The rise of the neo-Lutherans: Will there be a schism?


Watching last fall’s Extraordinary Synod on the Family from the sidelines, what was surprising was the level of rancor (and perhaps even acrimony) manifesting itself in the debate concerning, among other matters, the Church’s prohibition of divorced/remarried Catholics receiving Holy Communion.

Media reports characterized the division this way:

  • The intelligent, sensitive, and pastoral “pro-Pope Francis” mercy faction (the theological liberals) were doing battle with the unintelligent, insensitive, and unpastoral “anti-Pope Francis” truth faction (the theological conservatives).
  • The leader of the former faction, Cardinal Walter Kasper of Germany, provided the theoretical “Call to Arms” identifying his faction’s much-desired, if not much-anticipated changes to Church teaching. If Cardinal Kasper’s faction prevails, there will be changes to Church teaching. Read: A very good outcome!
  • The leader of the latter faction, Cardinal Raymond Burke, published a chapter in the book, Remaining in the Truth of Christ, reiterating the significance of longstanding Church teaching for the world today. If Cardinal Burke’s faction prevails, there will be no change in Church teaching. Read: A very bad outcome!


That oversimplistic, pro-Kasper bifurcation of what transpired at the Extraordinary Synod distracts attention from what may really be in the offing, namely, the rise of neo-Lutherans who may cause a schism in the Church. Armed with very clever exegetical and political skills, this faction has already artfully devised a way to contort Jesus’ unambiguous teaching against both divorce and remarriage—read Remaining in the Truth of Christ to learn how—into a teaching that would allow for both divorce and remarriage. And the media is delighted.

Using divorced and remarried Catholics—who cannot receive Holy Communion—as public relations props in a strategy to stiffen opposition to Church teaching, the neo-Lutherans are, in reality, forcing Pope Francis to choose up sides in a theological battle. The outcome of that battle could end in schism:

  • If the Pope sides with the neo-Lutherans, his important words about mercy will be translated into Church teaching, all will be well with the world, and the orthodox faction will have taken quite a drubbing. At least, that’s what the Kapserites would have everyone believe.
  • If the Pope sides with the orthodox Burkites, well…er…ummm…there will be Hell to pay, as the Pope’s words about mercy will end up not being quite as generous as people have been led to believe and they will turn against Rome and the orthodox faction, emptying the pews even more. Again, at least, that’s what the neo-Lutherans would have everyone believe.

Apparently, the neo-Lutherans are as serious and as stubborn as was the Augustinian friar, Martin Luther, when in 1517 he posted his 95 theses on the door of the Wittenburg Castle Church. To wit: Consider the words of the President of the German Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx. Quoted in Die Tagespost (the original article having since been expunged from the website) stating:

We are not just a subsidiary of Rome. Each episcopal conference is responsible for the pastoral care in their culture and has to proclaim the Gospel in its own unique way. We cannot wait until a synod states something, as we have to carry out marriage and family ministry here.

Positioning himself squarely on the side of the mercy faction led by Cardinal Kasper, Cardinal Marx subsequently backtracked a bit, according to Vaticanista Andrea Gagliarducci.

Even so, the neo-Lutherans are on the march.

But, before concluding an investigation, the general rule is “Follow the money.”

Follow the money: It’s a well-known fact that church attendance in Germany (as in most Western, industrialized nations) is plummeting. What that means for the German bishops, in particular, is that income to their dioceses from the government—derived from a census of those who actually attend Mass—is way, way down.

What better way, then, to increase attendance at Mass in Germany? Extend mercy to the disaffected or alienated Catholics by changing Church teaching concerning divorce and remarriage. Then, all of those other disaffected and alienated Catholics can also be brought back to Mass by changing other Church teachings. However, that will take a bit of time. Right now, what’s imperative is to get one foot into the Porta Sancta at St. Peter’s Basilica, beginning with divorced and remarried Catholics.

porta sancta
The rationale? It’s not selling indulgences and would provide a great opening move in the larger strategy of reforming the Church…once again…via Deutschland.

All or none of that may have entered into Cardinal Kasper’s thought process or the German bishops’ discussions over which Cardinal Marx has presided.

Who’s to know? Only those who are privvy to such knowledge.

Even so, if one is to understand better what the neo-Lutherans may be up to, the facts cannot be dismissed out of hand.

Follow the money: Those coffers need to be replenished if the bishops are to be good stewards of the critical infrastructure and all the other blings in their possession. As has recently been exposed:

  • The Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, led by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, has spent $150M on a new diocesan service center.
  • Cardinal Marx’s residence was renovated at a cost of $9M, paid for by the state of Bavaria. That’s not quite the 31m euros Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst of Limburg spent to renovate his official residence, but $9M can go a long way to make a humble hermitage feel a bit more comfortable.

Follow the moneyIn his National Catholic Register article, Edward Pentin carefully lays out the critics’ argument that the German Bishops’ Conference has become more of a temporal than spiritual power.

Yes, follow the money.

Isn’t that what Martin Luther did when he initiated a schism that eventuated a Reformation?




To read about Cardinal Marx’s statement (as the original Die Tagespost article is no longer available online), click on the following link:

To read Andrea Gagliarducci’s assessment, click on the following link:

To read Edward Pentin’s articles, click on the following links:

To read The Motley Monk’s daily blog, Omnibus, click on the following link:

Share With Friends
  • 16
  • 6

The Motley Monk

The Motley Monk is Fr. Richard Jacobs, O.S.A., a Professor of Public Administration at Villanova University. His academic specialities include: organizational theory; leadership ethics; Catholic educational leadership; and, U.S. Catholic educational history. Check out Fr. Jacobs' daily blog at http://www.richard-jacobs-blog.com/omnibus.html.


  1. I really wonder exactly how many of the divorced and remarried Catholics are clamoring to receive Holy Communion? They can always avail themselves of Confession.
    Kasper – German
    Martin Luther – German
    ‘Nuf said

  2. Um….no. All prior belief, and included in every catechism and in every school religion book and in every teaching and in all prior writings by Catholics is that Catholics who have been divorced and remarried, without having obtained an annulment, may not take the Eucharist. If you like, I can prove this statement by thousands and thousands of references.

    Those who are Catholic must hold to this teaching, since it exactly what has been taught by Jesus and and the Catholic church. It cannot be changed, not even by the Pope, and certainly not by Card. Kasper.

    Those who seek to alter clear and permanent dogma are not in communion with the Catholic church, period. I pray to God we will not have a schism. But of course all who hold to the truths of the Catholic church must continue to hold to them.

  3. This is a really sobering article. My thinking is that it wouldn’t happen, but as you point out, it has happened before.

  4. I have read on other Catholic websites about the influence of the German speaking bishops on the Second Vatican Council. von Balthasar, Hans Kung, et al had a major influence on the documents issued from the Council.

    Catholicsm in the German speaking areas of Europe has long been in decline. The Austrian bishops are virtually in schism. The revolt against Pope Benedict was deplorable. I don’t know as much about the German speaking Swiss Catholics, but the German Catholics faced official discrimination in the 19th Century due to the Kulturkampf. Countless German Catholics made their way to the USA, my mom’s greatgrandparents, the Deckers from Frankfurt among them. As pointed out, the German Episcopate is most interested in keeping the money flowing in. I have no doubt that they warn the Holy See about the tap being shut off if Kasper’s proposals do not become reality. What’s more, the Catholic Church in Germany has long been influences by Lutheranism.

    Luther was not a schismatic. He was a heretic. There is no faith alone, no Bible alone. Man is not a dung heap, although man often acts like it. The Pope isn’t the Antichrist, despite certain Lutheran confessions claiming it. Bigmouth, blabbermouth, nasty, mean…….maybe, but no ANTICHRIST.

    The Polish bishops – all of them – condemned +Kasper’s proposals and they will NEVER become the law of the Church in Poland. In the USA, it depends on the bishop of your diocese.

  5. I’m unpersuaded by the “follow the money” assumption. If it’s all about the German Church Tax, why are there so many non-German Kasperites? Does Honduras have the Kirchensteuer? Does England? New Zealand? Italy? How about the Philippines? I believe Austria and the Netherlands do have Church Taxes, though far less remunerative than the German version.
    I don’t wish to dismiss the role of the Kirchensteuer in toto, but it seems far too easy and glib an explanation to explain what is happening in the Church today.

  6. …take the Eucharist…
    Anne Moore

    Only those who believe they deserve the Eucharist take it. The rest of us who really believe the words, “Lord I am not worthy…” might, if we are properly disposed and free of mortal sin, gratefully receive the Eucharist.
    Wow. Imagine how different the Mass would be if we acted like we really believe the words we speak during the Mass.

  7. Allowing the divorced and remarried, without an annulment, to receive Communion may have little net impact in the United States and probably elsewhere. My guess is that most of those who would benefit by this accommodation wouldn’t bother coming back or are happy with their new Protestant affiliation. And of those who did come back their number would be offset by those who were disaffected by this change. In other words, changing Church teachings is not the way to stop the bleeding and increase membership. The Church needs stop being a Democrat NGO and get down to their proper business on helping make people holier by obedience to God and love of neighbor.

  8. In Germany the Church tax is based on religious affiliation, as stated in the Lohnsteuerkarte, not on a census of Mass attendance.

    The same rule applies in Alsace-Moselle in France, which was German at the time of the Law of 9 December 1905 Concerning the Separation of Church and State.

  9. Michaels Dowd and P-S reinforce the point I was trying to make about the German Church Tax: I suspect the Kasperites know as well as anyone else that allowing the civilly remarried to receive communion is not going to reduce the outflow from the German Church, let alone increase those registering as Catholic on the Lohnsteuerkarte.

    So, if it’s not all about filthy lucre (and it can’t be, given that most Kasperites have little to no pecuniary advantage to look forward to), what’s really going on here?

  10. On Mr. Murry’s question: “So, if it’s not all about filthy lucre (and it can’t be, given that most Kasperites have little to no pecuniary advantage to look forward to), what’s really going on here?”

    My guess is this has to do with the future when divorced folks need not worry about their Church status. Given that 50% get divorced this is significant.

  11. I also have been finally reading from start to end the whole of the late Warren Carroll’s history of the Catholic Church, and Santayana’s warning about history repeating itself echoes like a death-knell: Duke George of Saxony writes to his ambassadors how the churchmen are morally compromised, and can be “bought out by money” and there is almost no hope to save the traditional Catholic Church (Letter, 1524, p. 68, The Cleaving of Christendom).

    I am glad Motley has highlighted again how these Great Reformers like Marx, Danneels, Kasper, and don’t forget Lehmann as the puppet-master in the background, have spent millions of euros on habitations that re-define the word “palaces”. How can they have any moral authority at all? Ahhh.

  12. Each episcopal conference is responsible for the pastoral care in their culture and has to proclaim the Gospel in its own unique way.

    This is true, but… to paraphrase what Sheen said, in that delightful way of his, you are free to draw a triangle in any way you want; you still cannot draw a triangle with four angles, because then it is not a triangle.

  13. We don’t want to believe it could be about “filthy lucre” -surely not just such a base explanation. but if we think a bit about Judas, we can see how such a disorientation can lead a person away from Truth.
    Judas, who committed the Big sin of selling out Jesus, practiced his vice concerning money and came gradually more inured by his Smaller sins of thieving along the way. His own thinking became more disordered and he went tragically astray from Jesus.
    And in the letter to 1 Timothy 6 we read
    9 But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.
    10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.

  14. I’m not so certain that any new thesis nailed to the church door by neo-Lutherans will cost the lost of any more souls then has the opening of the “window to the world” in Vatican II.

  15. Thanks for that Foxfier- it’s only true!
    the idea that pastoral care in a certain culture can be modified (ENCULTURATION) is dangerous when it operates separate from the Teaching Authority of the Church. …” its own unique way” can not take away from unicity– unique is to be an aspect of unicity

  16. Murray, it is largely about the money. There are ‘Kasperites’ everywhere, it is true, but they are nowhere as organized as in Germany.

  17. One quibble “What that means for the German bishops, in particular, is that income to their dioceses from the government—derived from a census of those who actually attend Mass—is way, way down.”
    This appears to not be correct. The government collects the tax from those who are officially identified as Catholic on their tax returns (see http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/08/29/us-religion-germany-tax-idUSKBN0GT1R020140829) and to avoid paying the tax the lapsed Catholic must officially notify the government they are no longer a Catholic. Simple non-attendance is not enough. According to the article, the resignations from churches has been accelerating due to a new capital gains ruling in a tax court. The wood has become very dry indeed.

  18. I understand why people seize upon the money explanation, and have no doubt it plays a substantial role for some German bishops, but it is far from a sufficient explanation of the Kasperite heresy.
    I repeat: If it’s about the money, how is it that so many non-German bishops (often from far poorer countries) have so enthusiastically taken up the cause of income security for the German episcopate? How do we explain Nichols, Cupich, Dew, Baldisseri, Forte, Maradiaga, Palmer-Buckle, Tagle, Dabre, Danneels, McCarrick, Schonborn, Galantino, Mahoney, and perhaps O’Malley and Dolan, among many others?
    How, for that matter, do we explain Bergoglio?
    No doubt there’s a mixture of motives in play here: perhaps some have personal reasons for wishing to relax the Church’s discipline on (e.g.) same-sex relations, in the same way that adulterers tend to favor laxer moral standards for others: they correctly intuit that a more permissive moral environment will spread the guilt around more widely, and thus reduce their own relative culpability. Others may have fallen prey to the Anglican delusion, despite the abundant evidence that doctrinal accommodation empties churches.
    But the clincher for me is that I don’t think Walter Kasper can be bought. (Cardinal Marx is a different story.) Kasper has been advocating heretical ideas since the 1960s, since well before he was a bishop, and well before the Kirchensteuer began to run dry, and I believe he’d continue to do so for love alone. In other words, it’s quite possible that Walter Kasper intends to render the Catholic Church doctrinally impotent in order to hasten her destruction, and that many of his non-German allies share this goal in some fashion. It’s what heretics have always done. If only it were just about money!

  19. Looks like the new “Kristallnacht” will cover the streets of Germany with stained glass this time.
    Again, as Ratzinger (Benedict XVI) reminded us, there is no hierarchal authority in any national bishop’s council.

  20. Reinhard Cardinal Marx wants the money. Walter Cardinal Kasper is who he is and should have been sent to a monastery to spend the rest of his days decades ago.

    As for the Roman Pontiff, we at The American Catholic, both bloggers and commenters, have been trying to explain him since he was elected.

    The others….Murray, you want explanations of them? Nobody has that much time to explain them to you. Latin America, the United States, Italy, Germany…..all have different upbringings but they have something in common – to hell with Church teaching as it was taught for centuries, let’s accommodate the popular culture.

    That gets NOBODY into heaven.

  21. … to render the Catholic Church doctrinally impotent in order to …
    The scoldings, derision, and censure of followers of Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture by the above cardinals and more unnamed present a disturbing trend. Could it be a competition with mega-churches to form one of global proportions?

Comments are closed.