- Catholic News Agency - Tuesday, March 24, 2015

MUNICH, Germany - A German cardinal has publicly opposed the words of two German bishops who have suggested that the nation’s Church can form its own policies without direction from Rome.

Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes published a letter earlier this month objecting to the pronouncements of prominent leaders of the Church in Germany that the nation’s bishops’ conference will pursue its own program of pastoral care for marriages and family regardless of the outcome of October’s Synod on the Family.

At a Feb. 25 press conference following the German bishops’ plenary assembly, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, who is president of the conference, stated, “We are not a branch of Rome. Each conference of bishops is responsible for pastoral care in its cultural context and must preach the Gospel in its own, original way. We cannot wait for a synod to tell us how we have to shape pastoral care for marriage and family here.”

Cardinal Marx, whom the German bishops have chosen as one of their three delegates at the upcoming Synod on the Family, added that there are “certain expectations” of Germany in helping the Church to open doors and “go down new paths,” and that “in doctrine, we also learn from life.”

He was echoed by Bishop Franz-Josef Bode of Osnabruck – a fellow synod delegate – who called the upcoming Synod on the Family a “historically important” moment and a “paradigm shift,” urging that “the reality of men and the world” be a source for theological understanding.

This year’s Synod follows one held in October 2014 that permitted preliminary discussions of knotty social issues, including premarital cohabiting, divorce, remarriage and treatment of same-sex couples and their children.

Cardinal Cordes – who was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Paderborn and is president emeritus of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum – published a strenuous objection to the media statements of his fellow German bishops in the form of a March 7 letter to the editor of Die Tagespost, a prominent German language Catholic newspaper. The text of the original letter was translated to English by CNA’s Jan Bentz.

“Since the words of the highest representative of Catholics in Germany have a guideline-like character, and create substantial waves in the media, it makes sense to object publicly to some of the utterances, in order to limit the confusion which they have caused,” Cardinal Cordes wrote.

The cardinal noted that the February press conference was focused on the Synod on the Family, and on particular of the proposal by Cardinal Walter Kasper – another German – to admit some among the divorced and civilly remarried to Communion.

“The problem was addressed with the beautiful words of ‘new solutions’ and ‘opening doors’,” Cardinal Cordes wrote.

He responded to Cardinal Marx’ characterization of the Church in Germany as an exemplar by saying that “if he wanted to express that Germany is example in leading the faithful to a giving oneself up to Christ, then I think the bishop is fooled by wishful thinking. The existing German ecclesial apparatus is completely unfit to work against growing secularism.”

“It was not without reason,” Cardinal Cordes wrote, that Benedict XVI strongly urged the Church in Germany to become less worldly during his 2011 visit there.

The cardinal noted that a recent survey showed that among Catholics in western Germany, only 16 percent believe God to be personal, and “all other Catholics see in God a faceless providence, an anonymous fate along the lines of a primordial power. Or they simply deny his existence flat out.”

“What do they think of when they pray the Our Father? So there is no reason to pride ourselves on our faith if we stand in comparison to other countries,” Cardinal Cordes wrote.

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