After growing criticism of a text by high churchmen on the Corona crisis, Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Muller has defended his signature. Previously, the German bishops had distanced themselves from the text initiated by Archbishop Vigano.
Interested church circles had used the paper "to make outrage capital out of it against their supposed opponents," Muller explained Sunday in the newspaper "Die Tagespost" (Online). "Everyone is now calling everyone who thinks otherwise conspiracy theorists."
Cardinal Muller's group had published a warning that the Corona pandemic would be used to create a "world government" "beyond all control".
"As a matter of principle, the German Bishops' Conference does not comment on appeals by individual bishops outside Germany" said the conference chairman, Bishop Georg Batzing, to the Catholic News Agency (KNA) on Saturday evening. "However, I would add that the German Bishops' Conference's assessment of the Corona pandemic differs fundamentally from the appeal published yesterday."
In the appeal, the signatories criticize the pandemic for being used as a pretext to "disproportionately and unjustifiably" restrict "fundamental freedoms," including the right to religious freedom, freedom of expression and freedom of movement. The protective measures served to "criminalize personal and social relationships".
As serious as the fight against Covid-19 may be, it should not be used "as a pretext to support unclear intentions of supranational entities that pursue very strong political and economic interests".
The German bishops had declared on the Corona pandemic, among other things, that the restrictions – also on church services – had been "reasonable and responsible" and at the same time emphasized that one must also relax the restrictions again "with responsibility and a sense of proportion.
Ruhr Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck wrote on Facebook over the weekend that the church could make a clear contribution to addressing the Corona crisis: "Exercising solidarity as a clear sign of determination to work for the common good and social justice".
Overbeck went on to explain that this describes exactly the opposite of the positioning "of those populists and other conspiracy theorists who want to see all efforts to contain the pandemic as a pretext to establish a hateful technocratic tyranny and wipe out Christian civilization". This must be clearly contradicted on the part of the church – "no matter who formulates such a thing"!".
The Vicar General of the Diocese of Essen, Klaus Pfeffer, commented on Facebook that each signatory of the appeal was exposing themselves. He was "simply catchless, what is spread there in the name of church and Christianity: Crude conspiracy theories without facts and evidence, combined with right-wing populist battle rhetoric that sounds frightening."
Pfeffer added: "With Jesus Christ, on which the signers refer, have such confused theses, which stoke fears, pursue black-and-white thinking, draw evil enemy images and poison the togetherness in our societies, nothing to do."
The "We are Church" movement expressed similar sentiments on Sunday. The opponents of reform around Cardinal Muller are not interested in defending the faith, but in stirring up fear. "But this has nothing to do with faith," says the group. Especially in a great crisis, trust and faith are required: "And this faith leads to overwhelming solidarity with all those who need our help."