German priests defy archbishop over loyalty oath
Almost 50 priests of the Freiburg diocese in south-west Germany have refused to swear an oath of loyalty introduced throughout the country last year
The Tablet reports that in a letter to their archbishop, Oscar Saier, they say that the pledge is 'not in accordance with our understanding of the Church, the faith and our conscience'.
The oath dates from the publication three years ago of Ad Tuendam Fidem ('For the Defence of the Faith', an apostolic letter arguing that any Catholic with an open mind about the ordination of women was no longer in full communion with the Church. Designed to clamp down on dissent among theologians, the document went on to cite Pope Leo XIII's condemnation of Anglican orders in 1896 as 'definitively' binding upon Catholics today. Ad Tuendam Fidem also contained an expanded version of the Professio Fidei, or declaration of faith, introduced for Catholic theologians in 1989.
The confrontation in Freiburg arises from a decision last year by the German bishops' conference that the Professio Fidei should be applied to everyone involved in transmitting the Catholic faith, and not just to seminary and university teachers.
The Freiburg group, who mostly consist of parish priests, are said to be especially troubled by the insistence of Professio Fidei that theology must always be subservient to church teaching. About four of the dissenters are said to have withdrawn their opposition to the oath after contacts with Archbishop Saier in recent days, but the majority are standing their ground.
Observers say that opposition to the Professio Fidei is also growing elsewhere in Germany, especially in the dioceses of Munich and Münster.