The Church in crisis has lost yet another champion with the death of Professor Robert Spaemann at the age of 91. He is said to have died peacefully on December 10 “after a long period of age-related suffering.”
I must admit, I had never heard of Professor Robert Spaemann before April of 2016. It was at that time that the esteemed German Catholic philosopher (and personal friend of Pope Benedict XVI) became known to the English-speaking world for his scathing criticism of the just-published post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia.
Citing direct contradictions between Amoris Laetitia and the work of Pope John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio, Spaemann stated in no uncertain terms that as regards the Church’s traditional teaching, “It is clear to every thinking person who knows the texts that are important in this context that there is a breach.”
He went on:
The chaos has been turned into a principle – with one stroke of a pen. The pope should have known that he will split the Church with such a step and that he leads her into the direction of a schism – a schism that would be not at the periphery, but in the middle of the Church. May God help us to avoid this.
Just a few months later, Francis was alleged to have agreed with the sentiment. “It is not to be excluded,” he was reported to have said to some individuals close to him, “that I will enter history as the one who split the Catholic Church.”
That same month, but a few days before the pope’s comments were reported, Professor Spaemann came out swinging again. On the matter of the dubia presented to Pope Francis by Cardinals Burke, Brandmuller, Meisner, and Caffarra, Spaemann said:
With the dubia, the cardinals fulfill their own duty to support with their own counsel – as “senators” – the Church in the person of the Holy Father. The supreme judge of the Church is the pope. And that is why it is deplorable that only four cardinals have taken the initiative in this case…
A year later, Spaemann also stood up for his fellow Catholic philosopher, Professor Josef Seifert, who was fired from his position as Dietrich von Hildebrand Chair at the International Academy of Philosophy in Granada, Spain, by Archbishop Javier Martínez Fernández. He said in an interview with Dr. Maike Hickson for OnePeterFive:
What Seifert criticizes is the breach with the continuous teaching of the Church and with the explicit teachings of Popes Paul VI and John Paul II. Saint John Paul once, in Veritatis Splendor, stressed, explicitly, that there is no exception to the rejection of the “remarried” divorcees with regard to the Sacraments. Pope Francis contradicts the teaching of Veritatis Splendor just as explicitly.
As pertains to that split in the Church he prophesied, Spaemann told Hickson:
The split within the Church concerning Amoris Laetitia has already taken place. Different bishops’ conferences have published contradictory guidelines. And the poor priests are left alone.
Spaemann then concluded, as a man who lived through the Nazi regime in Germany, that “It was easier during Nazi times to be a faithful Christian than today.”
May God grant this soldier eternal rest, and raise up more like him to combat the errors of our day.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have eight children. You can find more of his writing at his Substack, The Skojec File.