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Bishop Marian Eleganti, auxiliary of Chur, Switzerland.

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March 9, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — Bishop Marian Eleganti, the Swiss auxiliary bishop of Chur, has responded to the new comments made by Cardinal Raymond Burke about Pope Francis’s post-synodal exhortation Querida Amazonia, which the cardinal calls “troubling.” Cardinal Burke especially opposed the idea of laicizing the Church in the Amazon.

Eleganti — who had first published a more positive comment on Querida Amazonia — says: “I agree with Card. Cordes and Card. Burke in this regard, and I am unhappy about this development of dismantling the priest and clericalizing the laity.”

As LifeSite reported today, Cardinal Burke issued his first public critique of Querida Amazonia in an interview with the National Catholic Register’s Edward Pentin. In this interview, the American cardinal says that “there are passages in the document which gravely contradict theological truths,” and he rejects the potential laicization of the Church by saying that “if the Amazon Church is going to be a lay Church, then it won’t be Catholic.” Burke also reminds us that in the Church as instituted by Jesus Christ Himself, “the pastoral charity exercised by those called to be apostles and successors to the apostles is essential.”

Furthermore, Cardinal Burke sees that there is, in this new papal document, a sort of hidden agenda, saying, “I don’t even find them [the hidden parts] so hidden, in the sense that the language is clear enough, and there are a number of interpreters who tell us exactly what is intended.” He refers, for example, to Víctor Fernández, the archbishop of La Plata “stated very clearly that none of these issues like clerical celibacy and deaconesses are resolved, that the Pope simply saw that he had to wait a little bit to accomplish his agenda because there are people causing difficulty.” That is to say, in Burke's eyes, the topics of the married priesthood and the female diaconate are not yet off the table.

Bishop Eleganti himself had, one day after the publication of Querida Amazonia on February 12, issued a statement praising the document for its “loving, conciliatory, unagitated and pleasant, humble tone.” He declared himself “grateful” for Pope Francis’s explicit “rejection of female ordination.” He also saw that this papal document turned out “different from what was expected,” also with regard to the married priesthood.

However, Eleganti also detected a weakness in the document: “Francis does not seem to think about the conflicts between ordained and non-ordained ministers of the Church, which remain a great weakness of his proposal,” he wrote. “The German-speaking countries have enough experience and conflicts in this regard which to this day could not be solved and have their origin in the creation of full-time non-ordained community leaders authorized or empowered by the bishops,” the Swiss bishop argued.

Now, in response to Cardinal Burke, who mentioned both Eleganti’s and Cardinal Gerhard Müller's positive response to the new papal document in a critical way since it could “lead the faithful into error,” Eleganti writes: “Of course I was very relieved at first that the Pope did not directly attack celibacy and keep the gate closed for the priesthood of women.”

But next to this joy, he adds: “However, I have long seen the danger of deconstructing the priesthood by reducing it only to Holy Mass and Confession. The ontological difference to the general priesthood of the baptized and the unity of the three ministries (governing; teaching; sanctifying) in the sacramental priesthood must not be touched. They are transmitted through ordination and constitute the sacramental character of the Church. I agree with Cardinal Cordes and Cardinal Burke in this regard, and I am unhappy about this development of dismantling the priest and clericalizing the laity.”

Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes had published in the German Catholic newspaper Die Tagespost an analysis of Querida Amazonia with regard to its novel teaching that the priest’s main duties are merely the administration of the sacraments of the Eucharist and of Penance, while the laity could take over many of the other duties, to include the governing office.

Here, he points out that the three spheres of the ecclesial office and duties — the munera docendi (teaching), sanctificendi (sanctifying), and regendi (governing) — have a “spiritual interdependency.” They are “theologically inseparable” and they lose their “efficacy” when separated. A priest is to act “in the person of Christ.”


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