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Cardinal Lehmann:
Rebel in a Red Hat

by Christopher A. Ferrara

This writer was in Rome on February 21, 2000 to witness the creation of Bishop Karl Lehmann as a Prince of the Holy Catholic Church. I was hoping and praying that something — a gust of wind, a lightning bolt from the blue sky, anything — would prevent that red hat from being placed on that particular head. But God has deigned to permit it.

Even the liberal Italian press calls Lehman a “soft rebel,” contrasting him with “hard rebels” such as Hans Küng. And a rebel he is: for years Lehman resisted the Vatican’s efforts to stop the German bishops from operating “counseling centers” which issued certificates German women need to obtain abortions under German law — virtual death warrants for the unborn. Lehman is a theological as well as a moral rebel. He has publicly questioned the Church’s teaching that divorced and remarried Catholics may not receive Holy Communion. He co-authored (with fellow “soft rebel” Bishop Walter Kasper, who was also rewarded with a Cardinal’s hat) a theology text which, among other things, denies the existence of a personal devil and personal demons.

Lehman is unrepentant since his elevation to the status of Cardinal. CWN reported that the day after he got his coveted red hat, Lehman “told reporters that he did not regret his opposition to the Holy See on the question of abortion counseling in Germany.” Lehman has also suggested that the national bishops’ conferences created after Vatican II should have decision-making power as a “complementary body” to the Holy See. This is in direct contradiction to the Vatican’s recent instruction on episcopal conferences, which notes that they are to have no juridical power in the Church. Lehman’s notion, if implemented, would further undermine papal authority, which has already been severely compromised for the sake of “collegiality.”

The elevation of Lehmann to cardinal is yet another indication of the current unprecedented crisis in the Church. Lehmann’s diocese was handing out certificates for the murder of unborn children only a few months ago, and now he is a prince of the Church. Hans Küng is a priest in good standing in the Diocese of Basle and still teaches theology despite having been stripped of his theological credentials in 1980.

Meanwhile, however, Father Nicholas Gruner is threatened with excommunication or reduction to the lay state (defrocking) by the Congregation for the Clergy, whose Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos claims he is acting out of “vigilance” for the clergy and the good of souls. Please! Why is Father Gruner threatened with ultimate penalties while Lehmann, who facilitated abortions, is made a Prince of the Church? Because Cardinal Sodano, the Vatican Secretary of State, takes offense to Fatima Crusader magazine’s criticism of his geopolitical initiatives, including press conferences and dinners at the Vatican with Mikhail Gorbachev, who is promoting a worldwide regime of abortion and contraception. The same Cardinal Sodano, by the way, has publicly praised the writings of Hans Küng, who has publicly condemned the Pope as a despot who “rules in the spirit of the Spanish Inquisition.” The Congregation’s “vigilance” seems rather selective.

The brilliant writer and speaker Dr. David Allen White has noted that the current situation in the Church is like the plot of King Lear: the daughter who truly loves the King is exiled and hounded, while the treacherous daughter is rewarded with the kingdom. From this Fatima perspective, what is happening to Father Gruner and other faithful priests like him is indeed a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions.