Bishops’ Conference: Strike against the right

The German Bishops’ Conference declares right-wing extremist parties such as the AfD to be unelectable. The advice comes at the right time, because we are moving through a decisive phase in world politics.

In the past few years, as a Catholic, I have experienced as many moments of self-assurance and happiness in my church as Marian apparitions: zero. But last week there was finally another reason to strengthen my conviction in the meaning of this religious community: the German bishops openly and formally took a position against the AfD’s hostile ideal of humanity. Quote: “We say it with absolute clarity: ethnic nationalism is incompatible with the Christian view of God and humanity.”

Thank you for this, bishops!

The declaration was surprisingly unanimous, so that no one can put it into perspective – in the sense of: “Some bishops say this, others say that.” The message from the clergy is clear: Anyone who takes Christianity and faith seriously cannot conform to the right-wing extremists’ view of humanity follow circumstances or even choose them. The bishops expressly formulated this mission with the phrase “with great concern,” which is reminiscent of the famous encyclical by Pope Pius XI. remembered who warned against National Socialism in 1937 “with burning concern”.

One could object: Who cares what bishops say today, when religion is playing an increasingly smaller role in the Western European sphere? I argue against this: it must interest everyone who loves freedom and democracy and doesn’t want to lose them. The political scientist Andreas Püttmann, for example, calls the declaration “a coup that caught the AfD off guard.” And even Thomas Schüller, a highly system-critical professor of canon law, praises the “very courageous decision.”

Our view of humanity results from Christian teaching

Because what is unfortunately in danger of being forgotten is that our Western, liberal self-image is largely based on Christianity and can be found in a secularized form in humanism. In other words: Christians practically invented human dignity and equality as we value it. In their opinion, all people are images of God and therefore of equal value – regardless of their origin, whether they are believers or non-believers. “Catholic” means nothing other than “global”. And this idea obliges unconditional love of humanity and solidarity. Christian universalism knows no national boundaries. It provided the great hope of finally creating peace on earth.

Remembering this with force comes at the right time. Because this self-image is the only guarantee of our freedom. In large parts of the world where the Enlightenment never reached, such beliefs remain unthinkable. Worse still: Even in democratic countries, right-wing parties are striving for power that want to turn back the wheel of human dignity and freedom – and in doing so they pose as the only true Christians. Just think of Donald Trump in the USA, who is not afraid to promote himself during the election campaign with a Messiah video: “So God gave us Trump!”

In Germany, too, more and more ethnic-minded politicians are positioning themselves as the only true Christians. The AfD is trying cheap soul-catching on Tiktok. Maximilian Krah, for example, who grew up in Dresden and is the AfD’s leading candidate for the European elections, likes to present himself as a devout Catholic, but completely despises the described Christian understanding of human rights and charity. The lawyer is known for his proximity to the controversial right-wing extremist “Pius Brothers”; He provided legal support when their bishop Richard Williamson openly denied the Holocaust. Krah dismisses the Christian-enlightened life as despicable “contemporary Christianity” and as “globalism” that needs to be fought: “We will not let a fat Bishop Marx take our faith away from us.”

His party friend in spirit, the right-wing extremist Thuringian AfD leader Björn Höcke, who says he was raised a bit Catholic and a bit Protestant, can’t do anything with Christian humility before people and nature or even before God. On the contrary: In a YouTube video, the political savior envisions that “the sacredness of Christianity is united with the heroism of paganism.” This sounds like a blood-soaked medieval epic where dissidents are brutally eliminated.

The AfD rails against the warning of the “child fuckers”

Admittedly, many officials of the Catholic Church have sometimes behaved in an un-Christian manner in the past; just think of the abuse scandal. The Catholic institution offers critics an open flank, AfD politicians are already complaining that they won’t let “child fuckers” (Bavaria’s state leader Stephan Protschka) say anything to them. But these scandals arose from human failings, not from Christian doctrine. After all, democracy is not disavowed just because men like Honecker have betrayed them.

It remains to be seen whether the AfD will lose percentage because of the bishops’ appeal; In the secular, AfD-heavy East, the words are least likely to deter voters, where many people see the church as part of the hated establishment anyway. But it would be a success if all the “lukewarm Christians” in the West started to think, who are currently making themselves comfortable in the right-wing populist corner and have stopped fighting for Christian values, for dignity and freedom.