Lone protest

Belief is not demonstrable, Joseph Ratzinger wrote once. What happens when in his new movie “A Hidden Life” the American director Terrence Malick takes a shot at showing how a simple Catholic farmer follows his conscience and is killed for it by the Nazis?

While restoring the frescos of the village church, a craftsman says to this farmer: “We create admirers. We don’t create followers. Men won’t fight the truth, so, just ignore it. I paint their comfortable Christ, with a halo over his head. How can I show what I haven’t lived?” It seems like a translation into today’s world when the head of the “Competence Center for Democracy and Human Dignity of the Archdiocese of Munich” calls for civil courage as the essence of the film in her introduction in front of the movie theater audience. With this silencer the farmer Franz Jägerstetter, whom Pope Benedict beatified 2007, remains a silent lone warrior, then as now. The Church is not necessary for trite lip service against racism and for tolerance. It becomes clearer to me: The turnaround of one's existence, as Ratzinger calls faith, is hardly possible alone. heg

Walls in heads

When a German bishop travels to the Middle East and, at the sight of the protective wall between the Palestinian and Israeli territories, a comparison to the Berlin wall occurs to him and, on top of that, the missionary thought that people in Germany have experience with overcoming walls – that gives rise to questions.

What gives a German bishop such a high feeling of moral superiority? How forgetful of history and politically blind can a German bishop be? Bishops are expected to have studied theology after all, and not history or politics. Can it still be lost on an academically trained German man of the Church that the phrase “The German way shall heal the world!” is not part of moral theology, but of history, and there of its darker chapters? The Berlin wall is also part of the darker chapters of our history. Whoever compares the Berlin wall with the Israeli protective wall has no clue what they are talking about, historically and politically: The Berlin wall separated one nation with one language and one shared history. The Israeli protective wall cannot be compared to that. Palestinians who want to carry out attacks in Israel are so ideologically deluded that they do not want to accept Israel’s right to exist – as the majority of the Arab world, by the way, against which Israel has to likewise protect herself. This protective wall is not pretty. Maybe it is even a weapon of war, but a very peaceful one. Because it has put an end to most of the Palestinian terror in Israel and saved lives this way. When it comes to Germany, there is talk about the wall in people’s heads. Maybe a first step might be disarmament of the high feeling of moral superiority. That is what the East Germans were so sick about us “Western know-it-alls” after all. ses

A letter to the editor from Rome to a big German daily paper

I enjoy and profit from reading the sports pages, the economic news, the technology and motor section in this newspaper. Only what I read in the comments, but also in “reports” on the Catholic Church, spoils any fun in reading. And not just that: it damages my trust in serious journalism. Here the campaign being conducted within the Church against the pope emeritus finds its propagandistic loudspeaker.

Not only does it have little to do with the truth, but it also differs from the opinion of many more alert minds world-wide, Catholics as well as non-Catholics. Maybe it is a kind of petty German comeuppance for Ratzinger’s incorruptibility and foresight for over 60 years. The facts speak a different language than these campaigns, whether they are about Joseph Ratzinger’s effective contribution as cardinal and pope against the crimes of sexual abuse since the 90s, or about how, to this day, he spends his “retirement” with absolute intellectual vigilance and obedience to the current pope. It is certainly noticeable that numerous snares lurk in the era of lightning communication and glitches happen easily. But the ruling motto here seems to be: Don’t touch me with the facts. The genie being let out of the bottle over and over again is not the spirit of Church schism, but one of the authors’ personal vendettas against their own Church. Even if some reflexively want to give Benedict a whipping and others want to use him under the guise of adoration, the constellation of the current pope and a pope emeritus, with all its breaks and weaknesses, remains an unprecedented stroke of luck for the Church.


Prof. Achim Buckenmaier, Rome

Thoughts from a cluster of cells


Zoological theology is coming: No religion has the absolute truth; God’s image is just a cluster of cells.


Had Adam been content with one of the animals as a helper, – world history would have directly landed where it is today.


The historical Jesus was delivered to the gentiles; the Christ of faith to the scholars.


Freedom means that I may harm myself. Salvation means l live in such a way that others do not want to harm themselves.


Faith is always the thanks of someone who escaped.


Thoughts from the hammock

The bible exegetes detect an “excess of promise” between the expectations of the Jewish prophets and the reality in Christianity. They find great words. But through omission they evade the question whose fault it is, God’s or our laziness.


Nowadays all statements and solutions from the past are relativized: they are all transitory and subjective. As if the monkey that became man had only been capable of using reason since 2019 and only taken his responsibility seriously since Greta.


We, like misanthropes, discover the selfishness and thirst for glory in and behind the actions of our contemporaries. Jesus too saw through people and read their hearts. But he loved them anyway.



In the bleak midwinter…

At the end of November 2019, a public debate took place in Trieste’s town council on whether the distinguished holocaust survivor Liliana Segre, also “Senator for Life” in Rome, should be awarded honorary citizenship. One member of the council vigorously opposed this because “Segre has said that Jesus was a Jew and that offends me as a catholic.” Jesus is the Son of God after all, he adds.

Christmas is not the right time to be offended. Maybe then Paul’s realization with all its consequences will seep through, that God sent His Son, “born of a woman, born under the law“ (Gal 4;4). ruk

Joy to the world

Recently, in an exam in her catholic religious education class, my daughter had to answer the question under which circumstances Jesus would be born today.

I assumed that a birth in a refugee camp was suggested with eventually a successful appearance as advocate for the disenfranchised and disinherited. Like other students, who attend mass more or less regularly, my daughter lacked the imagination for an elaborate answer. The grade was bad and I didn’t know any better either. Maybe I should have just asked the teacher what he meant. Either way, I couldn’t get the issue off my mind. Later the story of Jesus’ appearance before the high inquisitor came to mind, as told by Dostojewski: Jesus surprisingly comes to 15th century Seville during the time of the inquisition. He is identified and the high inquisitor detains him. During a long speech he explains to Jesus why his renewed coming disturbs the operations of the Church. fls

Cave canem – Careful, it might bite!

Vital vigilance in the face of the enemy, which in the Catholic Church is consistently directed inwards as well, sometimes hits the righteous wrongfully and sometimes the wrong ones righteously. John Henry Newman, who was canonized October 13, 2019, was regarded as highly dangerous by well-meaning servants of the catholic cause.

Monsignore Talbot, Pope Pius XI.’s secretary, warned Cardinal Manning, the Archbishop of Westminster, in a letter: “Dr. Newman is the most dangerous man in England.” Maybe Talbot sensed an even bigger threat than Newman’s intellectual independence. The current canonization has rehabilitated Newman somewhat, but the papal secretary’s assessment of him ennobles him to this day. If you take Newman seriously you understand the secretary’s fear when Newman says, for example, that faith is “not the cause of order, as it happens to be now, but the cause of disorder, as it was when Christ came and his Apostles preached“. ses

485 years after Brexit

It is a macro-historical sensation that after barely half a millennium of separation of England from the Roman Church a successor to the throne from this royal family, Prince Charles, honors the Catholic canonization of his fellow countryman in Rome: John Henry Newman.

After all, Newman is England’s first saint who has not also suffered martyrdom since half a millennium. And over the centuries the English Crown has made no insignificant contribution to the martyrdom of Catholic saints.

With regard to the island’s rapprochement to the continent, Church history is a bit of a half century ahead of the political history, as it was in the history of separation. ses


Once again the sweet poison of the Nazi ideology of a life unworthy of living is pervading ethical discourses. And it does not spare pious circles either. As long as they think of Christianity as being about the personal eternal wellness of the soul, life must be a feel-good bath.

How convenient is the old pagan idea instilled into our minds that you can pull the plug at any time before you start to feel chilly. The Netherlands, our liberal neighbor, bluntly mirrors the culture of a good death as a matter of course. The Deutsches Ärzteblatt reports that the parliament of the Netherlands was worried about a slight decrease of euthanasia numbers in 2018. The numbers of the governmental “Regionalen Toetsingscommissies Euthanasie” had shown that in 2018, for the first time since 2006, a drop to merely 6.126 killed people had been recorded. Even so, that is 17 a day. Dutch media suspects that doctors apparently are refusing requests of people with a wish to die more often ever since a doctor was prosecuted for it for the first time. But the chairman of the state commission reassures: He sees no danger for a change of heart amongst Dutch doctors. After all, in the first quarter of 2019 the number of cases has already risen 9% over that of 2018’s first quarter. That is why his impression is that assisted suicide is “implemented correctly”. Apparently, neither was nor is anyone disconcerted about the fact that already in the year 2015, according to official statistics, many hundred people suffering from dementia, namely exactly 431, were killed without an express wish to die.We have the exact numbers thanks to the Netherland’s open way of dealing with the topic. Here in Germany the estimated number of unknown cases is likely higher, considering how widespread the well-meaning ideology of a life no longer worth living is. anm, ses