Today, the website of the German bishops, Katholisch.de, surprises its readers with the publication of a story detailing an initiative which has been launched in order to support Pope Francis himself against the critics who signed the 24 September Filial Correction. The new group is called “Pro Pope Francis” and now has its own website, “www.pro-pope-francis.com“. It says that the group has already 100 signatories and more than 1,000 “supporters” of this declaration. The initiative thanks Pope Francis for his “courageous and theologically well-founded leadership.” The signatories also praise the pope for letting “mercy have the last word” in pastoral matters.
Among the signatories are the two men who initiated the current declaration – the theologian, Father Paul Zulehner (Vienna, Austria), and the sociologist Father Tomas Halik (Prague, Czech Republic) – as well as retired Bishop Paul Iby (Eisenstadt, Austria) and retired Bishop Helmut Krätzl (Vienna), the Abbot of Pannonhalma (Hungary), Asztrik Varszegi, Auxiliary Bishop Vaclav Maly (Prague) and retired Bishop Fritz Lobinger of North-Aliwal (South Africa). Among the signatories is also the editor-in-chief of the Jesuit journal Stimmen der Zeit, Father Andreas Batlogg, S.J. The Social Democratic former President of Parliament in Germany, Wolfgang Thierse, is likewise one of the signatories.
Important to note is that there are to be found several prominent dissenters from Catholic tradition among the signatories. For example, Bishop Lobinger proposes to ordain married men and women as priests; Father Martin Lintner proposes to liberalize the Church’s teaching on homosexuality and to re-write the 1992 Catechism in light of Amoris Laetitia. Moreover, one of the two men who launched the project, Father Paul Zulehner, a co-author of a book written by Bishop Lobinger, is also known to criticize priestly celibacy and to propose the ordination of married men as priests who would then assist part-time the main priest of a parish. Moreover, Martha Heizer — the President of the Austrian grass-root organization “We Are Church” (Wir sind Kirche) — was excommunicated by Pope Francis in May of 2014 for having, together with her husband, “celebrated” repeatedly Holy Mass in their private home and in the presence of guests.
In the following, we shall present to our readers the full text of the statement of this new initiative:
Dear highly esteemed Pope Francis,
Your pastoral initiatives and their theological justification are currently under vehement attack by a group in the church. With this open letter, we wish to express our gratitude for your courageous and theologically sound papal leadership.
In a short time, you have succeeded in reshaping the pastoral culture of the Roman Catholic Church in accordance with its origin in Jesus. Wounded people and wounded nature go straight to your heart. You see the church as a field hospital on the margins of life. Your concern is every single person loved by God. When encountering others, compassion and not the law shall have the last word. God and God’s mercy characterize the pastoral culture that you expect from the church. You dream of a “church as mother and shepherdess.” We share your dream.
We ask that you would not veer from the path you have taken, and we assure you of our full support and constant prayer.
As Cardinal Gerhard Müller has just recently noted in an interview with the German Catholic newspaper Die Tagespost about the progressivist theologians who earlier had resisted orthodoxy: “In the meantime, the opponents of ‘then’ have now molted into enthusiastic followers of the pope.” [emphasis added]
The post has been updated, adding some information about Martha Heizer; a correction has also been made to the title of Wolfgang Thierse, who was not, as originally stated, former President of Germany, but Germany’s former President of Parliament.