Maike Hickson

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Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Archbishop of Munich

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Cdl. Marx: Pope Francis is ‘not so fixed,’ he’s open to discussing sexual morality

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December 21, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Cardinal Reinhard Marx at yesterday's meeting with the Munich Press Club said that Pope Francis is open to discussing Catholic sexual morality. 

“I see that he is not so fixed here [in this matter],” Marx stated. The root cause of the sexual abuse crisis, he adds, is not homosexuality, but an abuse of power. 

Cardinal Gerhard Müller, however, told LifeSiteNews in response to Marx’ comments that “it is clear that these [abuse] crimes are being instrumentalized in order to promote another agenda.” 

“Ideologues, Müller adds, “shut themselves off from facts that do not fit into their worldview.”

According to different media outlets, Cardinal Marx – the head of the German bishops – spoke on December 20 at the Munich Press Club. In his initial comments, he made it clear that he wishes that the German bishops would soon address three major points in light of this year's sex abuse crisis. These are the Church's sexual morality; the question of celibacy; and, third, the abuse of power.

As Marx explains, the Church has so far only spoken about sexuality in an “odd and touchy [“verschroben”]” way, and now she needs “to speak about sexuality in a different manner, also about homosexuality.”

“As you know, this is highly controversial,” Marx added, “also theologically and dogmatically.”

“We have to address it,” he said, “how, we do not yet fully know.” In Marx' eyes, “to silence it, does not work anymore.” While admitting that it will be difficult to discuss this matter and come to a consensus on the level of the Universal Church, Cardinal Marx later explained that Pope Francis himself is open to such a discussion about Catholic sexual morality: “I see that he is not so fixed here [in this matter],” he stated. The German cardinal also revealed that he has already spoken several times with the Pope about this topic.

During his speech, Marx stressed that Pope Francis sees the main cause of sexual abuse to be the “abuse of power.” He also indicated that this understanding will be the direction to be taken during the upcoming three-day Rome gathering in February 2019. 

Further discussing the problem of clerical sex abuse, Cardinal Marx rejects the claim that there is a link between homosexuality and clerical abuse. He said that he is worried about “forces who think that, if we had no homosexual priests anymore, the whole abuse problem would be solved.” Priests with a homosexual inclination, Marx explained, do not "endanger" others more than heterosexually inclined priests when it comes to clerical abuse.

Concerning celibacy, Cardinal Marx explained that this form of living on the part of priests is often now being perceived by people as being itself the cause of the “crankiness” (“Verschrobenheit”) of the priests in general. While pointing to himself as an example of someone who can live in celibacy, he wonders “what future” celibacy can now have.

Describing how he discussed with Pope Francis the problem of the abuse crisis during the C9 meetings in Rome, Cardinal Marx explained that the Pope, too, sees that the “abuse of power” is the problem. The solution, therefore, is a “sharing of power.” Marx also indicated that he can very well picture that lay people will in the future become the Prefects of some of the Roman dicasteries.

Cardinal Marx also pointed out that “crises are opportunities” – “the old game” – but that one also has to make good use of them.

Marx' colleague, the Vice-President of the German Bishops' Conference – Bishop Franz-Josef Bode – also made a public statement on Dec. 20, claiming that celibacy is “indirectly also responsible” for the clerical sex abuse crisis and proposed that the Church should value homosexual relationships.

In light of these reform plans as presented by Cardinal Marx (with Pope Francis in the background),  Cardinal Gerhard Müller – the former Prefect of the Congregation for the doctrine of the Faith – has sent LifeSiteNews, upon request, some contrasting comments. 

Cardinal Müller is one of the most outspoken prelates who point out the fact that 80% of the victims of clerical sexual abuse are male. In this context, he comments on the attitude of those people in the Church who are sympathetic toward homosexual priests. He says: “They [the homophiles] air themselves as the ones who are unjustly accused (“the homosexuals are being accused of being guilty of the abuse of minors, whereas it really is clericalism”). That is to say, one wishes to use the abuse crisis in order to turn the sacramental priesthood upside down.”

Further commenting on how the clerical abuse crisis is being used by certain forces in the Church, Cardinal Müller states that “it is clear that these [abuse] crimes are being instrumentalized in order to promote another [progressivist] agenda.” Cardinal Müller insists that “what has been qualified as sin in biblical times today cannot be redefined and turned into a virtue” and that “the white of Grace may not be turned into the black of sin.”

Furthermore, the German prelate also shows the limits of the power of any bishop with regard to what he may teach to the faithful: “A bishop has authority only when he presents the teaching of the Church whole and unabbreviated. 'If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to that doctrine which is according to godliness, he is blinded' (1 Tim 6,3).”

Only recently, another German bishop – Rudolf Voderholzer – had told the Austrian news website Kath.net that “some circles – also within the Church – abuse the cases of sexual violence in order to offer once more their recipes, which have already not been helpful in the past, and to twist the crimes into an occasion to create, finally, their own 'different Church'. This is what I call an abuse of the abuse.”

Here below are the new comments made by Cardinal Gerhard Müller concerning the new statement of Cardinal Reinhard Marx.

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Cardinal Gerhard Müller's comments to LifeSiteNews

The crucial question today is, whether we believe that the Church is a work of God – that is to say, endowed with the DNA of Christ [a reference to Bishop Heiner Wilmer's recent claim that abuse is in the DNA of the Church] and thus, in her essence, holy (see LG 8), or whether we see her as a historical institution which the powers that be in the Church's bureaucracy may reform according to their subjective and often very defective ideas. They think to update the Church, but in reality, they render the Church meaningless, as current examples from within and from without the Catholic Church sufficiently prove. 

Who has given the bishops the authority to build a Church according to their own image and likeness? And why should anybody put his hope in life and death upon these soft interpretations of our existence which have very little to do with the Gospels and with the Creed which we recited at our Baptism? These Church leaders should re-read what they have confessed and promised at their episcopal consecration. It is the revealed Faith that justifies us and makes us holy, and not the private opinion of the “servants of the Word” (Luke 1:2), which they actually should be.

One may and should discuss the Catholic teaching on sexual ethics, under the condition that one recognizes its origins in the Holy Will of God. But first of all, we have to be obedient to God's Will. What has been labeled as sin in biblical times may not today be redefined and turned into a virtue. And as to the conduct of the “new man” – “who has been created according to God's image, in true justice and holiness” (Eph 54:24) – the white of Grace may not be turned into the black of sin. In the letters to the future episcopal shepherds, St. Paul admonishes them to hold fast “to the sane teaching,” in the Faith and in one's life. A bishop has authority only when he presents the teaching of the Church whole and entire. “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to that doctrine which is according to godliness, he is blinded” (1 Tim 6,3).

It is truly astonishing with what angry passion people with a morally disordered way of life are now being protected against generalizations, while one exposes to a collective contempt the many priests who have done nothing wrong. It is known that ideologues shut themselves off from facts that do not fit into their worldview. When dealing with the topic of the [clerical] sexual abuse of minors under 18 years and the necessary preventive measures, one should not ignore the fact that more than 80% of the sex abuse victims are boys and young men. 

If a superior abuses seminarians or novices entrusted to him, then the aspect of mutual consent is not a lessening of the sin, but even a perfidious increase of that sin, because, additionally, the conscience of a subordinate – who is responsible for his deeds – is also being corrupted. One thus has degraded him to being an accomplice of sin.

As to the topic of checks and balances [as, for example, recently proposed by Bishop Heiner Wilmer, of Hildesheim]: whenever it is about human power over people, it may never be absolute, as it was the case with the Sun King [Louis XIV]. It has to be partitioned, with mutual control. Christ's authority is being transmitted to the bishops who act in His authority. God's authority itself, however, cannot be partitioned. Because it is the Apostles – and, in their succession, the bishops and the presbyters, who also partake in it –  who act in His Person as shepherds, teachers, and priests (LG 19; PO 2). 

Thus, speaking about checks and balances in the Church reveals a politicized understanding of the Church and of the Apostolic office. There is, however, an abuse of office when bishops, as employers and heads of administration, exercise their power according to their own whims and according to their own personal interests (arbitrary dismissal of employees; promotion of their protegees; uncontrolled financial decisions; companionship with media representatives). 

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Maike Hickson

Dr. Maike Hickson was born and raised in Germany. She holds a PhD from the University of Hannover, Germany, after having written in Switzerland her doctoral dissertation on the history of Swiss intellectuals before and during World War II. She now lives in the U.S. and is married to Dr. Robert Hickson, and they have been blessed with two beautiful children. She is a happy housewife who likes to write articles when time permits.

Dr. Hickson published in 2014 a Festschrift, a collection of some thirty essays written by thoughtful authors in honor of her husband upon his 70th birthday, which is entitled A Catholic Witness in Our Time.

Hickson has closely followed the papacy of Pope Francis and the developments in the Catholic Church in Germany, and she has been writing articles on religion and politics for U.S. and European publications and websites such as LifeSiteNews, OnePeterFive, The Wanderer, Rorate Caeli, Catholicism.org, Catholic Family News, Christian Order, Notizie Pro-Vita, Corrispondenza Romana, Katholisches.info, Der Dreizehnte,  Zeit-Fragen, and Westfalen-Blatt.