Strong words for clarification

Some strong statements from German bishops these past few days. First Bishop Heiner Koch, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Cologne, reminds us that there are topics that need not be discussed ad infinitum, since they have already been decided upon by the Magisterium. Repeating arguments against, for example, celibacy is nothing but frustrating and ineffective. The bishop states that it is more useful to recognise the boundaries that have been set and avoid fake discussions.

Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck, of Essen, later criticised ongoing discussions about female deacons. “The Church has no authority to allow women into the priesthood,” he said. “In this context we should certainly understand the diaconate for women as well.”

Bishop Gerhard Müller (pictured) of Regensburg – a seemingly likely candidate to succeed Cardinal Levada as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – today accused the ‘We are Church’ movements of leading a parasitic existence. The Church must not conform itself to society, but to the Gospel, he said. Applause and decibels can not be used to exert pressure.

These topics – celibacy, the ordination of women, democracy in the Church – are almost standard among opponents of the Church, but few realise that the Church has long since spoken out about these topics. By ignoring these past statements, those who speak about these issues are, wilfully or not, ignorant and guilty of misleading those who hear them. Statements like those by the three German bishops above serve to offer clarification about issues that keep rearing their heads.

Photo credit: Lennart Preiss/dapd

New, young and facing east

Another significant change in bishops in the German-speaking world. Bishop Paul Iby of Eisenstadt in Austria has been succeed by (the rather impressively-named) Bishop-elect Ägidius Zsifkovics. At 46, Msgr. Zsifkovics is young for a bishop, but he has already made a career in the Church in Austria. He has been the general secretary of the Austrian bishops’ conference, and before that he worked as secretary of the late Bishop Stefan László, also of Eisenstadt. He is also said to have good contacts in the archiepiscopal staff in Vienna. As a representative of the Croat minority in eastern Austria, he also strongly favours good contacts with the countries to the east, possibly including the Orthodox Churches as well.

And the liberal ‘We Are Church’ movement does not like him, which is a change from Bishop Iby, who in recent months openly favoured the abolishment of celibacy for priests and other liberal classics.