United States ,Germany and Scale of the Schism

Of course, they are not the logic of the Church and, especially, of Pope Francis’ pontificate, but on the plate — the scale? — of two crises , opposed and hence twins, there is also the economic factor. Unchristian suggestions about events in the United States and Germany.

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Simone Varisco

(ZENIT News – Caffe Storia / Rome, 19.12.2023).- In relations between Churches, and even more so with the Holy See, economic logic has no place, if there is to be a sincere and synodal fraternity. This is evident. However, if it were not so, perhaps an evil reading would be possible, certainly anti-Christian, of events in the United States and Germany.

I am referring to two crises, so opposed that they are almost twins, arousing winds of schism in the U.S. and German Catholic Churches. The former, determined to confront the intransigent position of the Episcopate and, more generally, of the clergy, the consecrated and laity, called “conservatives” (or ultra-conservatives” or “ultra-Catholics,” according to two curious variants in the process of affirmation); the latter, determined for some time  to follow an impermeable synodal way, whose obstacles are more visible than the goal. In both cases, there has been no lack of reactions by the Holy See, be it in the form of missives or financial (and real estatey) reprimands.

The Unites States’ Plate

 In fact, this last “patrimonial” way of crisis management opens to some reflections. Beyond considerations of merit or convenience, the day after the first indiscretions regarding the measures (revision of salary conditions and housing), which should strike American Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, outstanding personality of the “ultra-conservative” front of the harshest opposition to Pope Francis, some assessments of economic prudence have made progress, which put Peter’s Pence into question, the offering that particular Churches  and the faithful send to the Pontiff to support the Church and works of charity. It seems, in fact, that a certain Church of the United States, close to Cardinal Burke, is not only influential, but is among the main donors of Peter’s Pence.

Only since two years (2021) the Holy See publishes an Annual Report on Peter’s Pence. Data in hand shows that in 2022, U.S. dioceses and individuals donated  11 million euros to Peter’s Pence, about 10% of the total revenue of 107 million euros. A not inconsiderable part , if we take into account that the donations of Catholic Foundations of all nationalities  “only” ascend to 12.6 million euros. There is a clear mismatch as regards the latter country in so far as contributions are concnerned after the U.S.A. South Korea halts at 3.5 million euros, whereas Italy, in third place, reaches 2.9 million euros. Although, of course, it would be unjust to align all American donors with Cardinal Burke’s positions, on the other hand a certain caution would be understandable when it comes to troubling thge flow of revenue, which seems to work very well at this time.

Germany’s Plate

 Different, but not too much so, is the case of the Catholic Church in Germany. With the record number of over 6,800 million  — yes, a billion euros collected in 2022, thanks to the Kirchensteuer system, given the tax on religious affiliation in Germany, the country’s Episcopal Conference is the wealthiest in the world by far, with a total patrimony of close to 30,000 million euros. Suffice it to say that, in 2022, the Vatican’s revenue rose to some 770 million euros (and expenses to 803 million, with a deficit of 33 million), and that donations to Peter’s Pence especially decreased.

In 2022, Catholic dioceses and individuals in Germany certainly contributed 1.3 million euros to Peter’s Pence, situating the country in the fifth place: a significant decrease (-43%) compared with the 2.3 million euros contributed in 2021. Is it a symptom of disaffection matured during Francis’ pontificate, or a sign of the crisis that — inevitably —  is also looming over the Cyclopean German Church? However, it must be taken into account that every year German Catholics pay the Vatican, in different ways, almost 10 million euros, half of which comes from the Association of German Dioceses (VDD). There are also important contributions to support projects in fragile areas of the world and several national Episcopal Conferences.

The Needle in the Scale

 Yes, in Germany’s case also, it would be an error to think that all Catholics adhere to the “ultra-progressive” positions expressed by the German Synodal Way; needless to say, if we stopped at a crude economic level, the Holy See seems to be facing a clash between small great titans, strong on the economic level, influential at the media level, but — at least regarding maximum systems — opposed in the way of comprehending the present and future of the Church, and particularly alive in the way of expressing it.

Regardless of their respective positions, the American and German styles differ in their dissidence in many aspects. Whereas in the United States it seems to be more the responsibility of a few strong ecclesiastical personalities, in Germany it is confined — at least formally — to a community initiative, such as the Synodal Way. Hence, from a certain point of view, it would be illogical, because unviable, to expect the application of economic-patrimonial measures ad personam  in the American style to German Cardinals.

However, as is evident, to bridge the gap between a part of the Episcopate (and the clergy, the consecrated and the lay faithful) of the United States, something more will be needed than the march of some anxious Cardinals or Bishops. And, on the other hand, although up to now, no outstanding “ultra-progressive” German prelate has accused Pope Francis of being a “heretic,” it’s obvious to all in Germany that “numerous steps are being taken by significant segments of this local Church, which threaten to distance her increasingly from the common path of the universal Church,” as Pope Francis wrote to some “marginalised” of the rough Synodal Way of the Catholic Church in Germany.

In short, there are many accounts to do, and not only personal or financial. Some suggest that the lukewarm circumspection with which the Holy See has addressed, up to now, the threats of schism, is also dictated by a healthy economic prudence. But, as has been said, this would possibly be an evil and certainly anti-Christian point of view.


Translation into Spanish of the Italian original by ZENIT’s Editorial Director and, into English, by Virginia M. Forrester

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