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Former Vatican official raps Cardinal Marx, says German hierarchy unfit to guide universal Church

March 24, 2015

In a rare public display of open disagreement among ranking prelates, Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes has criticized another German Church leader, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, for his suggestion that the German Church will not wait for approval from Rome before allowing Communion for Catholics who are divorced and remarried.

At a February 25 press conference, Cardinal Marx—who is the president of the German bishops’ conference, as well as a member of the Council of Cardinals—said: “We are not a branch office of Rome.” Regarding the hotly debated issue of allowing Communion to remarried Catholics, which will be discussed by the Synod of Bishops in October, he said: “We cannot wait for a Synod to tell us how we have to shape pastoral care for marriage and family here.”

In a letter to the editor of Die Tagespost, Cardinal Cordes took issue with those statements. He said that he had chosen “to object publicly to some of the utterances, in order to limit the confusion which they have caused.”

The statements by Cardinal Marx betrayed a “theological blurriness that makes you wonder,” Cardinal Cordes said. He added that the language used by Cardinal Marx was more suitable to a saloon than to a theological discussion, and certainly not “imbued with the spirit of communio.”

Cardinal Cordes—who is the retired president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum—said that the German bishops today are not qualified to offer instruction to the Catholic world. Pointing to the collapse of the Catholic faith in Germany—and in particular citing a poll that showed only 16% of self-identified Catholics in Germany believe in a personal God—the cardinal observed: “So there is no reason to pride ourselves on our faith if we stand in comparison to other countries.”

“The existing German ecclesial apparatus is completely unfit to work against growing secularism,” Cardinal Cordes said.


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  • Posted by: Gregory108 - Mar. 25, 2015 12:10 AM ET USA

    RE: Cardinal Marx: How do these folks rise to headship in the Church? And a cardinal yet! Not just some ill-informed priest, but a cardinal! Don't these men know the difference between doing what is right vs doing what is expedient, what will make "us" popular? I know priests in my home city who are more obedient to the Church and more willing to fight for Her than some of these cardinals! Time for a house-cleaning!

  • Posted by: wcbeckman51 - Mar. 24, 2015 8:58 PM ET USA

    Cardinal Cordes has served the Church loyally for years. He is a faithful shepherd who makes his points well. He's aware that the German society is on the brink of full blown apostasy and the pastoral proposals of Cardinal Marx and others are not aimed at rectifying the situation. Their main concern is the tax revenue they receive from registered "members."

  • Posted by: jacquebquique5708 - Mar. 24, 2015 7:54 PM ET USA

    As a supporter of Cardinal Cordes, I would ask if I am missing something. As someone who studied with the Vincentian Fathers, I would ask whatever happened to the defining mediator of Scripture. A sociological Church based on economics just doesn't cut it. As per JP1, "It is a mistake to state that political, economic, and social liberation coincide with salvation in Jesus Christ".

  • Posted by: jeremiahjj - Mar. 24, 2015 6:57 PM ET USA

    Cardinal Marx is just dead wrong. The issue he addresses is doctrinal and if he can change it nilly-willy, might not other cardinals (and perhaps bishops and maybe even priests too) do the same. Expect the cardinal to be called back to Rome soon.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Mar. 24, 2015 12:41 PM ET USA

    "We are not a branch of Rome." Sounds like: "We will not serve." "The institutional church is a threat to all mankind." Echoes of the "spirit of Vatican II?" From the source: "Cardinal Cordes responded, saying that…the fathers of Vatican II 'came to the conclusion that it would be erroneous to see the 'signs of the times' in the life of men simply as a 'source of faith' … and formally excluded the embarrassing fallacy that any challenge of the Church as such would be a source of faith.'"