Dialogika

Statement of University of Freiburg Professors

 

Statement by professors from the theological faculty of Albert-Ludwigs University of Freiburg

The undersigned professors of the Theological Faculty of the University of Freiburg note with great irritation and concern that Pope Benedict XVI, by the decree of 21.01.2009, has lifted the excommunication of four bishops of the "Priestly Society of St. Pius X." We are aware that the subsequent public reactions to this must be differentiated. There is no reason to doubt that the decision by Pope Benedict XVI has no connection with the denial of the Shoah by Bishop Williamson. The Pope has unequivocally clarified this in his General Audience on 28.01.2009. Nevertheless, we regret the lack of sensitivity of his approach. It would require many calls to the under Pope John Paul II won trust between people of Jewish religion and Catholic faithful Christians restore.

But the lifting of the excommunication of priests illegitimately consecrated as bishops of the Society also gives us an opportunity to raise fundamental critical questions.

1. It is incomprehensible to us that the excommunication of the schismatic bishops was lifted before they had accepted basic doctrines of the Second Vatican Council. To date, Society priests have consistently ignored or even denied Vatican statements such as those on religious freedom, the dignity of the individual conscience, the universality of God's salvation, the common priesthood of all believers, or for special role in salvation history of our Jewish brothers and sisters (Nostra Aetate, 4). Such a rejective posture may not be disregarded, even if the lack of unity among Christians is then very painfully felt.

2. As theologians from the country in which the Reformation originated, we regret profoundly that the lifting of the excommunication has not only made more difficult relations with the people of the Jewish faith, but the gulf with the churches of the Reformation will deepen. So an inner-Catholic impetus will be given to the anti-ecumenism of the Priestly Society. The Second Vatican Council has clearly expressed its will for ecumenism.

3. The credibility of the commitment to universal human dignity and liberal social legal order is massively damaged if the above-referenced statements of the Council are called into question.  The lifting of the excommunication of the bishops of the Priestly Society contradicts the diverse efforts of Christians around the world for freedom. Therefore, it would have seemed crucial that the lifting of the excommunication depend upon a positive confession of the Council's teachings. Until now, the illegitimately consecrated bishops have made no change in all these respects, or even shown remorse for the damage done to the Church.  Rather, Society priests time and again have noted that the Catholic faith has been preserved in the Society and violated by the Second Vatican Council.

4. In our opinion there can be ecclesiastical unity only through the fundamental conformity of faith. Boundaries can be blurred, but not in substantive issues. That is why we fear that the events of recent days do harm to the Office of the Pope.  His service is aimed at/is related to the unity of a common faith.  Since the pope's office is the "visible source and foundation of unity of faith and communion" (Lumen Gentium 18).  Therefore, we can only characterize the Decree of 21 January 2009 as strange.

We share the Pope's concern for the unity of all Christians. The unity of faith must be established over and over again in a church that is always a church in a dynamically changing world. The concession of lifting the excommunication may give the impression that central teaching statements are related to papal strategic planning. This endangers the credibility of his office in which he should be a dependable guarantor of the Catholic faith.

Freiburg, January 29 2009
 
Prof. Dr. Klaus Baumann
Prof. Dr. Thomas Böhm
Prof. Dr. Georg Bier
Prof. Dr. Karl-Heinz Braun
Prof. Dr. Gisbert Greshake
Prof. Dr. Hubert Irsigler
Prof. Dr. Lorenz Oberlinner
Prof. Dr. Ursula Nothelle-Wildfeuer
Prof. Dr. Eberhard Schockenhoff
Prof. Dr. Heribert Smolinsky
Prof. Dr. Magnus Striet
Prof. Dr. Peter Walter