German bishop: idea of coronavirus as God’s punishment is ‘terrible…un-Christian’
April 1, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – German Bishop Heiner Wilmer has stated in a March 30 interview that he believes that the idea of a punishing God is “terrible and also completely un-Christian.” He goes on to say that “the corona crisis is not a punishment from God.”
Speaking to the German regional newspaper Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger, the bishop of the Diocese of Hildesheim in the north of Germany discusses the effects of the coronavirus crisis on the Faith, and he admits that it is a test.
While his Faith is not shaken, Wilmer states, “nevertheless this crisis shakes me and shows me: God is still completely different than the one you had imagined.” Here, the bishop insists that the idea of a God who punishes us for our misbehavior “is terrible and also completely un-Christian.” “The Corona crisis is not a punishment from God.”
With this comment, Wilmer stands in stark contrast to prelates such as Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes and Bishop Athanasius Schneider who see the corona crisis as a punishment from God, just as God has punished His people in the past when they erred into sin and faithlessness. Recently, Bishop Schneider had called the coronavirus crisis “a divine intervention to chastise and purify the sinful world and also the Church.”
Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, in a March 29 interview with Michael Matt of The Remnant, also linked the coronavirus to chastisement from God for sin while calling on Pope Francis to “convert” for having brought into the Church the “terrible sacrilege” of the idolatry of Pachamama.
“The Pope, the Hierarchy, and all Bishops, Priests and Religious must immediately and absolutely convert,” he said.
“[These clerics] have even committed acts of unprecedented gravity, such as we saw with the adoration of the pachamama idol in the Vatican itself,” he said.
“Indeed, I think Our Lord has rightly become indignant at the great multitude of scandals committed by those who ought to be setting a good example, because they are Shepherds, to the flocks to whom they have been entrusted.”
John-Henry Westen, the editor-in-chief of LifeSite, has discussed this matter in-depth in his new John-Henry Westen Show, quoting passages from Holy Scripture and referring back to Pope Francis’ recent permission of Pachamama worship in the Vatican, as well as his allowing “remarried” divorcees to receive Holy Communion.
In light of the current lack of access to the Sacraments, the German prelate proposes that one rediscovers new ways of practicing the Faith: “Now the great question posed by Martin Luther comes back again: how do I get a merciful God? Not somehow mediated by the Church, but, rather, very directly, in an immediate contact.”
Bishop Wilmer is thinking here of the Bible and of small communities of faithful, as so-called “house churches.” This crisis, therefore, is seen by him as a chance to rediscover new forms of togetherness. “The celebration of the Mass, the Eucharist, is very important. But now, sit down! Read the Bible! Discuss it with two or three people, via tele conference, via Skype, whatever! But most of all: speak with God!”
The German prelate who is one of the younger German bishops and who was appointed by Pope Francis in 2018 thinks it is important to live up to the standard of “Jesus the Healer” by “being close to people.” “The greatest catastrophe would be if we were to seclude ourselves and if we did not see the other anymore.” For the German bishop, one lesson of the crisis is: “The Church is there not for herself, but for society.”
In light of the current “synodal path” debates in Germany, Bishop Wilmer is of the view that the coronavirus crisis makes it clear “that reforms are necessary, but not sufficient. We need more. We have a Church crisis, but also a crisis of faith, in the sense that it is not clear to us how the relationship between man and God – the great, unfathomable mystery – works.”
Bishop Wilmer caused a controversy in Germany when, in December of 2018, he claimed during the clerical sex abuse crisis that the Catholic Church is not “immaculate.” He then added that the “abuse of power is in the DNA of the Church.”
“I believe the abuse of power is in the DNA of the Church. We cannot any more shrug this off as something minor, but we have to rethink [the hierarchy] in a radical way,” the prelate said, adding that “we do not yet have any idea of what the consequences should be for theology.”
At the time, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, as well as German journalists Paul Badde and Armin Schwibach strongly reacted against such claims, reminding Wilmer of the distinction between the holiness of the Catholic Church as distinct from the sinfulness of individual members of the Church.
Schwibach, who is a Rome Correspondent and professor of philosophy, stated in comments to LifeSite at the time that “especially because she is holy – the holiness that comes to her from Christ – the Church can welcome sinners and suffer with them in their sufferings and cure them.” “It is just unbelievable,” he commented on Wilmer's words.