From Rorate Cæli
January 27, 2020
Last January 18, in Munich, Bavaria, a unique event took place: more than a hundred people lined-up in a square, where, for an hour, they remained standing,, reciting the Rosary in silence, in defense of orthodoxy in the Catholic Church. The promoters call it Acies ordinate. Among them was professor Roberto de Mattei, historian and President of the Fondazione Lepanto.
How did this Bavarian initiative come about?
It is the third Acies ordinata demonstration, the first outside Italy. The previous ones took place in Rome last year: on February 19th, before the conference on sexual abuse organized by Pope Francis in the Vatican and then on September 28th , the day before the opening of the Amazon Synod.
Why the trip to Germany?
Munich is the Archiepiscopal See of Cardinal Reinhard Marx, President of the German Episcopal Conference, which last December 4th officially launched the Synodalerweg, an “ongoing” synod, de facto permanent, that aims at transforming the Church in Germany and thus the universal Church.
Isn’t the influence of the German Bishops overrated?
There is a strong theological culture in Germany. The main theologian of Vatican II and the Post-Council, was a German, Karl Rahner. Some days after his election, the first theologian quoted by Pope Francis, actually displaying his book, was another German, Cardinal Walter Kasper, a disciple of Rahner. The German Episcopal Conference financed the Pan-Amazonian Synod and directed it theologically. A Brazilian Cardinal of German origins, Claudio Hummes, was the general rapporteur of the last Synod and the author of a “secret letter” sent to the Bishops of the entire world to prepare them for the soon to be released Post-Synod Exhortation from Pope Francis, to whom he is very attached.
How many of you were in Bavaria?
About 130, mainly Italian and Germans but there were also Americans, Austrians, English, French and Chileans.
Is it a significant number?
Yes, it is, because we didn’t launch a public appeal. The participants were invited individually in a confidential way.
Why such confidentiality?
Unfortunately, in Europe we are living in a regime where there isn’t complete freedom of thought or expression. A pro-family, German leader informed us in Munich that for two years he had had to interrupt their public demonstration as each time there was a counter-demonstration. Also in Italy every public event of a strong nature against the political or ecclesiastical establishment runs a lot of risks.
Principally of losing, at the last moment, authorization for the piazza, for reasons of public order; after that, of experiencing provocations and infiltration; lastly, of the counter-demonstrations that create havoc in the piazza. Our demonstrations are always orderly and peaceful due precisely to the surprise effect: we communicate the event to journalists on the same day.
Why did you choose the bellicose name Acies ordinata?
Acies ordinata is the name chosen by a coalition of international Catholics to express the combative and orderly spirit they manifest in the public square. A name taken from the Song of Songs, which is a Biblical poem on the love of God, traditionally referred to Our Lady, described as terribilis ut castrorum acies ordinata, i.e. terrible as a an army arrayed for battle. It’s an aspect not usually attributed to Our Lady, Who fights and wins, in this case, by protecting the defenders of the faith from the confusion we are immersed in.
A symbolic army then?
Of course. It is a public profession of faith, which, nonetheless, had great effect in the mass-media; all of the mainstream international media spoke of it. It’s the first time that Catholics manifest public resistance in Germany against the Episcopal Conference.
You invited German Catholics to stop paying the Kirchenstauer, namely, the Church tax, didn’t you?
Yes, I did. It is an obligatory ecclesiastical tax between 8 and 10% of [one’s]income. This is very grave. In my opinion it is spiritual blackmail, since those who don’t pay are de facto excommunicated.
In Germany the State asks you if you are Catholic and if so, the levy is automatically taken and transferred to the Church. Those who don’t pay cannot baptize their children or have the funeral of a relative in church. It is an act of simony; the payment of an ecclesiastical tax cannot be the criteria for the adhesion or the abandonment of the Catholic faith. Heretics, if they pay the tax remain inside the Church. If Orthodox Catholics don’t pay it, they are expelled.
In your view then, a Catholic in order to remain faithful to the tradition of the Church ought to have himself excommunicated?
I realize that this is a very delicate matter of conscience. At the press conference following the demonstration, I sought to give theological, moral and canonical reasons for which, in conscience, one has the right not to pay the tax and for which parish priests don’t have any right to deny the Sacraments. After that, in practice, everyone acts according to their own conscience.
Your idea then is a simple provocation?
If even a small minority began to move in this direction, it might well put in serious difficulty the perverse system which makes the German Episcopal Conference an enormous economic power, with hundreds of thousands of employees. The German Church, in the eyes of a Christian, looks like a business and bureaucratic organization, subject to public opinion and the civil authorities.
The money will be used also for works of charity.
This tax is unjust even if the money was being spent in a good way. In reality, it is being employed to de-catholicize Germany. In their “synodal path”, the German bishops want to impose marriage for priests, liberal sexual morality, the priesthood for women and so on: can a Catholic, by way of his taxes, finance this process of secularization?
Do you prefer the Italian ‘8 for a thousand’?
Certainly. It is free and if I don’t sign for it there are no consequences.
Do you pay it?
In recent years – no longer. I would put off Catholics paying it after the direction taken by the Italian Episcopal Conference which is applying Amoris laetitia in its most radical version.
Namely the opening up to the divorced and remarried?
There are also those who are encouraging blessings for homosexual couples. And then there is the pro-immigration policy. The Italian bishops have stopped reminding us of the truths of the faith and Catholic morality. They only talk about political and sociological themes. I don’t see why I have to finance all this.
Do you believe all the Italian bishops think like this?
At the top – for sure. Not even all the German bishops think like Cardinal Marx. But the Episcopal Conferences have assumed a hypertrophic role, undermining the autonomy of bishops in their own dioceses. All of this despite the fact that in the hierarchal structure of the Church, willed by Jesus Christ, there are Popes and bishops, not Episcopal Conferences or other bureaucratic organisms, which, today, superimpose the Divine Constitution of the Church.
You have been described as Steve Bannon’s man in Italy.
I know who he is, but I have never met him nor had any contact with him.
Can you confirm that Monsignor Carlo Maria Viganò was there in Munich?
Yes, he was.. I didn’t know though that he would have taken his place in the line-up. It was his first public appearance in a long time; a courageous gesture that I appreciated a great deal.
Do you ever hear from him? Do you know where he lives?
Precisely, no. In any case, even ours is an invisible army until it manifests itself. We have to move prudently in order to be freer.
How did Monsignor Viganò come to know about the demonstration in Munich?
He follows attentively everything that is happening in the life of the Church. He is in contact with priests and lay-people, but also with cardinals and bishops who support him. He has not yet said all that he knows.
The Bishops daily newspaper described you all as a “digital handful”. Don’t you think this a bit simplistic?
Very simplistic. A presence in the piazza is not a digital or virtual presence. Wherever I go to hold conferences, in Italy and abroad, I meet a real crowd of Catholics who hesitate showing themselves in public, but are in a much greater number than Avvenire can perhaps imagine. Or perhaps Avvenire knows and for this reason tries to minimize us.
Isn’t this [progressive] rushing ahead by the Germans being lead also by a minority?
I’m convinced of it. The radical transformation of the Church has been carried out by a small minority, who, however, are backed by great financial and media resources. It is important that this minority wanting to overturn the doctrine and customs of the Church find themselves faced with a minority defending the Catholic faith with no less passion and determination. At this time, the Church is a terrain where two religions are clashing: the traditional one and the Germanic-Amazonian one, while the large majority of the Catholic world is made up of moderates experiencing considerable confusion.
You then, don't think of the as Church a field-hospital?
No, I don’t. Today it is a battlefield.
Translation: Contributor Francesca Romana .