In a very German turn of events, we are informed the Pope ran the risk of being fined up to €2,500 for not wearing the seat belt during his recent visit to Germany.
In an even more German development, we are informed it was now decided “the law didn’t apply to the Pope since he was on public streets that were closed for papal events”.
And just when you thought this is as German as it goes, be informed that the entire proceeding had been started “on behalf of an unnamed Dortmund resident who voiced concern over the Pope’s safety”.
By the speed Popemobiles have reached these days, you can understand his concerns….. all those slugs having to run for cover…
The omnipresent Father Lombardi said he was ““grateful for the affectionate concern for the Pope’s safety”. But wait! Father Lombardi is not a German!
Well, this is then (how should I put it) a very Italian turn of events…
The CNA reports Pope Benedict’s observations about the German Church with the following words:
Using Catholicism in Germany as an example, the Pope said that while the German Church was “superbly organized” it was perhaps lacking in a “corresponding spiritual strength, the strength of faith in a living God.”
Having lived in Germany more than some years, I can only confirm the analysis. Whilst no one can deny that the German Church is very well organised – besides the German penchant for organisation, this is an extremely wealthy Church – during my German years I could never escape the impression that for all German Christian organisations (the Only Church as well as the Protestant ecclesial communities) God is an embarrassment that can be safely mentioned only in the most innocuous of circumstances, that is: in conjunction with “feel-good” issues like world peace, or social justice.
This is why the Holy Father’s words are important: the Pope is telling his bishops that an important reason why the Germans are getting more and more distant from a healthy approach to life – the critic of the Western secularism is here clearly aimed at the specific situation he is dealing with – is that “the faith in a living God” is lacking in strenght in his own shepherds.
I see the same happening here in the UK of course, though I find here in the UK examples of spotless orthodoxy that would be probably more difficult to find in Germany. But the message is clear: if the shepherds don’t have a strong faith, how will they be able to give a strong faith to their sheep? As always, the fish stinks from the head down.
When we ask ourselves, though, who has appointed the present German hierarchy, two names come to mind: Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. My suggestion to the Holy Father would be – if I were ever be asked to give one – that if he wants that the German Church has a strong faith it might help to appoint bishops who have it, rather than failed social workers obsessed with popularity, and with the Kirchensteuer.
Another interesting observation of the Holy Father concerns the difference that people coming from other countries see in the individual attitude of Westerners: the obsessive self-centredness.
Even coming from Italy – a partly secularised country, but where traditional values still have a stronger hold than here in the North – I was rather shocked at seeing how here in the UK and in the USA the pursuing of one’s every whim has become a religion in itself. A married couple informing their friends that they are going to split will be inundated with messages of “support” and wishes of “happiness”, reinforcing the idea that the pursuit of the individual happiness of the two be more important than the godly institution they have just decided to bomb. Not so in Italy, where la famiglia, exactly as la Patria – and, alas, often even more so – has rights on the individual that go above his own pursuit of an anyway largely illusory personal happiness.
This in Italy, a partially secularised country. I can imagine the shock of people coming from African countries, where not many think twice about walking for hours every week to go to Mass, and the Christian commandments are different from their Western counterparts “be nice”, “don’t judge” and “provided no one is harmed, it isn’t a sin”.
I heard with my ears a Catholic priest say that he didn’t know the Ten Commandments by heart, and wasn’t interested in learning them.
I don’t think you’ll find many of those outside of the West.
Personally, I am not enthusiastic about what I have been reading concerning Pope Benedict’s travel to Germany.
There is in this visit, it seems to me, too much accent on wrong ecumenism, and too little on right Catholicism.
Was it necessary to visit a former monastery now dedicated to a heretic, I wonder. And if it is really necessary to visit such a monastery, should not be the duty of a Catholic – even more so, of a Pope – to make clear to every non-Catholic that there is no salvation outside of the Church, and to explain to them that whilst one can be brought inside the Church in ways we cannot entirely fathom – how many have been saved by last-minute conversion, or perfect contrition before death, we will never know – the willed separation from the Only Church can easily lead to damnation? Isn’t the fight against error something that should be, in the mind of every sincere Christian – even more so, of a Pope – the paramount consideration, and come before every talk of “ecumenical dialogue”, every diplomatic consideration, every show of desire for a “unity” talked about as if it was a value in itself?
And what is the sense – I mean, the religious one; I fully understand the political motive – of traveling to a Protestant site and telling a congregation of assorted Lutherans that we should focus on what unites us? Has heresy been reduced to an aside, something you look at as if it were only a nasty stain on a beautiful painting, an annoying detail, something that should not be allowed to distract you from the main image? Isn’t it, in fact, exactly the contrary: that it is the very fact that we are all Christians that makes heresy so painful and such a wound in the body of Christianity, nay, in the body of Christ?
Isn’t it so, that the photos that will now be transmitted around the world – the Pope on the observer’s right; the head of the German heretics on the left; no obvious distinction in rank or dignity – create a powerful visual image of Catholicism and Heresy being two variants of the same Faith, with equal legitimacy? Isn’t it so, that the massive talk of ecumenical dialogue of the last days generates the impression that the “talks” between Catholics and Protestants be akin to the talks between, say, Israelis and Palestinians, that is: talks were two merely human political positions are opposed, instead of Divine Truth being opposed to Lie? Where does this lie comes from: from the father of lies, or from good-willed men of God happening to have a slight disagreement with Christ’s Church? Can you create a heretical movement and call yourself – or be treated by Catholics as if you were – a man of God? Luther made the work of the devil, full stop.
The photo you see above appeared in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, with the caption: “The Pope takes place on the right, Nikolaus Schneider on the left”. The implied message is, dear reader, exactly the one you are thinking about.
With the usual acumen, Pope Benedict found the way of telling it rather straight about the matter of ecumenism and the wrong hopes it can engender. He is quoted by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung as saying:
“Ein selbstgemachter Glaube ist wertlos. Der Glaube ist nicht etwas, was wir ausdenken und aushandeln.“
I would translate as follows:
” A self-made Faith is valueless. Faith isn’t something that we make up and negotiate”
Beautiful, strong words, nicht wahr? What a pity, that he himself should weaken the very concept he has so beautifully expressed by traveling to Erfurt and giving millions of Germans the impression that Luther’s heresy has a dignity or legitimation in itself in the eyes of Catholicism. What a pity, that what can’t be negotiated in Catholicism be swept under the carpet, when the Pope himself says that Catholics and Lutherans should focus on the “great things they have in common”.
Last time I looked, having great things in common with Catholics wasn’t enough to avoid hell. Every pedophile has great things in common with normal people: would you tell him that he should not lose sight of all the great things he has in common with normal people, or would you rather suggest him that he, for the good of his soul, focuses on – cough – the big problem he has?
The comparison of a Protestant with a pedophile may seem strong, but if we look at the matter lucidly we must acknowledge that unless Truth has changed whilst we were in the bathroom, heresy is as big a threat to salvation now as it has always been. How many Protestant sanctuaries this or that Pope decides to visit will, I am afraid, not change an iota in the seriousness of the danger, but it will certainly play a role in how many people are exposed to that danger.
It seems to me that this visit has been – at least up to now – worse than a lost opportunity, rather a positive damage to Catholicism. I have lived in Germany many years and am painfully aware of the confusion reigning among common Catholics as to what is right, and of the unexpressed but palpable desire of wanting to consider Protestantism just another ice cream flavour, or the preference for a different shade of blue.
If you ask me, if this visit will have one effect it will be to reinforce this confusion.