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German Journalist Questions Francis’ Remarks on Marriage

Image courtesy of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung / © DPA

While it was Pope Francis’ 17 May 2016 interview with the French journal La Croix that led to a strong critique of the pope as a “relativizer” by German journalist Dr. Alexander Kissler, it was Francis’ recent comments about the invalidity of a vast majority of Catholic marriages that provoked another well-known German journalist – Christian Geyer – to write his own indignant rebuke.

Geyer – himself a father of four children – is the editor of the culture section of the prestigious, preeminent and well-honored German daily newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. On 23 June, he published in that section an article entitled “We Childish People.” With reference to Pope Francis’ 16 June remarks on marriage, Geyer says that the pope now claims that the majority of Christian marriages are “’invalid’ – respectively ‘null’ – and thus, in the logic of Church Law, annullable.” The journalist continues:

Yes, he [Pope Francis] explains, that is so, because today, one lives after all in a “culture of the provisional,” and in such a culture, the people [Menschenkinder – little immature children]  do not know what they say when they promise each other to remain together until death separates them.

Geyer concludes with the comment that, then, the pope must regard his contemporaries as “a mere appendage to their culture, and in such a way that in the 21st century, intentional actions merely reach as far as a man’s hand can reach to his own mouth.” The German journalist sees here that the pope does not give credit to humans to be able to understand even what they promise to each other and that he thus pre-emptively holds them incapable of such a decision. Geyer therefore asks:

Did we understand correctly? Is someone here performing an act of rendering on a large scale people incapable to make a decision (independently of whether the video speaks of a “great majority” or whether in the corrected Vatican transcript itself, there is merely talk of a “part” of the Christian marriages)? […] The tenor is: even if these childish people would like to – they can’t. This is [condescending]  papal paternalism at its best – which literally leaves one speechless.

Greyer continues, by asking whether the pope intends here to establish a “new anthropological law” according to the motto: “people nowadays just don’t have it together.” He also adds the question whether this aspect will now be added to the theology in the sense of “a reality of the provisional,” which then becomes “the measure for the norm (implying: let us not bother further the people with our impositions – they anyway only think in the manner of the provisional, and whoever among them binds himself for ever, does not know anyway what he is doing).”

These questions, however, cannot be answered, says Geyer, because of the “intentional unclarity of his [Pope Francis’] words in general – a lack of precision that has become in the meantime the structural foundation for this Argentinian pontificate.” (These words remind us of Professor Jude Dougherty’s recent words about the pope’s “deliberate ambiguities.”)

Geryer sees in Pope Francis’ words an inversion at work that will have grave consequences when deeply considered. Geyer says:

This papal determination about the relation between culture and Faith which shines through here is, however, revealing. Here, the Biblical Parable of the Leaven experiences an inversion: accordingly, culture seems to be now the salt of the earth which penetrates the Leaven of the Faith – instead of the reverse. In this reversion [and inversion] of perspectives lies the moment of surprise of all of the public appearances of Pope Francis.

In this context, Geyer mentions also the highlighting of the pastoral aspect which has been increased by Pope Francis with reference to a further “merciful development of tradition.” But, here the journalist objects:

But, is this so, indeed? We adulterers, we sinful generation, feel that we are being fooled. We reject that – with the help a of a diagnosis at a distance – we are being declared not to be responsible for our own actions [and thus to be infantilized]. If we are not able to keep our promises, then we want to be able to say so: “I have not been loyal to my promise, here not and there not.” But we do not want to be told spontaneously by a pope [Geyer reveals that friend and foe call Pope Francis now also “Spontifex”]  that we have not been capable of making such a promise as we performed it (since, after all, we are only part of the culturally provisional).

Christian Geyer concludes his passionate and indignant analysis of Pope Francis’ condescending and infantilizing words with the question:

“Does the pope know what he is saying?”

11 thoughts on “German Journalist Questions Francis’ Remarks on Marriage”

  1. Thank you Maike. I get it now.

    JB’s goal is to estsblish that Catholic marriage is subject to divorse. If we know only that “most” are invalid, then most can be terminated. He wins by undermining the sacramental nature of the covanent, but by opening the door to divorce JB causes incalculable suffering and visits that evil in countless innocents.

    [There’s more to it, but I didn’t see that part before ]

  2. “Does the pope know what he is saying?”

    If he doesn’t then he is quite insane. If he does then he is a demon.

    But I am sure there are plenty of self-regarding “apologists” out there who will tell us that all the insane things he says are really a genuine doctrinal development when read in a hermeneutic of continuity blah, blah, retch.

    • Yes he knows, like the best Columbo ever. Just ask Bishop Forte. As one with some marketing background, it takes quite a bit of “word-smithing” to use just the right ambiguity such that sleepy Catholics think it is good when the real meaning is approval of sin under the guise of mercy. You don’t get this by accident, especially over multiple documents and press interviews. I use the term “diabolical ambiguity” to match the “diabolical disorientation” phrase by Sr. Lucy.

    • “Does the pope know what he is saying?”
      If he doesn’t then he is quite insane. If he does then he is a demon.

      No third option comes to mind. So the conclusion is rather scary.

  3. Can we also say that most Ordinations are invalid?
    A priest I know is hohum about the Mass, teaches false things abut Sacraments,etc.
    Can I rock up to him and declare that his ordination was probably invalid?

  4. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops speaks on annulments.

    “Annulment” is an unfortunate word that is sometimes used to refer to a Catholic “declaration of nullity.” Actually, nothing is made null through the process. Rather, a Church tribunal (a Catholic Church court) declares that a marriage thought to be valid according to Church law actually fell short of at least one of the essential elements required for a binding union.”

    “For a Catholic marriage to be valid, it is required that: (1) the spouses are free to marry; (2) they are capable of giving their consent to marry; (3) they freely exchange their consent; (4) in consenting to marry, they have the intention to marry for life, to be faithful to one another and be open to children; (5) they intend the good of each other; and (6) their consent is given in the presence of two witnesses and before a properly authorized Church minister. Exceptions to the last requirement must be approved by Church authority.”

    I see one hugh glaring flaw with the aforesaid, namely they are assuming that each partner has come out of a reasonably healthy and happy home life. There is no mention of a girl who has been abused since her earliest years. Shrinks tell us that more often than not, such a girl ends up marrying an abuser. Where in those five elements above, does this find a place? It does NOT. Ditto if one spouse ends up being a sociopath or psychopath or pervert. Or what if eventually you find your spouse is molesting a child, what then? Is one bound to live with an enemy or one who could possibly end up taking your life? What if one spouse is a druggie or alcoholic?

    These are all very real situations which many live with everyday. So to take it for granted when a young couple agrees to marry, that it means no mental, physical or spiritual impairments exist, this seems to make the rule makers clueless at best. Is it possible that the pope/church is finally growing up and facing realities heretofore pushed under the rug? And if that is not what he is doing, then why isn’t he addressing these long standing hidden problems within the church, that of hiding from the truth?

    Ann Barnhardt has written much on narcissism in recent weeks…and how devastating it is to the victim/and/or children involved. Does the church actually believe that the children must be able to coexist with demonic behaviors of a very narc parent?
    The pope attempts to make Catholics appear to be children who can’t make up their own minds, I see a clergy so pathetically immature to be deciding for the rest of us who have to live with realities that no one should have to endure.

    • “Or what if eventually you find your spouse is molesting a child, what then?” –
      I left taking my two very young sons and one still in my womb with me. Although I was told so by some well-meaning family members, I was not seeking a boyfriend, new relationship or new “marriage.” Making friendships was difficult because I was a single mother, and believe me, perceived by other married women as threat But I had to rely on something or someone. So I discovered my faith anew. Nearly seventeen years later, I am glad I did leave. Although my oldest left the Church – he was the reason I left – thanks to the Blessed Mother he actually became a dissent human being, which nobody would predict it ten years ago. I believe the Blessed Mother won’t let him stay away from the Church for long. My two younger ones love Our Lord, love the Church and know their faith better than your average Catholic school student.

      Our Lord is merciful. There is a place for people like you described. They may leave their abusive husbands/wives. When one believe, with God’s grace living a chased life is not difficult either.

      • Am so sorry for your suffering, but it sounds like you went on with God’s help. I am always outraged at what can only be called simpleton Catholics who advocate for abused women/children to remain in a marriage which could totally destroy them in body/heart and soul.

        Any one who has ever lived with the devastating effects of a narcissist spouse knows that no marriage counseling, no priest or family member can get through to a DN. My one hugh regret in life is having listened to the church/priests who taught me that you must stay in a marriage no matter how much it harms you and the children. Such people who would push for punishment, can hardly be called godly. But they could well stand for that muslim godhead, allah the sadistic one.

        Lest one think that screwball priests pushing for a lifestyle of abuse of women, no longer exist….I bring you Case 125,098,766.

  5. Why are so many analysts fearful of facing up to the truth that he says what he believes and what he believes is unbelievable?

    Well, it is understandable for who is it that wants to face up to the modernist music and call the song exactly what it is?

  6. when I got married I did not know what I know now. but on that day I intended “til death do us part” as I understood validity of marriage is not what we later find out but what we intend on that day at that time.
    thankfully death has not yet stepped in 40 years later.
    if his words apply to marriage, would they not also apply to priests on the day of ordination. would the pope feel he did not know what he was doing so many years ago.

  7. I think that the problem is this……… Our fundamental role should be to be Catholic in the sense that whether you are a Pope, Cardinal, Bishop, Priest, Doctor, Politician, Father or Mother and this should come before our positions in life and whether we are English, French or American. Being true to the faith should come above every identity that we think we have. So in this sense it is frustrating to hear or read things that are not truthful.


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