Monday, March 02, 2009

Wagner Affair

The Vatican Website carries this announcement:

Il Santo Padre ha dispensato il Mons. Gerhard Wagner dall’accettare l’ufficio di Vescovo Ausiliare di Linz (Austria).

The Holy Father has dispensed the Reverend Monsignor Gerhard Wagner from accepting the office of Auxiliary Bishop of Linz (Austria).

The whole Wagner incident poses interesting problems for the Pope. The rejection of his nomination followed uproar in the Austrian media and the uber-liberal diocese of Linz. The Austria hierarchy with Cardinal von Shoenberg felt obliged to join the fray demanding the Holy See take better advice and listen to the local Church.

The trouble is Linz is out of control, it seems to offer its own unique brand of Catholicism, and desperately needs someone like Wagner, who will bring into it some mainstream Catholicism. It can be disputed whether the Pope actually bothers about the appointment of auxiliary bishops, but mutterings around Rome have suggested if this appointment can be overthrown what other decisions will the local Germany/Austria Churches reject.

Germany/Austria is in the unique situation where being a Catholic depends not on practice, or even belief but the paying of the Church Tax. The Church is supported therefore through the state, hence the German Chancellor feels she has a right, even a duty to lecture the Pope, and local officials expect to be able to decide on Church policy and appointments. In certain parts of Germany/Austria, it is no wonder "We are Church" is a serious force within or in opposition to the mainstream Catholicism, no wonder too why in the Nazi period the Church, with a few glorious exceptions, became supine to the State rather than offering it a moral compass.


Joe of St. Thérèse said...

Maybe he'll be dispensed from being auxillary, and appointed co-adjutor instead...

Brian said...

It is like the Josephite schism all over again.

The Austrian bishops think they can bully the pope into submission by moving against his appointees. Hopefully the Pope shall restore order and unity with the Church Universal to Austria. I've had enough of virtual national schisms.

Tom said...

Although the pope maybe doesn't involve himself too much in the appointment of auxiliary bishops, it would seem that Mgr Wagner's name wasn't on the list submitted (Card Schonborn seemingly indicated that), then one might assume that the pope himself did in fact make the appointment.
One cannot imagine Cardinal Re or the Congregation for Bishops going over the head of those who compiled the nomination list.

If that is the case, by dispensing from the appointment the Holy Father has been put (or allowed himself to be put) into an intolerable position. This doesn't augur too well for the future exercise of his legitimate authority, particularly in the appointment of future bishops.

One can imagine a (hypothetical) situation where, say, a major See is to be filled; after many months of careful deliberation, the pope makes a sound orthodox appointment; the local hierarchy doesn't like it; a fuss is kicked up, perhaps stirred up by stories in a less-than-Catholic press and maybe a national TV station; the pope retracts and appoints Bishop Uber-Liberal instead. Frightening. Please God it cannot and does not happen.

becket said...

The Wagner affair proves that the liberals and progressives control the church and the Pope. Whatever they want they get!!. We are NOTHING in the eyes of the liberal and progressive Catholic hierarchy. I will pray that the Orthodox Churches stay clear of the Roman Catholic Church, for the safety of their traditions and the orthodox teachings!.

gemoftheocean said...

Okay, since the first comment was rejected, I will simply pray that the Holy Father is not increasingly surrounded by "yes men." Because in the end they do not serve him.

It seems the Holy See is particularly myopic. The Williamson affair was badly handled from the get go, as was this.

Ottaviani said...

One can imagine a (hypothetical) situation where, say, a major See is to be filled; after many months of careful deliberation, the pope makes a sound orthodox appointment; the local hierarchy doesn't like it; a fuss is kicked up, perhaps stirred up by stories in a less-than-Catholic press and maybe a national TV station; the pope retracts and appoints Bishop Uber-Liberal instead. Frightening. Please God it cannot and does not happen.

But this is what we are dealing with for the last 40 years. The ghost of Paul VI is still alive in the church. America is still reaping the consequences of Archbishop Jadot and the innumerable bad bishops he is responsible for suggesting should be given the purple or red. And who was Jadot?: Paul VI's Apostolic Delegate to the United States.

To take our country as well and who Archbishop Heim (the then nuncio to England under Paul VI) managed to get in. How was it that Wolock and all the other bishops were able to resist Humanae Vitae (a document that Paul VI never defended himself)? Because they knew the Holy See would never lift a finger.

And so the vicious cycle continues...

Too many corporate yes/no men have been allowed to pass through the Vatican bureaucracy. We can only pray that the spirit of St. Pius X storms the church again and restores her to her former beauty and sanity.

Enbrethiliel said...


The Church Tax is also a huge scandal to Catholics. A few years ago, I met an Austrian gentleman who had emigrated to New Zealand. When he learned that I was a Catholic, he began to explain, quite bitterly, why he no longer was. He had grown sick, he told me, of paying the Church Tax and then watching his bishop tool around in a Mercedes. The only way to be exempt from paying the Church Tax is to declare that one is no longer a Catholic--but that will mean that when that person makes a "miraculous" deathbed "reversion," no priest will even think about giving him the last rites.

old believer said...

At least the matter is now over, it had become rather protracted.

Hopefully lessons will have been learnt from the experience. The publicity around this case has been damaging to all parties involved.

mafeking said...

What I think is interesting here is not so much the reaction of the Austrian Bishops, it's the reaction of the devil. I've never seen him so mad. That tells me he is as scared as hell of B16's reforms and he has to follow them through.

Ma Tucker said...

I think Linz has refused help. It is in revolt. It was right to propose Fr Wagner. Now that they have rejected him there is only one way to go for Linz. You can do things the easy way or the hard way. Linz has chosen the hard way may God have mercy on them.

SPQR said...

It's important to point out that the Church Tax was restored by Adolf Hitler, as a way to lure Catholics away from the Church he hated. The fact that this tax was not abolished after the war is a scandal, and Germany and Austria are now suffering the consequences of this decision.
Not entirely coincidentally to this, voting patterns show the Protestant north put Hitler in power, not the Catholic south. Seems that, far from colluding with Hitler, the Church had a certain innoculating effect against the madness of National Socialism...

Sussex Catholic said...

I think we need to spare a thought for Fr.Wagner who, had he been forced to accept the position, would very quickly have found himself undermined by his own episcopal colleagues and superiors (only an auxiliary remember). The PanzerKardinal knows which battles can be won and which not after many years in the hot seat at the CDF. This affair reveals that the whole set up in Linz and probably Austria as a whole cries out for reform root and branch. That is why the Pope has spared Fr.Wagner an impossible task and will, I hope and pray, order a Visitation of the Linz Diocese led by a senior Vatican cardinal perhaps as a prelude to a reform of the whole Austrian church. The "Church Tax" issue is a particularly unpleasant one which needs to be gripped as soon as possible.

Fr Ray Blake said...

"voting patterns show the Protestant north put Hitler in power, not the Catholic south. Seems that, far from colluding with Hitler, the Church had a certain innoculating effect against the madness of National Socialism..."

The collusion of parts of the Church, I speak of, happened after 1933, and one of the factors as you point out was "Church Tax".

I.P. said...

SPQR -The German Church enthusiastically supported Hitler, with the episcopate congratulating him on his birthday , allowing party processions with flags in churches, dropping any ban on party membership for Catholics, and issuing ultra-nationalist declarations. Even such an eminent theologian as Karl Adam was infected by Nazism .In an article published in 1933 he argued that Catholicism and Nazism belonged together, and that Hitler was the liberator of the German genius who had enabled Germans to see and love again the one essential thing "our unity of blood, our German self". Not surprisingly the present Holy Father has warned against the Nazification of the Faith.

The German Church was a broken reed
apart from a few heroic individuals. No wonder Pius XII had to exercise proper prudence when he could not be sure of its support.Nevertheless it nurtured the present Pope, who like his predecessor knows the enemies of Christianity at first hand. Good survives evil.

However it compares well with the Lutherans as no Catholic priest was a member of the einsatzgruppen(the murder squads on the Eastern Front) whereas some Lutheran ministers were.

David Lindsay said...

Of course, the last bit is a touch unfair. The more Catholic an area of Germany was, the less likely it was to vote Nazi, absolutely without exception. The German-nationalist Lager in Austria was, and is, extremely anti-Catholic. And so forth.

There might even be something to be said for church tax, which makes the churches Germany's largest employers after the several tiers of government, routinely providing the sorts of services the mere suggestion of which causes fits of the vapours in the allegedly much less secular United States.

This is very much of a piece with the fact that no Western European country has on paper, and few have in practice, the American system of abortion on demand at every stage of pregnancy (for that, one has to look to the Bush Administration's friends in Eastern Europe).

There are 10 sacral monarchies (11 if one includes the Vatican), monarchy being an institution for which no purely secular argument can ever be constructed. National events are routinely conducted in the form and course of church services.

Church schools, maintained at public expense, are normal in many European countries, while at least broadly Christian Religious Education and (although this law is widely flouted) a daily collective act of Christian worship are compulsory in all British schools.

Anglican bishops sit as of right in the British Parliament (where in 2006 they played a key role in blocking physician-assisted suicide); and while the House of Lords might one day be abolished entirely, no one seriously suggests that it might ever remain with only the bishops removed.

And so one could go on.

Anthony Bidgood said...

Dear Father,

Has 'I.P.' not heard of Cardinal von Galen and his episcopal letter against euthanasia issued in 1941?

The Church in Germany did make its opposition to Nazism known, often at a local level by for instance public parades on certain feast days.

For those who can read German Juergen Falter's "Hitlers Waehler" demonstrates, that however one 'slices' the population - by gender, urban-rural, age, employment, Catholics were much more likely not to vote for the Nazis than non-Catholics.

Unfortunately large numbers of Germans, who did not vote for the Nazis, nevertheless hoped that the Hitler government would put an end to the seeming chaos around them at that time.

In Christo,
Anthony Bidgood

I.P. said...

Mr Bigood - I have heard of Clemens August Von Galen Bishop of Munster. He certainly issued an episcopal letter against euthanasia in 1941, but was silent when the mobile gas vans which killed the unfit were moved on to kill Jews instead. He was always fully behind the German war effort, and in l945 refused to have much to do with the Allies on the grounds that his place was "with the conquered people".

What you say about voting relates to before 1933. The Catholic Centre party ,which kept a good slice of the vote and voted for the Enabling Act which cemented Hitler's power, was abandoned by the hierarchy and suppressed by the Nazi government shortly afterwards.

During the Third Reich it is very difficult indeed to find any real resistance among Catholics except for heroic priests such as the Provost of Berlin who consistently preached against the Nazis and in 1938 at the Crystal Night said "outside the synagogue burns, that too is a house of God". He was himself finally deported to Auschwitz. I believe he is now a beatus.

Catholics however should not be singled out,in the 30's they were no more and no less heroic than anybody else, there was little resistance in Germany at all.

My Church right or wrong is no more a noble sentiment than my country right or wrong.

I.P. said...

The Provost of Berlin's name was Fr Bernhard Lichtenberg. Perhaps I have not been entirely fair to people such as the German Government official, a devout Catholic,who assisted my wife's Jewish family in getting out of Germany in August 1939, nor to the Catholic doctor who gave a bogus certificate keeping one of my wife's friends out of the BDM (the female equivalent of the Hitler Youth). These people were resisters but much more was needed to overthrow the regime.