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Monday, March 19, 2018

How Bad Is It? It’s as bad as Bishop Stephan Ackermann

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Bishop ackermann

One of the painful parts of writing about the Church crisis is having to learn about the Church crisis. It’s a sad fact that in order to write about something with adequate care and diligence, one spends a lot of time amassing facts that most people, most sane people, would really just rather not know.

When I was younger the centre of gravity for the neo-modernist revolution in the Church was the Netherlands. But with yet another announcement gravely contrary to the Catholic Faith, it seems clear that the Spectre of Vatican II has settled permanently in Germany. With it being said more often and more openly that the German bishops are in a state of open schism, I thought maybe the time has come for us to have a closer look.


The oddity of the situation in the Church of Germany has been pointed out many times; a Catholic who chooses to withhold his financial contributions to the Church through his taxes – perhaps out of reluctance to finance bishops openly opposing Catholic teaching – will be excommunicated. But as of this week, Cardinal Marx – one of the leading promoters of Amoris Laetitia and the Bergoglian New Paradigm – has announced that those who are not in fact Catholics at all (and who presumably are not ticking the “Catholic” box on their tax returns[1]) are now being offered Holy Communion in Germany’s Catholic churches.

Last one out, turn off the lights

Last week I wrote a piece for the Remnant about the closure of Mariawald Trappist monastery, but that is not the only historic German abbey to be closing in the last couple of months. Himmerod Cistercian Abbey, in the diocese of Trier, was originally founded in 1134 by Saint Bernard as a daughter house of Clairvaux, but in 1802 became an early victim of the anti-Catholic upheavals of the 19th and 20th centuries[2]. In 1922 a group of German Cistercians reopened the by-then-ruined abbey, rebuilding the monastic church and cloisters.

As did nearly all religious houses, Himmerod eagerly adopted the New Liturgical Paradigm of Vatican II and began its consequent and inevitable decline. Late last year, the abbey, with its remaining six elderly monks, breathed its last prayer[3] as a Cistertian house; its property was absorbed by the diocese and the church is being used as a music venue.

The bishop of Trier, however, is reportedly looking for another community of monks to maintain the abbey as a centre of religion. The last resident monk at the abbey, Fr. Stephan Senge said Bishop Stephan Ackermann wants “to create a spiritual center with him and his staff. That as before people can come to Himmerod and celebrate days of reflection, of peace and of homecoming.”

That sounds like at least a little bit of a silver lining, doesn’t it? Better than the worst case scenario of a hotel or mosque, right? In fact Bishop Ackermann has said that the preservation of Himmerod as a religious place is a “top priority”.

Yeah… except no. I don’t mean to say it’s impossible that something good could come out of it, but let’s just take a closer look to get an idea of what his plans might include. Stephan Ackermann, as it turns out, is one of the bishops who can give us a fairly clear-eyed notion of how bad things really are in the German Church.

Ackermann was a protégé of then-bishop of Trier, Reinhard Marx whom he succeeded as bishop in 2009 when Marx was promoted to Munich Freising and made a cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI. Since then he has proved himself a devoted disciple of the Marxian school of the German episcopate, enthusiastically promoting the trendiest causes while closing nearly all the diocese’s parishes.

Catholic sexual teaching just plain out of date

In 2014, in the lead-up to the Synods on the Family, Ackermann was among the first to outright demand that the Church simply abandon her teaching on sex and family. It was clear that Ackermann was in the know about what was finally to appear in the form of Amoris Laetitia. He told the newspaper Allgemeine Zeitung Mainz, “The Church’s teaching on morals and sexual ethics needs to change.”

“The Christian concept of the human being emanates from the polarity of the sexes but we cannot simply say homosexuality is unnatural.” Ackermann is known for spending time in “pastoral” activities in gay bars.

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“The recent survey [sent out by the Vatican Synod organisers] has shown that the moral teaching of the Church is considered to be focused on rules and bans and to be far removed from reality. If we strengthen people’s feeling of being responsible then we also need to respect the decisions they make before their own conscience.”

Ackermann’s opinions on the divorced and civilly remarried were lockstep in line with those promoting the Kasper doctrine: “It does not fit into our times anymore to consider a marriage that follows a divorce as everlasting mortal sin and not to admit the re-married to the sacraments. It is not right that there exists only the ideal on the one side and condemnation on the other side.”

But he went a few steps further, saying, “It is not maintainable to consider every kind of pre-marital sex to be a grave sin.” For good measure, Ackermann took a shot at Humanae Vitae[4], saying, “The distinction between natural and unnatural methods for preventing pregnancies is artificial and nobody understands this anymore.”

Let us not forget, moreover, that Germany is a porn-saturated society in which prostitution has been legal for decades and men can frequent government-sponsored brothels. There was little outcry from the public – and total silence from the bishops – when it was revealed that women in receipt of state benefits were being forced into prostitution by social workers, or that the government was shipping in “more staff” for the state-sponsored brothels during the World Cup.

Germany has, literally, become a state of pimps and human traffickers. One might think that it could have been a useful topic for a German bishop to bring up at the Synod on the Family.

A New Paradigm in the diocese – literally Catholic in name only

Despite the peculiar situation of the immense wealth of the German Church granted by the Church Tax, the diocese of Trier – Germany’s oldest, founded in the 3rd century – is at the forefront of dynamically! creatively! and excitingly! overseeing the systematic shut-down of the Church’s institutions. Despite the money, you see, there just aren’t any people going to Mass, a situation the German episcopate finds ideal, apparently.

Last year, Ackermann announced the decision of the diocesan synod to reduce the number of parishes of Trier from 887 to thirty-five to serve the 1.4 million Catholics in Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland. These “maxi-parish” clusters represent the future of the Church according to the diocese’s officials, who said there would be in each of these regions a single “parish place,” where the administration is “bundled.” To this would be added “a diverse network of ideas, initiatives, church sites and theme centers.” The bishop was quoted saying that of the old concept of the Catholic parish, “only the name will remain the same.”

Zero tolerance; except when it isn’t

Most recently, the diocese admitted that it is ready with a €450,000 pay-out to 90 victims of sexual abuse by 33 members of the diocesan clergy. A spokesman for the diocese assured the press that the money for the payment “would not come from the church tax” but will be covered “solely by the diocese itself”... whose funds come from the Church Tax… But who’s counting?

Stephan Ackermann, it might be noted, was the prelate at the head of the German Bishops’ Conference abuse commission, and was a vocal proponent – as much as Pope Francis, in fact – of the “zero tolerance” policy put in place by Pope Benedict. Like the pope, however, Ackermann’s devotion to the policy was mostly on paper. In reality, after he had publicly encouraged victims to come forward with their accusations, he refused to act on them, either to investigate the cases of impose penalties.

Reporting in March 2012, Spiegel said that in January of that year, “Ackermann had to issue a public apology after failing to immediately suspend a suspected pedophile priest in 2011.” Spiegel reported that they had information about another seven cases of priests in Trier suspected of having abused minors, about whom the bishop had remained silent.

“The treatment of problematic ministers is similar in many cases: The presumed offenders are reported to the authorities for suspected sexual assault or are encouraged to turn themselves in. Then, they are given a suspended sentence. After that, they are permitted to return to service within the Church. They are often assigned to hospitals or retirement homes as well as permitted to assist in the surrounding communities.

…“At a recent and emotionally charged event in Trier, even Church employees turned against their bishop. Jutta Lehnert, the spiritual director of Trier's Catholic Students' Association, told Ackermann in no uncertain terms: ‘The power structures in the Church must be carefully scrutinized,’ adding that they amount to ‘an open barn door for sexual predators.’”

Extra Ecclesiam Tota Salus

A bishop who covers up the crimes of his own priests while preaching justice for victims, one who lies about the will of God with regard to the most important issues of the day, is bad enough, but in the eyes of God, isn’t public apostasy worse? The first three Commandments give us a hint about the priorities we must have: the rights of God come first. Remembering this is a good deal of what separates “traditional” Catholics from “conservatives” who seem not to mind too much. It’s telling, perhaps, that enthusiasm for “ecumenism” is one of the earmarks of the “conservative” Catholic paradigm.

The first thing in English that pops up when you Google Bishop Ackermann’s name is a page of the Tradition in Action website that claimed he had allowed himself to be “rebaptised” by a Lutheran ministrix in some kind of “ecumenical” para-liturgy in 2012. TiA does not include a link, however, and I was ready to drop the search when I found on the Trier diocesan website, on the bishop’s bio page,[5] a photo of this event.

At the event, Ackermann told the audience, “Even today Christians of all denominations are interwoven by the gift of faith and baptism, as undivided as the Holy Rock.” He added, “In Christ we are one, he gave his life for the unity of his Disciples.”

The website of the Diocese of Trier, confirms that this ceremony was a “baptismal renewal service” and was part of a diocesan “day of ecumenism.” The page includes a photo of the bishop receiving a “blessing” on his forehead from Barbara Rudolph, a minister of the Lutheran church. The bishop was quoted saying that the “Church should not withdraw from the world ‘into the sacristy’.” It should, instead, be a “landmark” to the world on one hand and on the other should “if necessary… interfere with things.”

“In Germany, the church is very strongly networked with society - for example in education, health or social institutions. Sometimes you have to make compromises - even between ‘show a clear edge’ and ‘tie in with what does not distinguish us so much’ of the ‘world.’

“‘We are sent by Christ into the world,’ says Bishop Ackermann and promotes a concept of ‘critical connection.’ ‘We share many values ​​with the people of our day, even if they are not Catholic.’ Thus, one can build on the fact that the respect for the freedom of the individual has grown, that in society on a large scale people around the world will be helped or that tolerance for other ways of thinking has become greater.”

The bishop called for a “permanent evangelisation” by Christians who “not only know about the Good news,” but who “allow themselves to be influenced by it.”

To most Catholics perhaps this would seem like little more than a populist stunt, the kind of thing fashionable for prelates of the Catholic Church since Pope John Paul II started giving pectoral crosses to Anglican laymen visiting Rome dressed up as bishops. But if we take the Faith seriously at all, is not the act of being publicly “rebaptised” in fact, at the very least, a public declaration that the Sacrament of Baptism of the Church (we must presume Ackermann received this) was somehow insufficient?

These aren’t the bishops you’re looking for… Move along…

The other day I wrote about the closing of Mariawald in the context of “the all-but-open apostasy of much of the German episcopate.” But doesn’t this take it to the next step? Is it complicated? Isn’t it simply that being “re-baptised” in a Protestant church a public act of apostasy? It also demonstrates what a lot of us are saying lately: it’s not a conspiracy if they’re doing it in the open, sending out press releases and posting it on the diocesan websites.

Something to remember about Ackermann and Germany, however, is that he is normal. He is not a “liberal” bishop. This category simply doesn’t exist in European ecclesiastical circles. The United States is almost unique in this strict categorizing of its episcopate into these two warring camps. Ackermann is simply what a German bishop is in our time. He’s not an equivalent of a Mahoney or a Gullickson. He’s normal. This is the Church in Germany.

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[1] A friend on FB commented: “So, does this mean your Protestant spouse can receive if you’re already excommunicated for refusing to pay the Church Tax?”

[2] This pattern for the great monasteries of Europe is depressingly common. All but a tiny fraction of contemplative houses of all orders across Europe were dissolved by secularists starting at the French Revolution, carried on by Napoleon and then by the 19th century’s Freemasonic “anti-clericalists”. Himmerod fits the pattern of the monastery founded in the 1100s or 1200s according to one of the great monastic revival movements, flourishing until the 1500s and surviving until the 1700s, after which they are forcibly closed by secularist governments and abandoned. After World War I there was a brief moment of revival and some of the abandoned monasteries in Germany, France and Italy were revived… just in time – while flourishing with post-War vocations – for the potato blight of Vatican II to strike, giving us the global religious famine of today.

[3] The headlines made much of the abbey’s original date of founding, with the headlines all noting it was closed after nearly 900 years, without troubling to mention the 120 year gap.

[4] Take note of the scandal, NFPers…

[5] In the same blurb on the Trier diocese website is announced the 2013-2016 Diocesan Synod that ultimately resulted in the downgrading or closing of nearly all Trier’s parishes.

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Last modified on Tuesday, March 20, 2018
Hilary White

Our Italy correspondent is known throughout the English-speaking world as a champion of family and cultural issues. First introduced by our allies and friends at the incomparable, Miss White lives in Norcia, Italy.