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Bishop Bätzing, president of the German Bishops Conference YouTube screenshot

Update: After publication of their open letter, the signatories did finally receive an answer, not from Bishop Bätzing personally, but from the secretariat. The answer, as it can be read here, shows that they appear to not wish to address the questions raised by the open letter. See below first the note from Maria 1.0 about the response they got from the secretariat, and then the secretariat’s letter itself.

Letter from the Secretariat of the Bishop’s Conference does not answer ‘open letter’ 

The cause and the associated demand of the letter are knowingly ignored 

On Saturday August 13, 22, Maria 1.0, representing the many signers from all areas of Catholicism in the German-speaking world, received by post a remarkably meaningless response to the open letter of August 11, 22. The “open letter” addressed directly to Bishop Bätzing, was finally answered for the Secretariat of the German Bishops’ Conference by the head of the Office of the Synodal Way (see the bishops’ response below or here). 

A discussion of the contents of the letter does not actually take place in the present answer. In only one sentence it is said that one wants to “critically” receive the “Open Letter.” Whatever this may mean, we note that the German Catholics, but also the representatives of the universal Church and the public have a right to know why the president of the German Bishops’ Conference continues to remain silent and continues to cling to the cooperation with Dr. Stetter-Karp in such an exposed position. And why Bishop Dr. Bätzing wants to shape the future of the Catholic Church in Germany alongside a woman who places the right to life of the most vulnerable and defenseless people under the precondition of the woman’s right to self-determination and thus openly violates the teachings of the Church, as well as with the demand for a nationwide abortion service. 

Further we determine that the aforementioned answer from the DBK does not in any way meet this requirement, but that he obviously continues to solidarize with Mrs. Dr. Stetter Karp and hopes to be able to sit out the affair by keeping silent! 

The core demand of the Open Letter therefore remains unchanged and we will not cease to state this demand emphatically and to draw public attention to it nationally and internationally: “Your Excellency, we ask you and your co-bishops, who all promised at their consecration to convey purely and unabridged the faith of the Church as handed down by the apostles, to end your cooperation with Dr. Stetter-Karp, insofar as she is not sustainably prepared to publicly revise her position and to return to the Church’s teaching on the protection of unborn life.” 

In the next few days, all German diocesan bishops will receive the “Open Letter” again, supplemented by the list of numerous supporters. The immensely positive national and international echo and the great compliments of many believers, priests, bishops and renowned theologians who have contacted us encourage us to continue on this path. 

Response letter from the German Bishops’ Conference: 

Dear Ms. Steinbrecher 

Dear Ms. Brandstetter, 

the President of the German Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Dr. Georg Bätzing, has forwarded your open letter to the Secretariat of the German Bishops’ Conference. It is in accordance with the generally applicable rules not to answer open letters individually. Nevertheless, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for the comments and suggestions you have made in your letter, which we are taking on board critically. 

As you are surely aware, the German bishops have always been strongly committed to the issues of dignity and the protection of human life from the moment of conception until natural death. In this context, it is a matter of course to oppose any form of general legalization and social establishment of abortion. This commitment is expressed not only, but also in the Week for Life, for which the German Bishops’ Conference has been co-responsible for many years. Based on the joint declaration of the Council of the Protestant Church in Germany and the German Bishops’ Conference “God is a friend of life. Challenges and Tasks in the Protection of Life,” countless texts and contributions pointed out the absolute protectability of human life and the challenges and obligations associated with it. 

Next year, the Week for Life will take place from April 22 to 30. May I kindly point out that the Week for Life always also offers the opportunity for initiatives and associations to participate in this framework with their own events and actions on the respective topic and thus express their common commitment to the protection of life. 

With kind regards 

Dr. Frank Ronge 

LifeSite’s original report from August 12 is found below.

(LifeSiteNews) — Maria 1.0, a German lay group of Catholic women, published on August 11 a letter to Bishop Georg Bätzing – the head of the German bishops’ conference – that they had sent to him on August 3. In that letter, they pointed out to him the scandalous fact that a prominent lay woman, Dr. Irme Stetter-Karp, had recently demanded “that the medical intervention of an abortion should be made possible across the board.”  

Dr. Stetter-Karp is chairwoman of the ZdK (Central Committee of German Catholics), and thus formally the highest representation of Catholic laity in Germany, and is also co-president of the Synodal Path. As such, she is closely working together with Bishop Bätzing who is the other co-president of the Synodal Path, a discussion forum in the Catholic Church in Germany that has issued multiple demands for reform that are at odds with Catholic teaching, such as female ordination and the blessing of homosexual couples.  

READ: Female co-president of German ‘Synodal Way’ demands increased nationwide abortion access

Clara Steinbrecher, the head of the faithful Catholic lay organization Maria 1.0, explained in a letter to LifeSite that the group decided to publish the letter to Bishop Bätzing after he did not respond to their correspondance. They thus turned the letter into an open letter and gathered more than 20 signatories of prominent German lay people, such as the pro-life activist Mathias von Gersdorff (see here an earlier LifeSite interview with him) and Professor Manfred Spieker. Alexander Tschugguel’s St. Boniface Institute is among the signatories, as well. 

In their letter, the group made it clear that they are ashamed of the statements of Dr. Stetter-Karp. They note that Bishop Bätzing has not distanced himself from her comments on abortion, commenting that “your silence is deafening.” 

The signatories of the open letter also reject the Synodal Path’s “attempt to restructure our Church in such a way that we as Roman Catholic Christians would no longer recognize ourselves as such if it were not for Rome and the universal Church.”  

In light of these scandalous events in Germany, they concluded: 

To us, the signatories of this letter, the thought would be unbearable that you and Dr. Stetter-Karp might one day travel to Rome together as representatives of the Catholic Church in Germany; or, if it really came to that, that she as co-president of the planned Synodal Council would decide the fate of the “German Catholic Church” along with you. Bishop Bätzing, we ask you and your fellow bishops, all of whom promised at their episcopal consecration that the deposit of faith that was handed down to them from the apostles would be passed on in a pure and unabbreviated condition, to terminate your cooperation with Dr. Stetter-Karp permanently if she is not prepared to publicly recant her position and to return to the teachings of the Church on the protection of unborn children. 

In January of this year, Mrs. Steinbrecher had granted an interview to LifeSite, in which she explained the reasons for the founding of the group Maria 1.0, which is opposed to the feminist group Maria 2.0 which believes that Maria and the Church need an “update.” But as Steinbrecher told LifeSite at the time, Maria 1.0 disagrees. “We see in the Catholic faith a great treasure that needs to be rediscovered,” Steinbrecher told LifeSite, adding that “our central concern is to bear witness to it – for us, this means ‘evangelization.’”  

Bishop Georg Bätzing (left); Irme Stetter-Karp (right)

With refreshing clarity, this Catholic group wishes to defend the faith and spread it. As a spokesman told LifeSite: 

The Church in Germany needs to wake up, it needs to realize that it is on the wrong track with the Synodal Path, and turn back to Christ and the teachings of the Church. It needs renewal and reform, but in the Holy Spirit. It is necessary to proclaim the faith and the existing doctrine authentically, only then can there be conversion and a growth in the Church. 

Please see here the full open letter: 

German Conference of Bishops
President
Most Reverend Georg Bätzing, Bishop
Kaiserstraße 161
53113 Bonn 

Dear Bishop Dr. Bätzing, 

Your episcopal motto is “CONGREGA IN UNUM – Gather together.” We, the signatories of this open letter, are writing to you today, however, out of concern for the unity of the Catholic Church in Germany, and that of the German Catholic Church with Rome and the universal Church. We have many reasons for this! 

You receive letters on an almost regular basis regarding the condition of the Catholic Church in Germany from concerned bishops and cardinals at home and abroad, even from whole conferences of bishops; there is no lack of repeated admonitions from Rome either. The Holy Father, obviously frustrated and irritated about the state of affairs in the German particular Churches, often asks in interviews why his letter of June 29, 2019 to the Pilgrim People of God in Germany – a letter which he personally took several weeks to write and which he wrote as shepherd, brother, father, and believer in and of a Church that is trying to find its way forward – is finding so little consideration. We would like to ask this question along with him, Your Excellency! 

In his letter Pope Francis calls us to a pastoral conversion, which reminds us “that evangelization must be our guiding criterion par excellence, on the basis of which we discern all the steps we are called to take as an ecclesial community. Evangelization is the actual and essential mission of the Church.” And what does the Synodal Way, of which you are the co-chairman, think about this? The request to establish a separate forum on the subject of evangelization was denied. Instead, the Synodal Way agreed in the course of its further consultations to discuss the issue of whether or not the office of the Catholic priest was even necessary at all! Under your leadership, Bishop Bätzing, the Synodal Way threatens to run into an offside trap: According to Pope Francis, “one of the first and greatest temptations in ecclesiastical matters was to believe that the solutions to current and future problems would come only from reforming structures, organizations, and administration, but, in the end, these would not have touched the vital points that actually need attention.” 

READ: Pope taps brakes on German bishops’ ‘Synodal Way’ until universal Church considers proposals

We believe that matters like the following urgently require your attention, e.g., according to a survey by INSA-Consulere, a market and social research firm in Erfurt, which was commissioned by idea, a Protestant news agency, and quoted by katholisch.de (April 18, 2019), only 28% of Roman Catholic Christians believe in Jesus Christ’s bodily resurrection from the dead. According to a PEW Research Center survey, which was also quoted by katholisch.de (August 6, 2019), a scant 70% of Catholics in the USA no longer believe in Jesus Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist. The numbers here are probably not better. Under these omens of evaporating faith in our own ranks you are holding discussions with churches of the Reformation on mutual participation in the Eucharist or Holy Communion? No, Bishop Bätzing, we are on the fast track to that “modernized,” woke liberal, politically correct church organism which Pope Francis warned against, stating that it has neither a soul nor the freshness of the Gospel! 

We kept silent about all of this for a long time, rubbed our eyes in disbelief as the MHG Study and the abuse of innocent children and youths – which we condemn and want resolved as much as you do! – was utilized as the impetus for an attempt to restructure our Church in such a way that we as Roman Catholic Christians would no longer recognize ourselves as such if it were not for Rome and the universal Church. All of this was orchestrated in turn by the very same handful of German professors of theology who are apparently preparing themselves to replace the episcopal Magisterium. Also please do not believe that we (and individual bishops as well) did not notice the many deliberately placed smaller and larger violations (even by individual bishops) against specific instructions from Rome or the Magisterium. This does not gather together, Your Excellency, it divides! 

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But now your co-chairwoman of the Synodal Way and president of the ZdK [Central Committee of Catholics], Dr. Irme Stetter-Karp, crossed a red line that forces us to speak out in public. The incident is common knowledge: Dr. Stetter-Karp in her guest article (July 17, 2022) for Christ & Welt [Christian & World], a section of the weekly newspaper Die Zeit, with the programmatic title “Right to Life, Right to Self-determination,” called for “a guarantee that the medical intervention of abortion is made possible nationwide.”  

She further stated: “A statement on how to ensure the offer is pending – which also includes the training of doctors-in-training.” Every believing Catholic considers it a monstrosity that the co-founder of Donum Vitae abuses her position as the highest-ranking lay representative of the Catholic Church and co-president of the Synodal Way in order to lobby for a personal, sociopolitical cause, namely the so-called equitability of the woman’s right to self-determination with the unborn child’s right to life as is propagated by Donum Vitae! On top of that, as a reaction to the immediately ensuing criticism, Dr. Stetter-Karp went even further and declared that, after all, a (governmental) law should be enforced. In this way she clearly shows that she is not even aware of her own irreconcilable conflict of interest that places her in clear contradiction to the current Church doctrine. Bishop Bätzing’s press spokesman, Mr. Matthias Kopp, then reacted with the necessary clarity and made it plain that the ZdK president’s stance put her in conflict with the German Conference of Bishops. His fellow Catholic in the office of bishop, Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Maria Renz commented (CNA): “Whoever is and wants to remain Catholic will therefore naturally demand a nationwide offer of various help for pregnant women in conflict situations, but not a nationwide offer of possibilities to get rid of one’s own offspring.” 

READ: German ‘Synodal Way’ leaders express ‘irritation’ over Vatican criticism

And now, Your Excellency? While usually never at a loss for a statement on people like the archbishops Bishop Stefan Heße and H.Em. Rainer Maria Cardinal Woelki who fell “out of favor” with the DBK last year, on the case of your co-president Stetter-Karp your silence is deafening! Instead, already on July 21, 2022, you again published a joint statement with Dr. Stetter-Karp on the most recent admonishments by the Vatican Secretariat of State. Did we get the correct impression? In view of the continuing German conflict with Rome, do you want to avoid at all costs that the monstrous statements by Dr. Stetter-Karp become a wedge between the DBK and ZdK and thus weaken the Synodal Way? Do you want to go back to business as usual and continue working with a co-president who – since she continues to be intransigent – according to the words of your fellow brother, Auxiliary Bishop Renz, cannot credibly remain Catholic? It is true that your influence on the choice of president of the ZdK is limited, but it is your duty as the president of the German Conference of Bishops to decide whether or not, under these circumstances, you are still prepared to work together with Dr. Stetter-Karp. 

To us, the signatories of this letter, the thought would be unbearable that you and Dr. Stetter-Karp might one day travel to Rome together as representatives of the Catholic Church in Germany; or, if it really came to that, that she as co-president of the planned Synodal Council would decide the fate of the “German Catholic Church” along with you.  

Bishop Bätzing, we ask you and your fellow bishops – all of whom promised at their episcopal consecration that the deposit of faith that was handed down to them from the apostles would be passed on in a pure and unabbreviated condition – to terminate your cooperation with Dr. Stetter-Karp permanently if she is not prepared to publicly recant her position, and to return to the teachings of the Church on the protection of unborn children. 

Sincerely yours, 

  • Clara Steinbrecher, Leiterin der Initiative Maria 1.0 
  • Dr. Michael F. Feldkamp, Historiker und Publizist, Berlin 
  • Dr. Beate Beckmann-Zöller, freiberufliche Religionsphilosophin 
  • Prof. Dr. Christoph Binninger, Direktor des Bischöflichen Studium Rudolphinum, Regensburg 
  • Dr. Christian Schmidt, Herder-Institut, Marburg 
  • Mathias von Gersdorff, Publizist und Autor 
  • Gisela Geirhos, Verlagsleiterin Media Maria 
  • Dr. Hinrich E. Bues, Publizist und Dozent für christliche Spiritualität und Evangelisation 
  • Kristian Aufiero, CEO 1000plus/Pro Femina e.v.  
  • Prof. Dr. Manfred Spieker, em. Prof. für christliche Sozialwissenschaften, Universität Osnabrück 
  • Timothy Flanders, Herausgeber von OnePeterFive (1P5) 
  • Prof. Dr. Matthias Amen, Prof. für Betriebswirtschaftslehre, Universität Bielefeld 
  • Prof. Dr. Christian Müller, Wirtschaftswissenschaftler 
  • Felizitas Küble, Leiterin Komm-Mit-Verlag und Christoferuswerk 
  • Prof. Dr. Berthold Wald, em. Prof. für Systematische Philosophie, Theologische Fakultät Paderborn 
  • Schwester M. Margreth, St. Peter-Ording 
  • Prof. Dr. Dr. Elmar Nass, Prof. für Sozialwissenschaften, KHKT Köln 
  • St. Boniface Institute 
  • Schwester Veronika Reincke OCD (Karmelitin), Priorin des Karmels St. Josef, Aufkirchen 
  • Ursula Maria Fehlner, Bundesvorsitzende des Vereins katholischer deutscher Lehrerinnen (VkdL e.V.) 
  • Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Klausnitzer, em. Prof. für Fundamentaltheologie 
  • Prof. Dr. Dieter J. Weiß, Historiker, München 
  • Peter Esser, Diplom-Designer 
  • Dr. Ludger Hölscher, Pfarrvikar St. Peter-Ording 
  • Christof T. Zeller-Zellenberg, Investor und Publizist, Wien 
  • Dr. Margarete Strauss, Publizistik mit Schwerpunkt auf Internetapostolat 
  • PD Dr. Stefan Luft, Politikwissenschaftler, Bremen 
  • Prof. Dr. med. Angelo Dell’Aquila, Klinik für Herzchirurgie, Münster 
  • Dr. Joachim Krebs, Botschafter a.D., Düren 
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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.

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