Thursday, February 6, 2020

The Dutch Bishops Then and the German Bishops Now Want to Destroy Priestly Celibacy

Pope Paul VI defended priestly celibacy with a remarkable speech on February 1, 1970.

(Rome) Exactly 50 years ago, Pope Paul VI. gave an important speechfor priestly celibacy. The reason for this was attacks by bishops who wanted to abolish celibacy. The parallels are obvious: Back then it was Dutch bishops, today they are German bishops. The geographic and linguistic direction from which the attack comes has remained the same. The difference is in the attitude of the ruling pope. Pope Francis' word during his visit to Colombia that he would never agree to an end to celibacy was - as experience shows - unfortunately worth nothing. This statement is hard and painful. Who would have thought of reporting it of a pope, but what is worth a word if the opposite of that is done
The absence of a formal act of consent is ultimately irrelevant when it is initiated, encouraged, encouraged and tolerated in practice, which is denied according to words, see the behavior in connection with the admission by Amoris laetitia of people in serious sin to communion, see the behavior towards the German Bishops' Conference in connection with the admission of Protestant spouses to Communion, see the behavior in connection with the Amazon synod .
In March 2017, in an interview with the weekly newspaper Die Zeit, Francis declared his willingness to speak about the admission of married priests. The same Francis, a few months later, on September 9, 2017, in Colombia, appeared to be vigorously defending the sacramental priesthood - and also celibacy - in front of a mass audience that was less liberal than the readership of the Die ZeitThat there are no vocations at the present time is a "fairy tale," thundered Francis:
"And don't come here to tell me: 'No, of course, there aren't that many calls for a special consecration because - that's clear - with this crisis we are experiencing ...' Do you know what that is? Are these fairy tales? Is that clear? Even in the midst of this crisis, God calls."

The faithful were enthusiastic, and the good faith media reported that the Pope had rejected the possible introduction of married priests. wrote then:
“Pope Francis is known for statements that, in their vagueness, stand in direct contradiction to other statements made by him, or at least seem to stand for them. In the absence of official corrections, denials or interpretations, opinions differ on whether this is carelessness in an improvised style of speech or deliberate intention. A statement he made to a large audience in Colombia last Saturday seems to clarify the central issue of the priesthood. But is he really doing this?"
The words of Pope Paul VI. are, on the other hand, clear and represent a shining and timeless orientation point. Above all, they are a repeated request, which is not least aimed directly at the believers.

"One cannot question priestly celibacy"

He said it to Angelus in Rome on February 1, 1970 :

Pope Paul VI
Pope Paul VI
Dearest children, we need your prayers. You will surely guess why.
Among the great concerns that need God's help and to which we direct the prayers of the many good and faithful that they address to the Lord for us and for our intentions, there is one that is very dear to us now, and by which is spoken a lot now: the holy celibacy of priests.
It is a major law of our Latin Church.
You cannot give it up or question it: it would be a step backwards. There would be a lack of faithfulness in love and sacrifice that our Latin Church has imposed, after perfect experience with immense courage and evangelical serenity through the centuries, strives for strict selection and constant renewal of her priestly ministry, from which the vitality of the whole God's people depends.
It is certainly a very high and very demanding norm, the observance of which, in addition to an irrevocable resolution, requires a special charism, that is, a higher and inner grace (Mt 19:12; 19:29; 1 Cor 7: 7). This makes celibacy fully compliant with the vocation to uniquely follow Christ and with the holistic response of the disciple, who gives up everything to follow Him alone and to serve the brothers and to dedicate himself to the Christian community fully and exclusively, with an undivided heart.
All of this makes ecclesiastical celibacy the highest testimony to the Kingdom of God, a unique and expressive sign of the values ​​of faith, hope and love, an incomparable condition of full pastoral service and a constant asceticism of Christian perfection.
Yes, it is difficult, but it is precisely this character that makes it attractive to young and burning souls, and it is more valid than ever for the needs of our time. We say even more: it can produce an easy, happy, beautiful, Catholic. We must preserve and defend him, and we must pray that the Lord will make him understand us all today, whether called or not, and that everyone, lay people, religious and clerics, should show respect and veneration for him.
And that the Virgin Mary reveals dignity, possibility and necessity to us, for those who have been elected priesthood.


What followed was a violent exchange of blows, for something already happened back then that has appeared in a new form and quality since Pope Francis' pontificate. Pope Paul VI was massively attacked on the same day by secular mass media. He was portrayed as not having spoken for the world Church. He made his statements only as Bishop of Rome and not as Pope, which is why his statements were relevant to his diocese, but not to the world Church. This splitting of the Petrine office into a Bishop of Rome and a Pope, who was something different, reaches an unprecedented climax under Pope Francis. Today it is the head of the Church himself who represents her. As Francis said, two months after his election, on the Holy Trinity Sunday, May 26, 2013, while visiting the Roman parish of Ss. Elisabeth and Zacharias,
"The Pope is in the Vatican, [understood?] The bishop comes here today."
The official German translation does not reproduce the statement in its entirety. The translators still have their problems with the spontaneous words of Francis.
Because of the harsh attacks that Pope Paul VI. received on February 2nd, the Vatican spokesman was prompted to make a statement because of his defense of celibacy. At that time, Msgr. Angelo Vallainc from the French-speaking Italian region of Aosta addressed it.
Vallainc “harshly criticized the attempts today,” as the press agency EFE reported, "downplaying" the meaning and scope “of what Paul VI.  gave in his speech on Church celibacy."
"The intention, clearly in the comments of some media on the Pope's speech, was to downplay the value of the Holy Father's words in defense of celibacy as if they were not statements of the Pope but of the Bishop of Rome, is inadmissible."
The Vatican spokesman disagreed with attempts to "split" the Pope's authority and the weight of his words "at his own discretion" between the "universal pontiff" and the "bishop of Rome". Msgr. Vallainc indicated that the Vatican knew very well what the intention behind these media reports was, namely "to support the partisans in a specific case to abolish the mandatory priestly celibacy". The Vatican spokesman made it clear that the defense and “affirmation” of priestly celibacy expressed the day before was valid for the entire world Church.

Dutch attack

The media attempt to obscure the papal words took place in a precise context. Paul VI had supported and implemented a number of post-conciliar innovations and he opposed others. That shattered the alliance with the left. Two papal documents were responsible for this: the Encyclical Sacerdotalis Caelibatus from 1967 on priestly celibacy and the Encyclical Humanae vitae from 1968 on the transmission of life.
The Dutch bishops spearheaded the attack on celibacy. In 1966, led by Cardinal Bernard Jan Alfrink, the Archbishop of Utrecht, they published the Dutch CatechismIt dealt with priestly celibacy as no longer necessary. The priestly duties could even be delegated to a “congregation.” Alfrink was appointed in 1951 by Pope Pius XII. Archbishop Co-Adjutor for Utrecht. In 1955 he became archbishop there.
Paul VI. responded with the encyclical mentioned. In a letter to Cardinal Alfrink at a "pastoral Council of the Church in the Netherlands", he appealed to them not to take any measures to abolish celibacy. Any discussion about abolition, the Pope says, "is undesirable to us." He also criticized the fact that the Dutch catechism dealt with celibacy as a purely "worldly thing" and "minimized" its meaning and scope.
One third of this “Council” was occupied by clerics and two thirds by lay people. This also shows the parallel to the "Synodal Way" of the German Bishops' Conference, which seems to be a blueprint of the Dutch "Syndodal Way" 50 years ago.
On January 7, 1970 there was a vote on celibacy. Cardinal Alfrink refused to accept Paul VI's letter. to read to the “pastoral council” at all. The celibacy abolition was “decided” by 93 votes to two. Eleven delegates abstained, writing "polite" [vornehm], and also eight bishops.
On January 19, 1970 the Dutch Bishops' Conference confirmed the result and sent it to Rome. They were ready to gamble, as the bishop of s'Hertogenbosch Jan Bluyssen said:
“There is a possibility that we have to play at a high risk. But I have the courage to play so high; but not at the expense of isolation from the world Church."
Pope Paul VI's Defense Speech on February 1st was the answer.
On the same February 2, 1970, the defiant Dutch bishops also spoke up and took the same tone as the press comments fired off by the Vatican spokesman. The press release was published by the Secretariat of the Dutch Bishops' Conference in Utrecht:
"The Dutch bishops are always in contact with the Vatican and do not have the impression that the Holy Father's speech was intended to be an answer to the problems they (the Dutch bishops) presented to His Holiness."
The explanation could just as well have come from the of the German Bishops' Conference today.
What the Dutch bishops did not know when they released the press release: On the same February 2, Pope Paul VI wrote. them a letter that what they had inflicted put him "in deepest pain," in the Dutch attack against priestly celibacy.
The "serious attitude" of the Dutch bishops "is contrary to the sacrosanct norm that applies in our Latin Church". The Pope was seriously concerned "because of the impact on all of God's people, especially the clergy and young people who are preparing for the priesthood," but also because of the "troubling consequences in the life of the whole Church and the resonance that it received." evoke this among all Christians and other members of the human family.”
Ultimately, the Dutch bishops shrank from "isolation from the world Church." Will this also apply to the German bishops, now that the general conditions in Rome are so different compared to 1970 because of Pope Francis?
The example shows that certain ailments in the Church, which play a major part in their crisis, come from far away.

Text: Giuseppe Nardi
Image: MiL
Trans: Tancred

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