The Selective Anathema

Thirteen priests ordained, eight more on the way

Michael J. Matt
Editor, The Remnant

Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, Chairman of the

German Catholic Bishops Conference


(Posted June 26, 2009 Achtung! The German bishops are taking a stand. After four decades of a more or less “anything goes” approach to heterodoxy and dissent in the Church in Germany, the German Bishops Conference has finally found something to anathematize. Several bishops, including Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, Chairman of the German Catholic Bishops Conference, have let it be known that tolerance of dissent from ecclesial authority in Germany is not completely without limits.

In a June 1 Vatican Radio interview, Bishop Gerhard Muller of Regensburg warned officials at the Society of St. Pius X seminary in Zaitzkofen that going ahead with priestly ordinations this month would constitute a violation of canon law and create a “dangerous situation.” So dangerous, in fact, that the bishop’s only recourse would be to excommunicate the SSPX bishop and ordinands should the ordinations take place.

Excommunication?  Didn’t that go out with chapel veils and mortal sin? Pretty intolerant stuff. I mean, women priests in Germany—maybe,  homosexual priests—sure, heretical priests—duh,  but the SSPX?  Evidently, a final solution is needed for that sort! 

“This will be uncanonical,” huffed Jakub Schotz, spokesman for the diocese of Regensburg, “since they have no entitlement to conduct their own ordinations. Our bishop is waiting for Rome to advise on how to respond. But it will almost certainly result in the excommunication of the priests and the bishop who ordains them.” 

I guess the SSPX’s papers are not in order. And more to the point, these “renegade” priests will celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass exclusively, preserve the Church’s 2000-year-old liturgical heritage, and faithfully adhere to every dogma of the Church. Can’t have that in the Fatherland!

So despite an unprecedented priest shortage that’s now reaching crisis proportions, the German bishops are prepared to throw eight new priests out the window. Now that’s guts bishopping!  After all, it’s not as if the Society of St. Pius X were merely dabbling in a bit of heresy and/or heterodoxy now and again as the head of the German Bishops Conference is wont to do from time to time. No, these priests are actually trying to restore some semblance of sanity to the Church, which in the land of loony liturgies and homeschoolers in hiding is verboten!

Never mind that the head of the German Bishops Conference, Bishop Zollitsch, recently told Meinhard Schmidt-Degenhard in an interview on German television that the death of Jesus Christ was not a redemptive act of God to liberate human beings from the bondage of sin. “Christ did not die,” argued the bishop “for the sins of the people as if God had provided a sacrificial offering, like a scapegoat.” No, Jesus offered only “solidarity” with the poor and suffering.

And here we all thought Christ was the sacrificial lamb, crucified on the altar of the Cross in order to redeem sinful men and reopen the gates of Heaven! What were we thinking?

Well, at least the bishop didn’t question the number of victims of the Holocaust or anything serious like that. Sure, back in February of 2008, he did claim that priestly celibacy should be voluntary and is not “theologically necessary”; and it’s true that he is in favor of homosexual civil unions; but the really important thing is that Bishop Zollitsch is in “full communion with Rome”.  Right? 

I was in attendance at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Winona, Minnesota, on June 19th when the first batch of these “controversial” ordinations took place. If I were a heterodox bishop I guess I too might be nervous at what I saw. Thousands of faithful on their knees even as the rain began to fall; women in dresses, men in suit and tie; children attentively following a magnificent ceremony that was nearly four hours in duration.

The Faith is clearly thriving in the SSPX; their seminaries are overflowing; the excommunications of 1988 are lifted; and Bishop Fellay is preparing for doctrinal discussions with the Holy See, which, by the way, did not “ban the SSPX ordinations”, as was widely reported, but rather noted that were the Holy Father to interfere with them, he would jeopardize rapprochement with the SSPX.  Technically illicit?  Perhaps. It all depends on your definition of “state of emergency”. But as Bishop Fellay himself recently noted, the SSPX “situation, from the view of canon law, is imperfect”—thus the negotiations and imminent doctrinal talks with the Vatican.  There’s nothing new here. The German bishops are just filibustering in a rather transparent effort to force the Pope’s hand against the SSPX. And this isn’t the first time they’ve tried it.

In March of 2009 the SSPX had scheduled ordinations at their seminary at Zaitzkofen. As a sign of respect and goodwill the SSPX had requested the official consent of Regensburg Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller. Not surprisingly, it was denied.  But here’s the kicker: The Holy See, rather than siding with Bishop Müller against the SSPX, instead requested the SSPX to simply transfer their ordinations to a different venue— Ecône, Switzerland, to be exact, rather than Zaitzkofen. Bishop Fellay of course complied with the Vatican’s request.  (A strange sort of “schism”, this one.) “We know our situation, from the view of canon law, is imperfect,” Fellay noted at the time, “but it serves no purpose to invoke law in an attempt to suffocate the life of our priestly society.”

And that is precisely what is happening again in Germany over these newest ordinations. A selective use of the anathema in a childish effort to hogtie the SSPX even as heretics and actual schismatics are allowed to run around free as birds, with some of those birds even heading up bishops’ conferences here and there.  And now the Bishop of Regensburg is threatening excommunication, holding the Holy Father’s feet to the fire, ranting about how “dangerous” it would be for the SSPX to ordain priests, etc.  This is harassment, pure and simple. He seems hell bent on scuttling the Holy Father’s initiative to restore the SSPX’s  canonical standing.  What is this fellow so afraid of?

But so far, so good.  The ordinations went ahead as planned here in the States, with the American Bishops (to their credit) staying completely out of the absurd witch hunt being staged by the German Bishops. Granted, there were no balloons, clowns, or dancing girls in Winona, so it’s possible the German bishops failed to even recognize them as ordinations. We'll have to wait until tomorrow (June 27) to see what happens in Germany when another eight freedom fighters, dedicated to liberating the Catholic Church from modernist commandants like Zollitsch and Müller, will be ordained in Europe. Will the Holy Father call the Bishop of Regensburg’s bluff?  Most certainly he will.

What’s really being anathematized here, of course, is the traditional Faith itself. Traditionalism is gaining substantial ground, and modernist prelates are not happy. Forty years of wandering in the desert have passed, and Tradition is storming back—in Germany and most everywhere else. Three thousand were on hand for the ordinations in Winona, the majority being children and young adults.  Two bishops and seventy-five priests were also in the sanctuary.  The process of rebuilding the Catholic Church from the ruins made of it by the Spirit of Vatican II is underway, and the SSPX is proclaiming the Kingship of Christ in public and without apology. A few of Germany’s more “progressive” bishops apparently have but one response to that: Anathema sit.

Oh, well!

Bishop Fellay—the “schismatic”—is “guilty” of trying to help nearly one million Catholics around the world keep the Faith and preserve the liturgy and catechism of the Catholic Church.  He’s taking the case for Catholic restoration directly to the Chair of Peter. This is not the action of a schismatic, and the Holy Father is keenly aware that it’s not.

The little hall monitors in Germany can squeal all they wish that the SSPX is running in the hallways or talking in the lavatories, but serious Catholics have two fairly clear alternatives to consider in this case: To side with the bishop who has kept the Faith and who is in negotiations with the Holy Father, but whose ordinations, though absolutely lawful, are, at least for the moment, arguably illicit.  Or, side with the bishop who denies the expiatory nature of the death and suffering of Jesus Christ and believes priestly celibacy is optional.

What would Jesus do? What do you think!

With the Holy Father’s decision to rescind the 1988 excommunication decree against the SSPX bishops, the last serious impasse to unity within the ranks of Traditionalism fell by the wayside. Throughout the world today Traditionalists are standing together. We’ve all had enough of the ecclesial tyrants who are presiding over the total destruction of our Church. Try as they no doubt will, the only way now for Bishops Zollitsch and Muller to get rid of Tradition is to excommunicate Traditionalists—all of us, inside the SSPX and out. And with the Pope himself leaning decidedly in Tradition’s direction that’s becoming nothing more than a modernist pipedream. It would appear that kibitzing liberal bishops may have simply outlived their revolution. Please God, let it be so. 

Carry on, Bishop Fellay!