How's your German, folks?

Have you seen any of the fuss about Freiburg archbishop Robert Zollitsch, the chairman of the German bishops' conference? A bunch of trad blogs have been accusing him of heresy since an interview he gave Holy Saturday. They say he denies the atonement, but it's a bum rap.

First posted the video of his interview.

In his response to the reporter -- who had good questions -- he was giving more or less the Eastern-church angle on the atonement vs. the Western (Anselmian?) substitutionary view.

[Christ] did not die for the sins of men because God needed a victim, that is, a scapegoat, for sin. He entered into solidarity with us men, with our suffering, even unto the end; and showed that in the suffering of man, every pain and even death is taken up by God and transfigured by God in His Son Jesus Christ.

The bishop's point was to reject an image of the atonement that portrays God the Father as vengeful while the God the Son is merciful.

But the writer, not knowing much about theology, didn't recognize what the bishop was getting at, and accused him of denying the atonement altogether.

Then CathCon presented this mistranslation and made his words into a denial:

For the Chairman of the German Bishops' Conference who has fallen away from the Catholic Faith, the crucifixion of Christ is just a psychological support in suffering. On Holy Saturday, the Archbishop of Freiburg and head of the German Bishops Conference, Msgr. Robert Zollitsch, denied the Expiatory Death of Christ.

Archbishop Zollitsch said this in an interview with Meinhard Schmidt-Degenhard on the program "Horizente" of the German TV station 'Hessischer Rundfunk',

Christ was "did not die for the sins of the people as if God had provided a sacrificial offering, like a scapegoat" - said the archbishop.

LifeSite picked it up (shame on them).

Now the hotheads at Rorate Caeli are piling on:

I posted a comment at Rorate, but it may never pass moderation. I've posted comments there several times to throw cold water on their outrage-talk, and they never let the correction see the light of day.

I think a bunch of people are, in their ignorance, committing libel.

Remember, folks, do not put too much stock in any translation you read in the press or on the Internet, until you can check the original language yourself.

Update: Credit where it's due: Rorate accepted my posted comment.

Note: In an earlier version of this post, I blamed the "CathCon" blog for the mistranslation, but I shouldn't assume whether he made the mistake himself or merely copied the bad translation from another source.



The Internet Lay Inquisition strikes again. And like usual, many the Lay Inquisitors don't know as much Catholic theology as they think they do. The notion that God doesn't need a victim does not "skirt the edges of heresy," since the Church teaches that God could have redeemed us by some other means.

St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Part III, Question 46, Article 2: Whether there was any other possible way of human deliverance besides the Passion of Christ?

I quote in part:

"Augustine says (De Trin. xiii): "We assert that the way whereby God deigned to deliver us by the man Jesus Christ, who is mediator between God and man, is both good and befitting the Divine dignity; but let us also show that other possible means were not lacking on God's part, to whose power all things are equally subordinate."

"I answer that, A thing may be said to be possible or impossible in two ways: first of all, simply and absolutely; or secondly, from supposition. Therefore, speaking simply and absolutely, it was possible for God to deliver mankind otherwise than by the Passion of Christ, because "no word shall be impossible with God" (Luke 1:37). Yet it was impossible if some supposition be made. For since it is impossible for God's foreknowledge to be deceived and His will or ordinance to be frustrated, then, supposing God's foreknowledge and ordinance regarding Christ's Passion, it was not possible at the same time for Christ not to suffer, and for mankind to be delivered otherwise than by Christ's Passion. And the same holds good of all things foreknown and preordained by God, as was laid down in I, 14, 13."

So God didn't absolutely "need a victim" in order to redeem us. He willed to do it through death on the Cross, but as St. Augustine said, "other possible means were not lacking on God's part." The bishop's "solidarity" talk is one possible explanation why Christ willed to die rather than redeem us some other way, though no one can fully know the mind of God so there may be more to it than that.

I don't know whether I fully agree with everything the good bishop said (judging from the more reliable translation). However, it's the CDF's job to determine whether this view is heterodox, not mine. We the laity should leave the heresy hunting to them.

In Jesu et Maria

Note today's Mass reading from the First Letter of Saint John- Jesus is expiation for our sins.

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Richard Chonak

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This page contains a single entry by Richard Chonak published on April 23, 2009 3:07 AM.

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