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Cardinals Schönborn and Marx converse in the Synod Hall. The latter is German. Patrick Craine / LifeSiteNews

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Germany’s chief cardinal shows he can sway Pope Francis

Analysis

July 12, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — He is the chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference, the archbishop of Munich, the head of the Vatican’s powerful Council of the Economy, and one of the group of nine advisers to Pope Francis that in many ways supersedes the curia itself — and finally, if the draft of the new apostolic constitution (Pope Francis’s new document reorganizing the curia) is finalized and promulgated, he will be made the camerlengo — a powerful position that takes charge of the Church after a pope dies or resigns and before the election of a new pope.

Not only has Cardinal Reinhard Marx gotten his will accomplished over Vatican objections, but he’s boasted about it publicly, seeming to suggest he has control even over Pope Francis.

During the 2014–2015 synod debates over Communion for “remarried” divorcés, Marx became impatient and announced that German bishops would do their own thing if the matter was delayed too long or decided differently from their will. “We are not a subsidiary of Rome,” he said defiantly at the time.

A similar incident took place in the 2018 debate about the German bishops concerning Communion for Protestant spouses of Catholics. After the Roman Curia — the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) — wrote a May 25, 2018 letter to the German bishops saying their handout on the question should not be published due to some open doctrinal questions, Cardinal Marx complained directly to Pope Francis. Without further ado, the Germans published the handout in June of 2018, adding a note that was signed with an “F.” showing that the pope had given approval for the publication.

At the end of 2018, at a press meeting in Munich, Cardinal Marx proudly described his intervention in Rome. After first saying that the whole intercommuion debate was a “fiasco” and that the conflict “damaged the reputation of the bishops,” he added: “I accordingly then went to Rome to intervene once more ... and I said very clearly that this is not acceptable.” And now, according to Marx, the Communion for Protestant spouses question “is a matter that is up to each bishop to decide for himself.” “It is being done anyway,” he added.

That is to say, Cardinal Marx effectively told the pope in Rome what was to be done, and he got his way.

Furthermore, LifeSite has been made aware of another such incident.

Several well-informed sources have related to LifeSiteNews some important parts of the genesis of the recently published Letter of Pope Francis to German Catholics. The lengthy letter encouraged Catholics in Germany to continue the “synodal path” questioning the Church’s positions concerning celibacy, sexuality, and power, while at the same time reminding them of the importance of evangelization, prayer, and penance. It has been largely seen as being ambiguous and equivocally open to different interpretations. It certainly did not put a halt to the German reform discussions.

Information given to LifeSite seems to explain why the letter was so ambiguous.

Multiple sources told LifeSiteNews that the letter actually germinated in the Roman Curia — with some curial members being concerned that the Catholic Church in Germany had gone too far in its aspirations for change — and that the letter was diluted in the course of its being edited.

According to one source, when Cardinal Marx learned from Pope Francis about the fact that the letter was being written, and that “a clear letter had been requested by many concerned cardinals and prefects,” Marx demanded to see the draft letter ahead of its being officially sent to Germany. Marx is said to have been “furious” and to have “praised himself” for having “softened” the letter in essential points.

LifeSiteNews reached out to Cardinal Marx, asking him to comment on the new revelations about his own role in the history of the pope’s letter to the German Catholics. Matthias Kopp, the press speaker of the German Bishops’ Conference — whose president is Cardinal Marx himself — responded on July 9 to a media request from LifeSiteNews, saying: “I deny all of the statements made by your ‘sources.’”

Nevertheless, trusted sources close to Cardinal Marx and curial officials confirmed to LifeSite that

Cardinal Marx was “angry” about the proposed papal letter. One highly placed source even told LifeSiteNews that Cardinal Marx is increasingly annoyed about Pope Francis for the pontiff’s lack of control and organization.

Looking at the final papal letter to the German bishops, one wonders why it was issued in the first place, since it didn’t contain even a single specific correction by the pope of the German hierarchy’s plan to change the Church’s teaching on sexuality, nor their plan to discuss the idea of loosening the Church’s discipline on celibacy for priests.

The majority of German bishops are so extreme in their liberalism that during their spring assembly, they invited a speaker who questioned the Church’s teaching on contraception, homosexuality, cohabitation, and transgenderism. One German bishop, Rudolf Voderholzer, later warned that this “synodal path” could well turn out to be a “path of destruction.” Given their alarming extremism, it is understandable that, even in a Rome bereft of conservatives, there are prelates who are highly alarmed at the putative developments in Germany.

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