On April 30, 2019, 19 scholars and clergy published an Open Letter to Bishops accusing Pope Francis of heresy and asking the bishops of the world to undertake a serious investigation of this charge for the good of the Church. In the following weeks, more people, among them more than 20 priests and some theologians and canon lawyers, added their signatures to this Open Letter so that the number of its signatories is now 92.
On May 13, Martin Mosebach also added his own signature to the Open Letter. Mosebach is a well-known German novelist and essayist who has received the highest national literary award in Germany, the Georg Büchner Prize which is being given by the German Academy for Language and Literature. Mosebach, who was born in 1951, also authored the book The Heresy of Formlessness: The Roman Liturgy and its Enemy, in which he argues in favor of the Traditional Latin Mass. In the U.S., Mosebach is known for his essays published in First Things.
Speaking with LifeSiteNews, Mr. Mosebach explains why he signed the Open Letter to Bishops and says that the Church finds herself in an “unprecedented” situation which therefore is “lacking instruments” of how to deal with it. He hopes for a “broad debate about the question of what is Catholic and what is not. The result could be dramatic – a schism – because the progressivist party is very strong, but the small traditionalist party cannot, according to its own principles, make any concessions anymore.”
Mr. Mosebach hopes for more bishops to respond to the current crisis in the Church, adding that “I simply do not want to believe that in the whole Orbis Catholicus, there should be only these four [dubia] cardinals and the three Kazakh bishops who got worried about the Roman zig-zag course.”
He sees that under Pope Francis, the Catholic Church “has assumed the character of the western Liberalism of North American Democrats and of the German Green Party,” thus presenting herself as being “anti-sacramental, anti-hierarchical, committed to the ultra-liberal claims of societal diversity.”
Describing Pope Francis’s style of government as “paradoxical,” Martin Mosebach highlights that Francis “is a ruler who demands submission and blind obedience in order to destroy, especially by this means, the spiritual foundation of all obedience.” In the German author’s eyes, Francis uses “the papal authority in order to undermine the papal Magisterium. It becomes more and more clear that he understands himself as an agent of a revolution from the top down.”
Full LifeSiteNews interview with Martin Mosebach:
LifeSite: What were your reasons for signing the Open Letter to the Bishops, even though there were already many commentaries which dismissed this letter as “extreme”? Which aspect of the Open Letter most appealed to you?
Martin Mosebach: Indeed, the Open Letter to the Bishops is extreme – a witness of a historical moment which is unprecedented in the Church’s history. It describes the situation that was not foreseen and for which, therefore, also the instruments are lacking. It is true that one should, in principle, be very careful before calling someone a heretic. The Catholic Church is old and she justly makes the claim to universality, and this means that within her midst, there have been very different, in part also contradictory, movements. But the Magisterium of the Popes always prevailed, after a shorter or longer period of dispute, by turning to Tradition and then making a decision in its spirit, thus ending the dispute.
And now for the first time, we are dealing with a Pope who, far from ending a theological dispute, even furthers it and removes himself from his duty to settle it. The means which he uses seem to me to be especially fatal: he flirts with heresy; shows, with the wink of an eye, some sympathies for it, then expresses himself continuously in such an ambiguous manner that the “heretics” may thereby feel reinforced, while the papal “loyalists” still hope to be able to prove the existence of an orthodox kernel in his statements.
It seems to me that it is now necessary to open up a broad debate about the question of what is Catholic and what is not. The result could be dramatic – a schism – because the progressivist party is very strong, but the small traditionalist party cannot, according to its own principles, make any concessions anymore.
LifeSite: In the face of the fact that bishops most probably would not respond to this Open Letter with an investigation of the possible heresies of the Pope, what can be accomplished with such a letter?
Mosebach: It moves me that here, finally, all prelates of the Church are being addressed. They take part in the Magisterium and thus have to make a statement when it is about the essence of Christian doctrine. They all have to present their questions to the Pope – when they are in doubt as to whether they have understood him correctly – and not only the four courageous cardinals with their “dubia.” I simply do not want to believe that in the whole Orbis Catholicus, there should be only these four cardinals and the three Kazakh bishops who got worried about the Roman zig-zag course.
Let us remember: the bishopric is the highest office that a Catholic can reach, one is bishop by divine law, called by Jesus Christ – what can one still fear then? By which disgrace could he be reached and touched? I do not wish to hope in vain that the lips of those bishops in the world who are aware of the disaster – and they exist, we do know them! – continue to be sealed by a false understanding of unity.
But even if fear and the desire for a career should prevail and none of the addressees responds, the letter still has an important function: it keeps open the wound and increases the chance that a next pontiff will deal with these questions.
LifeSite: Can a simple Catholic recognize when a Pope teaches heresy – or that he supports it indirectly – or do you think that one has to be a deeply learned theologian in order to be able to come to such a conclusion?
Mosebach: The Catholic religion is perhaps the most complicated religion in the world, and that is why her doctrinal system, her philosophy, is only known to a small part of the faithful, but [knowing all] this is not necessary, because the Church has, in the form of the Catholic liturgy, an instrument with the help of which everybody, regardless of their education, is enabled to encounter God; and such an encounter with God stands far above all doctrine.
Indeed, there are theological questions which are difficult to settle even for an expert in the field. Because the discussion about truths of the Faith in the Church will never end, the Magisterium has gained this special significance: the thoughts and the life conditions of each century have to be measured again and again according to the standard of Tradition.
But there are also some simple sentences, for whose understanding one does not need to be a deeply learned theologian. “Go ye out into the world, teach all nations and baptize them in the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost” really does not mean “Let all nations keep their faith because God wished it so and created them with it in mind; it is thus not necessary to baptize them.” The sentence “What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder” most probably does not mean “What therefore God has joined together, man is permitted to put asunder.”
LifeSite: As an attentive, literary observer of your age, how would you describe the “Francis effect”? How has the Catholic Church and the world changed under his pontificate?
Mosebach: The Catholic Church has become more and more bourgeois, she has assumed the character of the western Liberalism of North American Democrats and of the German Green Party. She presents herself as being anti-sacramental, anti-hierarchical, committed to the ultra-liberal claims of societal diversity and so on. But from these secular movements, she also adopted a strict authoritarianism which fancies itself with the motto “no tolerance for intolerance.” And according to it, what is intolerant is everything which corresponds to the Tradition of the Church.
LifeSite: How would you describe Pope Francis’ style of government?
Mosebach: His style of government is paradoxical: he is a ruler who demands submission and blind obedience in order to destroy, especially by this means, the spiritual foundation of all obedience. He uses the papal authority in order to undermine the papal Magisterium. It becomes more and more clear that he understands himself as an agent of a revolution from the top down. With this, and in retrospect, it is becoming finally and hopefully very clear even to the last optimist that the whole post-Conciliar era has already been such a revolution from the top down which, after certain Ritardandi [delays], is now finally standing before its fulfillment.
LifeSite: Some commentators say that Francis is now being accused of things – such as the clerical abuse crisis – for which he is not really responsible since the developments go back for decades? How do you see his approach with regard to the abuse crisis?
Mosebach: It is true that the Pope originally was only very little responsible for the crisis that was caused by the exposure of moral scandals, but he has given away this advantage. Fatally, it turned out that those prelates who are most embarrassingly involved in these scandals belonged to the favored pillars of his pontificate. That is why he had, and still has, difficulties in disclosing or abandoning them.
That is also the reason why he is not willing to name the true causes of the crisis, but rather invents phantoms such as a purported “clericalism.” The Pope of Mercy, of course, cannot return to the old canon law that had been abrogated in a tragic fashion by Pope Paul VI, with the help of which one could have mastered the problems in a very different manner. I fear that the Pope recognizes the abuse scandals first and foremost as a useful occasion to throw overboard as much Catholic Tradition as possible – which had shrunk already considerably under the last Popes.