This last day of August is the liturgical feast of a great German saint, Saint Paulinus of Trier. Trier, previously known Trèves and Triers, is a city lies on the banks of the Moselle in Germany, between low vine-covered hills of red sandstone in the west of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, near the border of Luxembourg, deeply entrenched within the important Moselle wine region.
The little information we have about Saint Paulinus tells us that he was a great foe of the Arian heresy. As the history of Christian doctrine puts it, Arianism claimed that Jesus was not really the Son of God, but rather created by God. Hence, he is not divine, but a creature. After being proposed in the early 4th century by the Alexandrian priest Arius, this heresy was widely diffused throughout much of the Eastern and Western Roman empires, thankfully it was condemned in no uncertain terms as heresy at the Council of Nicea in 325.
Within this context emerges the great figure of Saint Paulinus who did all his best to propagate the healthy, consoling and unifying teaching of the Council of Nicea. Saint Paulinus was originally from Gascony, a province of southwestern France and nowadays it is to be found in the east and south of Bordeaux. He was educated in the cathedral school and immediately became a faithful follower of St Maximinus, accompanying him to Trier. Eventually, Paulinus managed to succeed Maximinus by being chosen as bishop of Trier in the year 349.
He was a great friend and supporter of Saint Athanasius and supported wholeheartedly his orthodox doctrine on the divine personhood of Christ. The two first met when Saint Athanasius was exiled by the Arian dissenters to Trier. Upon seeing all this tragic story incredibly unfolding before his very eyes, Saint Paulinus was determined to defend the truth of the faith, particularly at the Synod of Arles in 353. In 355 Paulinus met the same fate as his friend Athanasius, this time being exiled by Emperor Constantius II to Phyrigia, where he died. After his death, his remains were carried to Trier in 395. Today his tomb is found in the crypt of the city’s St Paulinus Church that was rightly rededicated to him.
We commonly say: History repeats itself. Nowadays, the German Church is facing significant challenges concerning its synodal path, a change which is not in line with the Church’s tradition. In fact, the 125 employees, including priests, religion teachers as well as administrative employees, on January 24, 2022, “outed” themselves and launched their #OutinChurch campaign of seven specific demands:
- We want to be able to live and work openly as LGBTIQ+ persons in the church without fear. We want to be able to live and work openly as LGBTIQ+ persons in the church without fear.
- LGBTIQ+ persons must have access to all fields of activity and occupation in the Church without discrimination.
- The church employment rules need to be changed. An open life according to one’s sexual orientation and gender identity, even in a partnership or civil marriage, must never be considered a breach of loyalty or a reason for dismissal.
- Defamatory and outdated statements of church doctrine on sexuality and gender needs to be revised on the basis of theological and human-scientific findings. This is of utmost relevance especially in view of worldwide church responsibility for the human rights of LGBTIQ+ persons.
- The Church must not withhold the blessing of God and access to the sacraments from LGBTIQ+ persons and couples.
- A church that invokes Jesus and his message must firmly oppose all forms of discrimination and promote a culture of diversity.
- In dealing with LGBTIQ+ persons, the Church has caused much suffering throughout its history. We expect the bishops to take responsibility for this on behalf of the Church, to address the institutional history of guilt, and to advocate for the changes we call for.
The Church faces a significant threat in the face of these drastic demands, along with the introduction of the homosexual lifestyle and same sex “marriage” in both Europe and the United States. All of this has unfolded in less than sixty years, from the start of the so-called “Sexual Revolution”.
In Germany itself, the “gay rights” movement has made great inroads, with every bishop in Germany participating in what is called the “Synodal Way”— which is a process of dialogue, organized by the German bishops in collaboration with the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), the largest of several groups in Germany that represent lay Catholics. Participants have strongly demanded for several changes in Church doctrine and practice such as, to take but a few examples, relaxing the requirement of priestly celibacy, Church blessing of homosexual unions and inter-Communion between Catholics and Protestants.
On February 4th, by a vote of 174 to 30, with 6 abstentions, Synodal Way participants made as their own the view calling for women’s ordination in direct contradiction to infallible teaching given by Pope John Paul II in his 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis— namely that the Church has no authority to ordain women to the priesthood and the issue is not open for debate. Moreover, the “plenary meeting of the German Catholic Church’s ‘Synodal Way’ ended on Saturday with votes in favor of draft texts calling for same-sex blessings and changes to the Catechism on homosexuality.” And those votes passed with large majorities: 161 votes to 34, with 11 abstentions for “same-sex blessing”, and 174 votes in favor, 22 against, and 7 abstentions for changing the Catechism’s section on homosexuality.
In May 2021 the former head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller in an interview to Kath.net, when he was asked if the German Church was headed toward schism the cardinal frankly stated: “I fear yes, but I hope not.” However, in recent years a number of German bishops have defended the homosexual lifestyle as well as same-sex “marriage” and demanded the Church to change her moral teaching concerning these issues. For instance, in February 2021, Bishop Peter Kohlgraf of Mainz said that Catholics with homosexual inclinations cannot be expected to live chastely as “the inclination is not self-inflicted.”
This drastic situation, which is endangering the Church’s doctrine and unity, is an invitation calling for you and me to pray. Nowadays we need, more than ever before, to pray for the unity in teaching and communion of the Church. Let us make this prayer ardently to the Father, fount of unity in truth. We also invoke Saint Paulinus, the German bishop of Trier, so that the Church in Germany and in the world be united in love through the bonds of the saving truth.
Father, in the Name of Your beloved Son Jesus, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, with the intercession of Mary, the Mother of God and Our Mother and the intercession of Saint Paulinus of Trier, bring your unity of love in truth, caritas in veritate to your Church, particularly in Germany and in every part of the world. Amen.
Saint Paulinus of Trier, great apostle of sound Church doctrine and an extraordinary witness of Church unity, pray for us!