German Bishop Wanting Radical Changes in Church Cited to Head

German Bishop Wanting Radical Changes in Church Cited to Head Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith ACI Digital

VATICAN, 24.1. 23 / 14:31 (ACI). The appointment of Bishop Heiner Wilmer of Hildesheim, Germany, as Prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith was allegedly blocked by some cardinals a few weeks ago. Cardinals are said to have warned Pope Francis and avoided the nomination. Now Wilmer is again being advised by the Pope to head the office responsible for correcting the teachings in the Church.

Wilmer supported all proposed texts of the German Synodal Way at the September 2022 General Assembly and called for the ordination of women, tolerance of samesex sexual relations and the establishment of a permanent synodal council. The German Synodal Way is a discussion process between bishops and some lay people about exercise of power in the church, the role of women and sexual morality.

Wilmer was considered by the Pope to succeed Cardinal Luis Ladaria as prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith in December. A group that included Cardinal George Pell, who died Jan. 10, questioned his doctrinal soundness and reportedly managed to dissuade the pope from nominating him.

Now, according to the Italian website Messa In Latino, Bishop Wilmer’s appointment is “probable”.

“I voted for the policy document on the reform of Catholic sex teaching and I am very upset that a twothirds majority of the bishops was not achieved. This is truly discouraging to all who are working to renew our church by faith. I understand and share the disappointment of many Catholics that the text failed to be voted on,” Bishop Wilmer said in September.

“The reform of church sex education is and remains a very important topic. The rejection of the document by a minority of bishops does not change that. I fully support the text and am sure that, despite its rejection, it will meet with a broad response and will be discussed intensively. I assure the faithful of the Diocese of Hildesheim that I will continue to work for the renewal of Catholic sexual morality. It is unacceptable for people to be hurt or discriminated against by Church teaching. That does not correspond to the spirit of Jesus Christ.” According to the German Bishops’ Conference, the diocese of Hildesheim in northern Germany has a weekly attendance rate of 2.8%.

Wilmer’s endorsement of the more radical proposals of the German Synodal Way was not the first time he had endorsed heterodox theological ideas.

In an interview with the Kölner StadtAnzeiger in 2018, Wilmer explained that “the abuse of power is in the DNA of the church” and can no longer be dismissed as something “fringe phenomena”, but should lead to a “radical rethinking” of ecclesiology.

In the same interview he described Father Eugen Drewermann as “a prophet of our time”. Father Drewermann was prevented from exercising his priestly ministry in the 1990s and was rebuked by thenprefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, for expressing doubts about the virgin birth of Christ and the bodily resurrection of Jesus, two pillars of Catholicism .

In the same interview, Bishop Wilmer also questioned the teaching authority of the Church’s Magisterium. “Sometimes I think: Who actually decides what is Catholic? We still pretend it’s hierarchy; as if we bishops have a right to be called Catholic. Not correct! … We must be recipients, listeners, learners in conversations with Catholics, but also with Christians of other denominations and nonbelievers.”

In April 2020, during the Covid19 pandemic, Bishop Wilmer criticized online streaming of Masses as an example of “over fixation” on the Eucharist.

In 2022, at the beginning of the worldwide synodal process in his diocese, he said in a sermon that the church needed a “new way of thinking” in relation to sexuality and the priestly ministry.

“We need a new look at gender: that in the church there is only participation of all, men and women,” he said in a service in Hildesheim Cathedral.

Wilmer introduced “gendersensitive language” in his diocese in 2021. For example, instead of “God, our father” it says: “Good God, you are our mother and father.”

Compared to his immediate German predecessors, Cardinals Joseph Ratzinger and Gerhard Müller, Wilmer has few theological credentials. He only became a bishop in 2018. He has a doctorate in mysticism and Maurice Blondel, but from 1997 to 1998 he was only a high school teacher in Germany and history and German at Fordham Preparatory School in the Bronx.

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The Holy See put an “emergency brake” on Germany’s synodal path, says lay leader

— ACI Digital (@acidigital) July 22, 2022