The German Bishops have taken down conservative cardinal Gerhard Müller over a coronavirus conspiracy rant he signed.

– Bishops’ head: Church’s view of pandemic restrictions “fundamentally different” to that of “appeal”

Cardinal Müller – the former Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – was one of the prelates who signed last week’s controversial “appeal for the Church and the world” against the “world government beyond all control” that petitioners said was being implemented under the “pretext” of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the German Bishops’ Conference has distanced itself from Müller and the other conservatives’ claims in a telling move that is unusual given the solidarity usually practised by members of the episcopate.

“The German Bishops’ Conference generally does not comment on calls from individual bishops outside Germany”, German Bishops’ Conference president Bishop Georg Bätzing told the German Catholic news agency KNA May 9.

“However, the German Bishops’ Conference’s assessment of the coronavirus pandemic is fundamentally different than the appeal”, added Bätzing, the Bishop of Limburg.

In contrast to the conservatives – who raved in their “appeal” against the coronavirus being an excuse to impose “unacceptable forms of restriction on freedoms” – the German Bishops had previously said that the social distancing measures and bans on public gatherings were “sensible and responsible”.

Pope Francis has repeated sentiments much the same as the German Bishops throughout the pandemic, urging “obedience” to restrictions even after the Italian Bishops’ Conference had complained about the Church being excluded from a preliminary stage of the country’s reopening.

– Bishop of Essen: conservative fearmongering “must be clearly contradicted by the Church, no matter who formulates it!”

As if Bätzing’s condemnation of the conservatives’ appeal wasn’t damning enough, Bishop of Essen and of the German Armed Forces, Franz-Josef Overbeck, took to Facebook May 10 to also dismiss the rantings of Cardinal Müller and his fellow conspiracy theorists.

“The Church can make a clear contribution to the situation of the corona pandemic: namely, to exercise solidarity as a clear sign of determination to work for the common good and for social justice!”, Overbeck wrote in his Facebook post.

Insisting that it is the Church’s calling is to “play an essential role in shaping our society, standing up for the rule of law and the social market economy, as well as for the dignity and freedom and equality of all people”, Overbeck urged Catholics to practice “solidarity… simply [by] protecting oneself and others from infection with COVID-19”.

“It is clear that solidarity means not demanding more from anyone than is necessary to achieve the common good”, the bishop explained.

Overbeck continued by alerting that this focus on solidarity and the common good is “the exact opposite of the position of those populists and other conspiracy theorists who want to see all efforts to contain the pandemic as a pretext for establishing a hateful technocratic tyranny and wiping out Christian civilization”, in what was a direct reference to the conservative “appeal”.

“This must be clearly contradicted by the Church, no matter who formulates it!”, the bishop demanded.

He added:

“The Church must do everything possible to ensure that the effects of the coronavirus do not spread from a danger to our health to a threat to our society and its liberal, democratic and liberal foundations”.

Also on Sunday, Catholic reform group ‘We Are Church Germany’ also accused Müller and his fellow “appeal” signers of being more interested in spreading fear than in defending the faith, when fear, the group recalled, has nothing to do with Christian belief.

Next on Novena:

German vicar general lashes out at cardinals over “outrageous right-wing populist rhetoric” in coronavirus conspiracy theory

Prospect of one “world government” after coronavirus divides Catholic conservatives, progressives


PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.