MAGDEBURG, Germany, April 21, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – German Bishop Gerhard Feige has offered an almost purely secular response to the coronavirus pandemic and the desire of Catholic faithful to attend Mass and receive the Eucharist.
The bishop of Magdeburg asked, “And in the face of the hardships and suffering of those who have to fear for their own lives or the lives of relatives, who hardly see an economic perspective for themselves or who are professionally on the front lines in the fight against the pandemic, aren’t our cancellations of worship services almost luxury problems?”
Rather than demanding access to the sacraments, he continued, “shouldn’t we as Christians rather take care responsibly and in solidarity to contain the life-threatening danger of infection with the coronavirus and to prevent a medical overtaxing of our society, than, comparable to various lobbyists, try to push through our particular interests?”
Feige wrote an opinion piece for the official news website of the German Bishops’ Conference. In it, he said he was irritated by an alleged “resentment” about not being able to go to Mass and receive the sacraments, which, according to the bishop, “some believers and church leaders are now expressing in a whining or belligerent manner.”
The bishop of Magdeburg then proceeded to question the reality of what has been called a “dictatorship of health,” where everything else has to be subordinated to the goal of public health.
“I know almost nobody who does not emphasize the importance of health when offering their congratulations,” Feige said.
“Certainly, from a Christian perspective, it is not regarded as the highest value, but it should not be lightly jeopardized either,” he attempted to clarify. He did not explain why he seemingly justified the subordination of the practice of the Catholic religion to public health.
According to Feige, there are “considerable differences between an authoritarian dictatorship that suppresses freedom rights for ideological reasons and a democratic state that at times restricts some things for the sake of the common good.”
The bishop’s understanding of common good is not a Catholic understanding as presented in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. There, the common good is defined as “the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily.”
One of the three elements of the common good explicitly refers to religion. “In the name of the common good, public authorities are bound to respect the fundamental and inalienable rights of the human person,” the Catechism states.
“Society should permit each of its members to fulfill his vocation. In particular, the common good resides in the conditions for the exercise of the natural freedoms indispensable for the development of the human vocation, such as ‘the right to act according to a sound norm of conscience and to safeguard … privacy, and rightful freedom also in matters of religion.’”
In its description of the common good, the Catechism repeatedly refers to the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes of the Second Vatican Council.
When saying that there are “considerable differences between an authoritarian dictatorship … and a democratic state,” Feige did not comment on the fact that all kinds of stores were still allowed to open, while large parish churches or cathedrals were not even allowing small congregations for public Masses.
Helmut Hoping, professor of dogmatic theology at the University of Freiburg, told Die Tagespost that Feige’s remarks were as little “suitable for freedom” as Chancellor Angela Merkel’s expression of “opening discussion orgies.” Both statements, Hoping said, came “at a time when the Constitutional Court is asking questions about the proportionality of individual coronavirus emergency decrees, including the ban on public worship services.”
The bishop of Magdeburg claimed “no one has the right to consciously or unconsciously put any fellow human being in danger through infection.” It remains unclear why that is true only of COVID-19, but not of the flu or any other disease dangerous to certain groups of people, especially the elderly or those with preexisting conditions.
Feige compared the desire of faithful Catholics to receive the Eucharist and other sacraments to “fantasies of self-realization at any price.” What was needed instead, he argued, was “many a sacrifice and many a renunciation to make a successful coexistence possible.”
The bishop concluded his opinion piece by asking a number of questions about having public Masses again. “How and according to which criteria should it be decided who may participate and who may not? Who is to monitor that all rules are observed? And what about the congregations that only have small churches or chapels?”
He added, “Will this not create new problems and increase frustration? Shouldn’t we wait a little longer and only then celebrate services together again when it can happen more naturally and in a more humane way?”
Meanwhile, in Austria, numerous young Catholics have pleaded with their bishops to “please, give us back Holy Mass.”
In a video released in various languages, they offered to make Holy Mass possible by helping with fulfilling the requirements of public health.
“We will be there during the Mass to make sure nobody is less than six feet apart,” one man said.
The pews would be disinfected after each church service. “If there is a lack of resources, we will organize the masks, hand sanitizer, and gloves,” a young woman offered.
Finally, the young people would provide lists on Doodle, making sure of the number of people signing up for each Mass.
Bishop Gerhard Feige lacks credibility among faithful Catholics in German-speaking countries. In early 2019, he expressed his openness to women “priests.” “Rigorously rejecting this and merely arguing with tradition is no longer convincing,” he claimed.
He also demanded a development and change of the Church’s teaching on sexual morality, “taking into account the findings of the human sciences, in order to do more justice to people in this sensitive area of their love relationships.”