On 12 April, the influential German Cardinal Karl Lehmann wrote an official statement and praised the new Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia. Lehmann is the former President of the German Bishops’ Conference and was a member of the so-called “Sankt Gallen Group” which is known to have been a supporter of Jorge Bergoglio back at the 2005 conclave. He is also known for his support of German Catholic organizations which support abortion, in spite of official rebukes of these groups by the Vatican in the 1990s.
According to the official website of the German Bishops, katholisch.de, Lehmann especially praises in his statement that chapter of the document Amoris Laetitia which deals with the question of the “remarried” divorcees, and he calls it “a great shot (“Wurf”).” In this part of the text, Lehmann sees “three fundamental attitudes” of the pope, namely: “to accompany the fragility; to discern; and to integrate.” The priests and fellow Catholics are now, in Lehmann’s eyes, challenged by the pope to accompany the “remarried” divorcees “in a way that goes far beyond our previous capacities.” This concerns now also many new tasks for the bishops’ conferences, dioceses, and for the various institutions of formation. This new approach, according to the German cardinal, implies also the “readiness of all to go along on this burdensome path, which also involves a conversion [sic].” Lehmann says: “Are we ready for this? That is the question.” It is not at all clear, however, whether the cardinal implies here that those who accompany the “remarried” divorcees are more in need of a conversion than the troubled couples themselves.
Cardinal Lehmann stresses in his statement – which has been posted on the website of the Diocese of Mainz, where he is the bishop – that the pope says now, with regard to those couples who live in “irregular situations” that one cannot simply any more say that they live in “the state of mortal sin” and that they have thus lost the “sanctifying grace.” Lehmann stresses the importance to discern and differentiate each case individually, and he then proceeds to claim that there is no explicit change of the Church’s norm, because of that enhanced need for differentiation.
In the recent past, there has come to light much evidence that the so-called “Sankt Gallen Group” had tried, already in 2005, to promote the election of Jorge Bergoglio onto the throne of St. Peter, because he was seen to be in accordance with their own more progressive goals and ideals. The group – which included not only Cardinal Lehmann, but also Cardinal Walter Kasper, Cardinal Carlo Martini, and Cardinal Godfried Danneels – thus also resolutely and resourcefully opposed the election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who seemed to be too “conservative” in their eyes. One of their reform goals for the Church was then already the slackening of the Church’s discipline and making less strict the Church’s traditional teaching concerning the “remarried” divorcees.
It seems now that, in the eyes of Cardinal Lehmann, that long-term goal has largely been attained.