Maike Hickson

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German philosopher Robert Spaemann

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Renowned German philosopher who criticized Francis for ‘splitting’ Church dies

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December 11, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – It is with sadness that LifeSiteNews announces the death of Professor Robert Spaemann, a German philosopher and Catholic witness. According to his son, Dr. Christian Spaemann, MD, Spaemann died peacefully on 10 December in the afternoon, after a long period of age-related suffering. He was 91 years of age.

Next to his being an internationally respected Catholic philosopher and friend of Pope Benedict XVI, Professor Spaemann had become in the recent years a voice of faithful opposition to some of the changes in direction regarding Church teaching under the pontificate of Pope Francis.

For example, Spaemann had encouraged faithful Catholics to remain loyal to the Church's traditional teaching on marriage and the family. He publicly supported the four "dubia" cardinals when they published their own doubts about Pope Francis' post-synodal exhortation Amoris Laetitia and some of its ambiguous or novel statements. In December of 2016, he publicly regretted that there were “only four cardinals” who had taken the initiative and signed the dubia. He then added that “the four cardinals have chosen the right path.” Furthermore, he said that “with the dubia, the cardinals fulfill their own duty to support with their own counsel – as 'senators' – the Church in the person of the Holy Father.”

Professor Spaemann did not shy away from criticizing Pope Francis himself, as when he stated: “The pope’s refusal to respond to the appeal of the four cardinals makes me worried, because the supreme Magisterium is being thereby [lowered and] sunk.” Further pointing to the future – and here Spaemann's words now sound nearly prophetic – he predicts a coming schism: “The chaos has been turned into a principle – with one stroke of a pen. The pope should have known that he will split the Church with such a step and that he leads her into the direction of a schism – a schism that would be not at the periphery, but in the middle of the Church. May God help us to avoid this.”

In another interview in 2016, Professor Spaemann calls Amoris Laetitia a “breach” with tradition. He also called upon “each individual cardinal, as well as each bishop and each priest” who “is now called to preserve in his field of authority the Catholic Sacramental Order and to confess it publicly.” Should the pope not be willing to make a correction, “it is up to another pontificate to officially put things back into order.”

Professor Spaemann – who is a former member of the Pontifical Academy for Life – graciously honored the author of this article with an interview in 2017. In this interview, the German philosopher defended Professor Josef Seifert who had been just dismissed from his teaching position for questioning Amoris Laetitia, and he then also came back to the topic of a schism. Spaemann then said that “the split within the Church concerning Amoris Laetitia has already taken place. Different bishops’ conferences have published contradictory guidelines. And the poor priests are left alone.” 

Spaemann saw that Professor Seifert had been dismissed by the Pope from the Pontifical Academy for Life because of his criticism of Amoris Laetitia. He then described how Cardinal Müller received a similar treatment when suddenly being dismissed from his own position as the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: “And in Rome, opposing views are not any more tolerated. It did not need a Vatican expert to see that Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, had to leave his office within a short period of time.”

But Professor Spaemann also encouraged Catholics to remain faithful to Christ, in spite of these discouraging developments. “The word of St. Peter 'One has to obey God more than man' is still valid,” he said. “A Church which takes the course of adaptation, will not be able to work in a missionary way.”

Up to the end of his long life, Professor Spaemann stayed candidly engaged and gave his loyal witness. Only in August of 2018, he kindly gave his name for a petition published by LifeSiteNews, asking Pope Francis “that he rescind his previous 12 June affirmative support of the German pastoral guidelines on Communion for Protestant spouses, and that he stop the now officially implemented abuse of the Holy Eucharist in Germany.” We are honored that he supported this small initiative, perhaps as one of his last public statements.

We ask our readers to pray for the repose of the soul of this great Catholic man and witness to the Faith, Professor Robert Spaemann. May his soul be richly rewarded for his work and love of the Faith. May his family find consolation in the fact that many people in the world honor him and gratefully pray for the repose of his soul.

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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.