might be seen as a sign of much deeper spiritual problems in Germany. What is going on in Germany right now might even rival the upheavals that led to the Protestant Reformation. For now we must pray that these upheavals do not contaminate Church teachings on marriage. After the Synod, we'll have to pray for the overall situation in Germany.



Shane Schaetzel is a published author and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of 'FullyChristian.Com -- The random musings of a Catholic in the Ozarks.'

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