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Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes
Maike Hickson

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Cardinal rebukes head of German bishops: We can’t ignore Christ’s teaching on marriage

Maike Hickson

German Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, who headed the Papal Council Cor Unum until 2010 and was made a cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI, has publicly opposed the words and direction of the German Bishops' Conference. In a Letter to the Editor to the German newspaper Die Tagespost on March 7, 2015, Cardinal Cordes contradicts the words of Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the German Bishops' Conference, as well as Bishop Franz-Joseph Bode (Osnabrück).

After the Bishops of Germany had had their conference in Hildesheim, Northern Germany, Cardinal Marx said words that provoked the resistance of Cardinal Cordes. The latter cardinal has responded out of concern that Marx caused confusion among the faithful.

First of all, Cardinal Cordes rebuked Cardinal Marx for his claim that the Catholic Church looks to and expects much from the Church in Germany. He noted that Germany has barely any supernatural Faith left (only 16.2 percent of German Catholics believe in a Triune God, as a personal God with a Face, instead of an abstraction), so therefore, Germany is hardly a model for any other country concerning the Faith. “We have therefore no reason to put us with our Faith up front of the Churches of other countries,” he said.

Cardinal Cordes also resists Cardinal Marx’s claim that the German Church is not merely a “subordinate of Rome” and that, rather, the German Church has to make her own decisions concerning marriage and those who married outside the Church, namely, “the German Church has to teach the Gospel in her own way.”

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Cardinal Cordes insists that such questions belong to the responsibility of Rome and not to the German bishops. The matter of marriage lies at the center of theology, and therefore, “a Cardinal cannot easily separate the pastoral approach from the teaching,” he said. “Unless he wants to ignore the binding meaning of Christ's words and the binding words of the Council of Trent.”

Cardinal Cordes sees a danger in the spirit of independence that came from Cardinal Marx, who insisted that Germany cannot “wait for a Synod in Rome to tell us how we deal with matters of marriage and the family.” He warns that such an “anti-Roman affect” is a destructive force in northern spheres of Europe, destructive for the unity of Faith.

Cardinal Cordes also rebukes Bishop Bode who supports Marx's claims with the argument that men have to enrich the Faith of the Church, namely that the Church has to incorporate the lives of the people today and adopt the doctrine accordingly – a Paradigm shift in the words of the bishop.

According to Cordes, however, “The Faith of the Catholic Church can only flow out of Holy Scripture and of the Magisterium of the Church.” “Independent of this clear instruction, it would be paradox, if one wanted to give a little group of members of the Church who lives in a pitiable, but objectively irregular situation, the function of a source of Faith.”

Cardinal Cordes closes with his wish that the coming Synod may give these members of the Church clear instruction of how they can draw closer to Jesus Christ so “that they may become witnesses of God's power in the lives of men.” “Perhaps it happens to dawn upon the Synod Fathers, too, that they honor those couples who keep their once spoken promise  and did not enter a new relationship. They also exist.”



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