European Archbishops Warn of Increasingly Harsh Attacks on the Church

The head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith says media criticisms are provoking ‘artificially generated anger’ that sometimes is suggestive of ‘a pogrom atmosphere.'

Archbishop Gerhard Müller
Archbishop Gerhard Müller (photo: Catholic News Agency)

VATICAN CITY — Archbishop Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has said members of the Western media appear “ridden” with attacks against the Catholic Church, where an “artificially generated anger” is growing that “occasionally reminds one of a pogrom atmosphere.”

In a Feb 2 interview with the German daily newspaper Die Welt that has caused quite a stir in that country, Archbishop Müller spoke of a “concerted campaign” to discredit the Church on the Internet and television that is resulting in open attacks against priests.

He also observed that those attacking the Church borrow arguments used by totalitarian ideologies — such as communism and Nazism — against Christianity.

Elsewhere in the interview, the CDF prefect said the Church is not suffering from too much “centralism,” but, rather, not enough unity.

“The centrifugal forces are too strong,” he said. “Rome is not a bureaucratic center for the Church, but, rather, guarantees orientation towards the successors of Peter.”

He regretted statistics that show that 80% of baptized German Catholics no longer participate in the Eucharist on Sunday and argued that the question of faith in God must be placed in the center of life.

Asked if he thought, after seven years of Pope Benedict XVI’s papacy, the view of the Church in Germany had changed from being, in the words of Cardinal Ratzinger in 1988, “lukewarm and boring,” he said it depended on how the Church is considered. Sentiment appears hostile if one only views the Church from the perspective of public opinion, he pointed out, but he also stressed dialogue is a good thing, so long as the essentials are discussed and not the “same problems dished out again and again.”

He cited the impossibility of women priests and the acceptance of same-sex partnerships (“They can in no way be equated to marriage”) and said that the discipline of priestly celibacy, which precludes a married priesthood, corresponds to the example and words of Jesus and has a particular expression in the Latin Church.

“Celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom of God is rooted in the Gospel,” he said.

Turning to authentic reform of the Church, he advised looking at the example of true reformers, such as Sts. Francis of Assisi, John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila, as well as the Council of Trent, with its renewal of popular piety.


Archbishop Picketed

Evidence of the hostility toward the Church that Archbishop Müller discussed was on display in full force recently in Trieste, Italy.

On Jan. 12, the archdiocesan residence was besieged after Archbishop Giampaolo Crepaldi defended the Church’s teaching on marriage in a published interview.

Around 200 homosexual-rights activists from the Italian group Arcigay surrounded the residence, hurling insults and causing so much commotion that the archbishop was forced to seek refuge indoors.

“The first thing I did was go to the chapel, to pray at vespers, and then I started to read a thick book by Rodney Stark, the great American sociologist, entitled The Victory of Reason,” he said. “The book analyzes, among other things, the many persecutions suffered by Christians in 2,000 years of history [and] demonstrates, with a wealth of data, that, in the end, the persecutors pass away while Christians continue, because the persecutions purify them and make them stronger.”

The protesters called Archbishop Crepaldi “homophobic,” “intolerant” and “racist” — despite the fact the archbishop strongly fought against racism when he served eight years as secretary at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. He also rejected the accusation of homophobia, saying the protest passes through that pretext of hate directed against homosexuals to an assertion of the "rights of the family and marriage."

“The ultimate goal of these campaigns is to undermine what is a cornerstone of civilization, the concept of the family, founded on marriage between a man and a woman, equating it to other forms of cohabitation,” he said in the interview, which was originally published by the weekly Trieste newspaper Vita Nuova.

Archbishop Crepaldi said that anyone like himself willing to state publicly the Catholic position that the true family is only one founded on marriage between a man and a woman could eventually become subject to criminal proceedings and prosecution. “If one who belongs to the Catholic Church travels this road and professes this doctrine, though not only this one, he will become party to criminal punishment, even jail.”

“This insidious program, disguised as progressive and libertarian, will put the muzzle on everyone, depriving us of freedom,” he said, adding that it is “ironic that the Church, which has given the world a higher conception of incomparable values of the human person and taught it the duty of respect, equality and fraternity, has come to be described as racist and discriminating. These are the quirks of history.”


Tough Times Ahead

Quoting friends at the Vienna-based Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians in Europe, he warned, “Gender-style persecution against Christianity has begun, and it will be tough.”

Said Archbishop Crepaldi, “There will be militant [Christians], those who seek compromise, those who cheat; there will be faithful, and there will also be martyrs.”

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.