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Naaman, the Nazarenes, and the Germans

While there are many reasons why institutional German Catholicism is hurtling into apostasy, and may go off the cliff into schism, pride is one of them.

Bishop Georg Bätzing, Irme Stetter-Karp, Bischop Franz-Josef Bode at the “Synodal Way” meeting on Sept. 9 2022 in Frankfurt, Germany. (Image: Synodaler Weg / Maximilian von Lachner)

To vary Oscar Wilde, the Church’s liturgical life often imitates art by being strikingly appropriate to a particular moment.

That was certainly true on Monday of the Third Week of Lent, 2023 — a day when the Scriptures of the Eucharistic liturgy invite us to ponder the greatest of the capital sins, pride, through the story of Naaman, the Syrian general, and Jesus’s confrontation with his fellow-Nazarenes. This year, Monday of Lent III immediately followed the concluding meeting of the German “Synodal Way.”

And while there are many reasons why institutional German Catholicism is hurtling into apostasy, and may go off the cliff into schism, pride is one of them.

Naaman seeks a cure for his leprosy from the “man of God,” Elisha, successor to Elijah as “prophet in Israel” (2 Kings 5:8). The Syrian is willing to make a long and difficult journey to gain what he seeks. He is prepared to compensate the prophet for a cure with gold and silver.  But when Elisha tells him to bathe seven times in the Jordan, Naaman balks. Why should this piddling Israelite stream have more curative power than the greater rivers of Damascus? He’s about to return home in a huff when his servants plead with him to bathe in the Jordan, arguing that, as he would have done something difficult if the prophet asked, why not do something easy?

Naaman bathes as Elisha instructed, is cured, and then declares that “I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel” (2 Kings 5:15). Naaman’s pride had been the obstacle to his cure, and ultimately to his faith in the one true God.

The Gospel reading for Monday of Lent III offers the Church a New Testament parallel to the tale of Naaman and Elisha. Just before the passage from St. Luke’s Gospel read that day, Jesus had taken the scroll of Isaiah the prophet at a sabbath service in his hometown synagogue, read about the one who would “proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,” declared that “today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” — and won the plaudits of all, “who spoke well of him” (Luke 4:20-22). The atmospherics quickly change, however, and the story as read on Monday of Lent III displays a different face of the Nazarenes.

For, in their pride, they start wondering about this upstart. Isn’t he Joseph’s son, a carpenter? Who does he think he is? And what kind of messiah is this? We had something different, something better, in mind. So they drive Jesus out of Nazareth and are about to throw him off a promontory when, “passing through the midst of them, he went away” (Luke 4:30). Pride, once again, has been an obstacle to faith. We, the Nazarenes, know what kind of messiah God should have sent — just as Adam and Eve, in their pride, thought they knew better than God about what was good and evil, displaying an arrogance that drove them out of Paradise in Genesis 3.

When the German Synodal Way declares that it knows better than God about what makes for righteous living, happiness and ultimate beatitude — which is what the Synodal Way did when it rejected the biblical anthropology of Genesis 1 and embraced gender ideology and the LGBTQ agenda — the Germans were behaving exactly like Adam and Eve, Naaman before his conversion, and the Nazarenes.

When the German Synodal Way endorses a kind of parliamentary system of Church governance in defiance of the order that Christ himself established for his Church, the Germans were doing precisely what every prideful sinner from Adam and Eve through the leprous Naaman and the scornful Nazarenes had done: rejecting divine revelation.

Thus the remarkable, artful symmetry of those readings for Monday of the Third Week following immediately after the conclusion of the German Synodal Way, which deconstructed Catholicism in the name of the allegedly superior culture of today.

Some months after John Paul II issued his 1993 encyclical on the reform of Catholic moral theology, Veritatis Splendor, a book of commentaries on that text — all negative — was published by German theologians. The book’s editor wrote in the foreword that the book was being published because Germany had a special responsibility for theology in the Catholic Church. To which one wanted to say, “Says who? When was the election?”

That is the kind of pride that led many German theologians to regard the brilliant John Paul II as a pre-modern, reactionary Slav, not quite up to their enlightened standards. That same pride has infused, and thoroughly corrupted, the German Synodal Way.

(George Weigel’s column ‘The Catholic Difference’ is syndicated by the Denver Catholic, the official publication of the Archdiocese of Denver.)

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About George Weigel 445 Articles
George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington's Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies. He is the author of over twenty books, including Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II (1999), The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II—The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy (2010), and The Irony of Modern Catholic History: How the Church Rediscovered Itself and Challenged the Modern World to Reform. His most recent books are The Next Pope: The Office of Peter and a Church in Mission (2020), Not Forgotten: Elegies for, and Reminiscences of, a Diverse Cast of Characters, Most of Them Admirable (Ignatius, 2021), and To Sanctify the World: The Vital Legacy of Vatican II (Basic Books, 2022).


  1. Martin Luther redux.

    Germany is a pagan country (has been for quite some time) and most of the Catholic bishops there who should have been evangelizing the people there are apostate themselves.

    What is needed is for faithful Catholics from Africa to flood Germany as missionaries to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the teachings of the Catholic Church. There is no requirement of permission from the Roman Pontiff to do this but there IS a mandate from Jesus Christ. Whence cometh these missionaries to the pagans?

    • Thank you Mr Weigel for the clear and sharp reflection on what is happening with the Church in Germany.

      We need people who can clearly present the truth which is from God, those whose hearts are pure, with no agenda to serve their own desires of the flesh—since many of our priests and bishops who are supposed to be the shepherds of the Church to lead us to Jesus, are currently lost due to following the lures of the world.

      Pray and do penance for the purification of our priests

  2. Responding to the 1993 Veritatis Splendor and its defense of the natural law and moral absolutes, the German theologians barked: ““Says who? When was the election?”

    …Not realizing that St. John Paul II had already anticipated this sophomoric and canine marking (pronounced you’re in!) of the German domain: “The Church is no way the author or the arbiter of this [‘moral’] norm” (n. 95).

  3. Thank you for this spot on skewering of the German madness that we have seen played out. And it has of course been fascinating to see how all those on the “liberal” side of the Church are suddenly silent about this open schism while they continue to wave their fists at trad windmills in the US…

    And if I may just expand a little on that allusion to the reading concerning Naaman and him balking at something too easy: it’s interesting how much ’twas ever thus with human nature and the way we view problems. So just as it may be the “easy” or to put it in modern terms, the “kind” option to throw money at an issue; as we should by now know it doesn’t necessarily lead to good results. Or to put it in blunt terms, yes it may feel kind to give the homeless man £1000 but if he goes straight off and spends all of that on heroin which then kills him, perhaps less so….

    Likewise, we can of course see exactly why the Germans here are thinking of themselves as being terribly kind and so much more compassionate than all those awful horrible cold Catholics. “We get it!” was clearly the pervading theme throughout their discussions. And the assumption is that the rest of us do not get “it”.

    The problem is that they really do not get it. And I can say that with all confidence as a man with same sex attraction who after many years away from the Church, through God’s grace returned a few years back and happily strive to live in total assent to those teachings which the Synodal Way is hellbent (pun fully intended) on undermining if not totally destroying.

    Well let me tell them as someone who has as it were, sat on both sides of the Church. This is not being kind or nice. This is actually an act of absolute cruelty to those who need their help. Instead they are offering a stone. Oh it’s a sweet looking one, painted no less in rainbow colours but still a stone. And one that will lead to perdition in this life if not the next. And all thanks to the lies that they are proclaiming. And it’s not even easy as the only easy thing is saying something bromidic like the classic slogan of this age, “Love is Love!” But as Larry Chapp asked in his recent excellent riposte to McElroy’s ridiculous manifesto, “What does that actually mean?!” And that’s where, once the light of reason is fully shone on this whole subversion, that the wheels come off under any such scrutiny.

    Anyway! I’ve gone on far too long but allow me to end with what I always say about those years when all I had for spiritual help were the likes of these German bishops: I was drowning and all they could ever do was tell me that the water was just fine. And alas that is going to be exactly the situation for so many of our German brothers and sisters who instead of being given true freedom, are being put back into prison. Our Lord’s yoke is easy but this German move is anything but….

    • Hello GrizzlyMariner. Bravo to you for sharing this personal look at your life, and more, for having returned to the church and struggling to do what is required. As I have said on other posts, changing the church teaching on sexuality becomes a slippery slope, because if “kindness” is the only criteria, what can possibly be OFF the table in this area? The frightening answer is “nothing”. In press coverage about what this liberalization means for homosexuals, it’s lost that church teaching applies to all of us. Bottom line, sex outside of a marital situation is forbidden. Period. I was widowed “young” in my 40’s when my spouse was suddenly killed. We had a fabulous relationship. Needless to say in the 20 years since his death, what one is missing in an intimate relationship certainly comes into mind periodically. Its something of a temptation and in todays free wheeling society, it likely would not be hard to find a willing partner for the night. I do not indulge because I could not dishonor my husband’s memory in that way, and because God forbids it. Which does not always feel as simple as it sounds. I would hazard a guess that many, if not most, widows/widowers are in the same boat. I am hugely disappointed in these German Bishops who are inviting people on the road to perdition as you suggest. I would say that seeing that the Pope appears prepared to say nothing to oppose this movement, I hope the Germans go their merry schmatic way, rather than infect the rest of the church in encouraging sinful behavior. I wish you well and encourage you to stay on the path of truth. Remember, you are not alone.

    • Thank you for your witness, Grizz.

      Your experience is particularly salient because your voice is unassailable, uncancellable.

      God’s love would not be love at all, but rather cruelty, if he left us in our misery and suffering rather than calling us to repentance.

    • Thank you, GM! May God bless you for your courage. I hope that many young or old
      suffering as you have, may be encouraged. There should be “hospices” set up in every diocese to help those who need and want help. God have mercy–and maybe justice as well, for those whose definition of “love” is anything but.

  4. Approaching the Feast of Annuncitaion and not too far away from the Feast of St.Joseph …. an artcle that narrates to a shocking extent, how far things have gone astray in our culture – – narrating how lust becomes aggressive destruction , to even chokking women , instead of the Fatherly attitude to provide and protect , how NFP fosters communication and deeper intimacy .

    That evil tendency to also choke off true and gracious communication in families , driving persons to look for alternatives in media as well as believing in lies and labeling from the ideologies around , as the pandemic of identity disordered lives, with the truth and dignity chokked off their lives , trying to do same to others …

    Papal prayer intention for March – for victims of abuse – getting answered in the truth being revealed, as the interconnecting dots in all these areas ..

    A corroborating exorcism blog post – on demons of chokking , how they are incapable of remorse – .
    St.Joseph – in the line of David, sharing the strength with the Lion of Judah – may his prayers too help families and The Church to silence the roaring lions that demand to bite and tear off truth and dignity , that a breath of The Spirit of the Golden Lion crush the heads of the enemy to bring New Life in His image in all areas and memories , receiving The Word with thirsting hearts and open mouths , to help see each other in gratitude for the virginal purity in the Precious Blood as remedy for unruly/ demonic appetites and ways .
    FIAT !

  5. Wasn’t it pride that moved Eve to disobey God to be a god? And isn’t it pride, that at any time in history to embrace sin as a good rather than evil? That biological specificity doesn’t matter even if ordained by God?
    For Synodaler chairman Bätzing and companions, it’s a form of intellectual pride that assumes Apostolic tradition doesn’t correctly interpret Christ. Although, to be fair Naaman had the advantage that his leprosy was visible. Herr Bätzing and company do not acknowledge the rot within.

  6. Germany’s Synodale Weg plummet into darkness accentuates a reality that distinguishes that truth which conveys the meaning of life, God, and that faith in him revealed singularly in the person of Christ. Accent on one’s intellect instead of the permanency of that revelation distances us from the source of truth and beauty, from the unsurpassable good of divinely inspired love. The further the apostasy the closer the mind, individually, or collectively as in the Synodale Weg, identifies with God’s opposite, evil. Only that realization and repentant return to Christ will save the Church in Germany.

    • How then do we respond to the German Catholic disparity apart from our just criticism? Christ left us an example of the lost sheep. He placed himself at Jacob’s Well to convert a Samaritan woman, and the Samaritans in Shechem. He placed himself in Sidon to encounter the Canaanite woman and exorcise her possessed daughter.
      Saint Augustine gave a lecture on his efforts to convince apostates, schismatics to return to the Church and true practice of the faith. Despite their objections [which would seem to contradict Francis on proselytizing] he engages in dialogue. Catholicism in Germany is typical of that lost sheep.

  7. Thank you George Weigel for some of what I’ve wanted to hear from you for a long time, some street fighting. Lib theologians in the Church do not make innocent errors in mathematic calculations like in engineering or physics, they pridefully try to outperform God. I know you’ve said as much in the past, but it needs repeating now and always so that even you can remember your old self. Libs have gotten away with murder, literally, for decades, and worn down resistance in the Church for so long to where prelates and Church historians, including you, became oblivious to where a moral relativist, wolf in sheep’s clothing got elected Pope ten years ago and it took too long to notice. Can we all get real now.
    Incidentally, pride is not “one of the reasons evil happens.” It’s the only reason.

  8. Catholics in Germany should leave their comfort zone in the spirit of love and humility, and see their brothers and sisters in Christ in other parts of the world striving to be faithful to Christ while enduring pressure from the world.

    We have many wonderful German-born priests in our country who have brought Christ to us through their ministry and living examples.

    • We can forget that there are still good, devout Catholics in Germany. And many holy saints have come from there also. How it must grieve Our Lord to see what’s happening in Germany today.
      Germany needs prayer & intervention, not condemnation.

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