Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Germany's New Marx

As a postgraduate fellow in Munich Red Baron frequently tuned in to the American Forces Network (AFN). Here I listened to a man named Marx, his first name Groucho, and followed his last radio broadcasts of You Bet Your Life. Later I learned about the Brothers and on a bicycle tour around East Frisia in 2009 I visited the place of origin of the Marx family.

Germany has a few other "Marxes" that are better known. The first one was named Karl and is the author of the communist Bible and Catechism, i.e., Das Kapital (Capital) and The Communist Manifesto.

The second was Wilhelm Marx, chancellor of the Weimar Republic for the first time from November 30, 1923, to January 15, 1925. He was followed by a man named Luther, his first name Hans not Martin, until Wilhelm Marx again followed Luther as chancellor. In fourteen years, from 1919 to 1933, the Weimar Republic counted thirteen (sic!) chancellors until Reichspräsident Hindenburg nominated number fourteen, the gravedigger of the Republic, Hitler.

Since March 12, 2014, Germany has had a new Marx. His first name is Reinhard and he was born in Geseke near Paderborn, Westphalia. In Germany we do not compare the adjective black - synonym for being Catholic - blacker, blackest but we compare black, Münster, Paderborn. The comparison means that Catholicism is stronger in the Westphalian Münsterland but strongest in the bishopric of Paderborn.

The man from near Paderborn, cardinal and archbishop of Munich, was elected chairman of the German Bishops' Conference replacing the retired archbishop of Freiburg Robert Zollitsch. Marx was elected in Münster by the German bishops and auxiliary bishops only in the fifth round of voting in which a simple majority is sufficient (Wikipedia). The result of the election shows that Reinhard Marx is controversial: Nobody knows how to pigeonhole him. For some he is ultra-conservative, for others he is too progressive. However, two things are sure: Reinhard is a Macher (man of action) contrary to hesitant Robert, and he is absolutely loyal to the pope. With Pope Benedict Marx was a defender of the proclaimed doctrinal understanding; now he stands for the reform efforts of the new pope. When Francis published his encyclical Evangelii gaudium Marx rejoiced: He speaks to my heart.

Following his election as chairman of the German Bishops' Conference Reinhard Marx
 meets the media. In the back his predecessor Robert Zollitsch (©Focus).
The pope made Reinhard an advisor for revising the Apostolic Constitution on the Roman Curia in addition to his posts of Cardinal-Coordinator of the Council for Economic Affairs, member of the Congregation for Catholic Education, and member of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. He is head of the Committee for Social Issues at the German Bishops' Conference and president of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community. Do all these jobs reflect the Macher or rather the manpower shortage in the Catholic church?

On the question whether the Church should allow remarried divorcees to take Communion Marx advocates a clement treatment. If the divorced persons recognize their failure they could, following a penitential period, ask to be admitted to take communion again. Here Marx is in full disagreement with his fellow countryman and cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, the new cardinal and head of the Congregation of the Faith at the Vatican. We know that there are difficult situations like cases where one partner was maliciously abandoned, but human regulations must not suspend the Word of God. Reinhard and Gerhard Ludwig will never become friends.

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