Article by George Weigel on the possible choice of Bishop Wilmer
The American Catholic theologian and author George Weigel (author of a long and important 2004 biography of St. John Paul II, Witness to Hope (link) on December 16 published his analysis of this situation.
Here are excerpts, and a link to the full article:
Bishop Heiner Wilmer, this Catholic Moment, and the Catholic Future
One hopes that Pope Francis is also aware that the appointment of a man such as Bishop Wilmer as Prefect of the Doctrine of the Faith would throw into crisis the Synod on Synodality that has become the centerpiece of his pontificate.
December 16, 2022
By George Weigel
Bishop Heiner Wilmer, SCJ, the boyishly handsome bishop of Hildesheim in Lower Saxony, would likely not object to being counted among the most progressive bishops in a German episcopate dominated by progressives.
Nor is the 61-year-old Dehonian priest and former Superior General of the Priests of the Sacred Heart shy in expressing his opinions.
Thus, in 2020, at the height of the COVID plague and governmental restrictions on church attendance in Germany, Bishop Wilmer had no criticism of the “gathering ban” but had this to say about live-streamed Masses for those forbidden from gathering in churches: “I personally don’t feel comfortable with all this streaming. We have said here in the diocese, we have an official streaming service, but also only audio, from the Hildesheim Cathedral. I personally don’t think it’s good if every parish priest, every priest streams from some little chapel or from the living room… It also can’t be that we are only fixated on the Eucharist! Of course it is important, but the Second Vatican Council says that the Lord is not only present in the Eucharist, but also in the Holy Scriptures, in the reading of the Bible, and we should take seriously the word of Jesus, where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
Then, when his interlocutor asked, “Does that mean the Eucharist is overrated, and you’re advocating trying other forms of cohesion, even communal experience?”
Bishop Wilmer replied is these striking terms: “Well, in the reaction of some believers, the Eucharist is already overrated. As if there were nothing else.”
Such seeming insouciance about what the Second Vatican Council called the “source and summit” of the Church’s life runs parallel to what appears to be the bishop of Hildesheim’s indifference to doctrine.
Thus, in opening the diocesan phase of the Synod on Synodality for a Synodal Church in Hildesheim cathedral, Bishop Wilmer declared himself, in so many words, a fervent disciple of the Zeitgeist: “We need a new look at sexuality and a new way of thinking about the ministry of the priest. We need a new look at gender-just participation for everyone in the church, men and women alike…”
As for the purpose of the Synod on Synodality for a Synodal Church, Wilmer declared that “the pope wants to turn the Church upside down.”
And doing so would require that “everyone also has to let go of something, including their own convictions,” in order to hear “what the Spirit wants to say to us.” (The bishop did not indicate that the “Spirit” might be “saying” that we should “let go” of the truths embodied in Scripture or the convictions expressed in the Nicene Creed, but one could only wonder what limiting principle would be available to temper “everyone letting go of something” to the point where we all let go of everything.)
For according to persistent stories emanating from Roman sources (some the usual hysterics, others far more credible), Bishop Heiner Wilmer, SCJ, will be named Prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, perhaps as soon as December 19.
Should that happen, it would mark a truly extraordinary moment in an extraordinary pontificate.
And not simply because there is something surreal about an ecclesial situation in which Heiner Wilmer succeeds such fellow-Germans as Joseph Ratzinger and Gerhard Ludwig Müller as a principal guardian of what John XXIII called, while opening the Second Vatican Council, “the Sacred Deposit of Faith.”
But also because such an appointment would seem a papal repudiation of the man Pope Francis previously appointed as Prefect of the then-Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, his fellow-Jesuit, Cardinal Luis Ladaria Ferrer. Why?
Because in his address to the German bishops gathered in Rome in late November, Cardinal Ladaria offered a calm but devastating theological critique of the German Synodal Path that Bishop Wilmer so fervently supports – and which he in fact embodies. In that address, the cardinal reminded German Catholicism that it is part of a universal Church that has settled teachings on the goods of human love and its expression; a Church that must reject gender ideology as incompatible with the biblical Word of God; a Church that is governed by bishops by the will of Christ; a Church that has determined that it has no authority to admit women to Holy Orders; and a Church that reads the “signs of the times,” not through opinion polling among ill-catechized Catholics, but through the lens of ancient, timeless, and irreformable convictions grounded in revelation.
What would it mean – what would it signal to the rest of the world Church – for the Holy Father to appoint as Cardinal Ladaria’s successor a man who, we may suppose, finds Ladaria’s critique of the German Synodal Path unacceptable? Would Pope Francis be repudiating his own “Letter to the People of God Journeying in Germany,” to which Ladaria referred at the beginning of his address to the German bishops, and which urged the Synodal Path to listen less to the alleged signs of the times and more to the enduring truths of the Gospel?
During the cardinals’ meetings in Rome in August 2022, a veteran cardinal with both extensive pastoral and curial experience reminded a newly created cardinal that, according to a venerable tradition within the Roman Curia, its senior members must warn the Pope if, in their considered judgment, he is about to make a grave error.
That ancient practice of fraternal correction, which can trace its origins to Galatians 2.11, has been largely in abeyance for the past decade.
It should be recovered immediately, not least by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin.
For the Holy Father must be fully informed of the views of Bishop Heiner Wilmer, so that what are likely to be the implications and grave consequences of bringing him to Rome to head the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith are clear.
[End, Weigel analysis of the possible appointment of Bishop Wilmer as the next head of the CDF]
So there it is.
Meanwhile, I was just speaking with a friend in Assisi, who told me that a heavy snow has fallen over the city of St. Francis.
And he sent me a link to a video which shows the Franciscan friars engaged in a snowball fight on the lawn in front of the great Basilica of San Francesco, where St. Francis is buried.
Here is a link to that video (link).
And here is the text of an ANSA (Italian news agency) report on this event (link):
“A video of Franciscan friars in Assisi frolicking in the snow, building a snowman and having snowball fights has gone viral on the Internet.
“‘Dear brothers ad sisters, Sister Snow has arrived,'” says Brazilian-born Friar Rafael in the video shot in front of the upper basilica in the birthplace and shrine of St Francis.
“‘We’re really enjoying it here in Assisi,'” continues Friar Rafael, “it’s just right for snowball fights.'”
“In the video, posted on Youtube and Facebook, the friars’ snow-fuelled antics are set to music.
“They are shown making a snowman with shoes, two twigs as arms, stones for eyes, and a scarf around his neck.
St. Francis lived and kept the faith in a time when the Church was riven by doctrinal divisions and many heretical groups were springing up, and yet, 800 years later, the friars are still rejoicing at the arrival of “Sister Snow.”
So no matter what happens, there is always hope, and the promise has been given that the Lord’s presence shall remain to guide and assist us, even till the end of time… —RM
Open Letter: on the probable appointment of Bishop Wilmer as Prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (link)
To His Holiness Pope Francis,
To the Most Reverend Eminences, the Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church,
To the Most Reverend Excellencies, the Archbishops and Bishops,
In December (HERE) of last year we learned that Bishop Heiner Wilmer of Hildesheim, Germany, was to be appointed prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.
At the same time, however, we received news that the appointment was discarded, in part because of the intervention of numerous Cardinals and Bishops who had (and have) the Church and Catholic Doctrine at heart.
Unfortunately, in recent days, it seems that Bishop Wilmer’s candidacy is back in vogue and that his appointment may be coming soon.
We would quietly like to remind all of you, as we did last month, that the appointment of the aforementioned Bishop Heiner Wilmer would be an unprecedented disaster, as he has repeatedly and pertinaciously sided against the Church with statements that, beyond being heretical, border on delusional, and has even supported the work of Eugen Drewermann (here), a former Catholic priest, heretic and schismatic.
This alone would suffice to set aside the appointment.
We take the opportunity to recall several “remarks” made by Bishop Wilmer:
· “Eugen Drewermann is a prophet of our time who is misunderstood by the Church.”
· “Abuse of power is in the Church’s DNA.”
· “Sometimes I think: who exactly determines what is Catholic? We keep acting as if it is the hierarchy, as if we bishops are entitled to the Catholic label. This is wrong! We are not a Stiftung Warentest [a German consumer organization and foundation involved in investigating and comparing goods and services in an unbiased way, founded in 1964]. We are to be receivers and listeners learning in dialogue with Catholic men and women, but also with Christians of other denominations and non-believers. If this is theologically clear, so are the consequences on the abuse scandal: to curb evil in the Church, there needs to be an effective check on power in the Church. We need a distinction of powers, a system of ‘Checks and Balances’.”
Additionally, in September 2022, Bishop Wilmer voted for a German Synodal Way resolution to change Catholic doctrine on sexuality and openly lamented its failure to pass (here and here).
We are writing to you from the heart, so that such a disaster for the Church may be avoided.
The MiL Editorial Board
Translation by Diane Montagna