A German vicar general has lashed out at a group of conservative cardinals and bishops over their “outrageous right-wing populist rhetoric” in their COVID-19 conspiracy theory.

– A tirade signed by notorious Francis critics

Klaus Pfeffer, the vicar general or ‘deputy bishop’ of the diocese of Essen, took to Facebook May 8 to blast the cardinals, bishops, priests and others who signed an “appeal for the Church and the world” against the “odious technological tyranny” they said was being imposed on citizens under the “pretext” of COVID-19 quarantines.

The coronavirus-related “imposition” of restrictions on freedom of worship, expression and movement are “a disturbing prelude to the realization of a world government beyond all control”, the conservatives fretted in their “appeal”.

Among the signatories to the “appeal” were infamous Pope Francis detractors archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò and cardinals Gerhard Ludwig Müller, Joseph Zen, and Janis Pujats.

But despite those prelates’ supposed high standing in the Church, Essen vicar general Pfeffer insisted their peculiar “appeal” couldn’t go without a response.

– “Crude conspiracy theories without facts or proof”

“Cardinal Müller and those who signed this call with him reveal their true selves”, Pfeffer denounced in his Facebook response to the conservative “appeal”.

Explaining that he had read the full text of the cardinals’ diatribe, the Essen vicar general admitted to feeling “simply stunned by what is being spread in the name of the Church and Christianity”.

“Crude conspiracy theories without facts or proof combined with a right-wing populist rhetoric of struggle that sounds frightening”, was the way Pfeffer dismissed the conservative jeremiad.

The Essen vicar general insisted that “it is outrageous when our efforts to contain a pandemic are discredited as a ‘pretext’ to justify an ‘odious technological tyranny’ that wants to ‘erase Christian civilization'”.

“This must be opposed!”, Pfeffer affirmed.

Though the conservatives claim to speak in the name of “Jesus Christ, King and Lord of History”, the priest declared that “such confused theses, which stir up fears, pursue black-and-white thinking, draw evil images of the enemy and poison coexistence in our societies, have nothing to do” with the Nazarene.

– Cardinal Sarah’s alleged involvement… a delicious irony

Pfeffer’s reaction aside, the conservative “appeal” against the coronavirus health “dictatorship” quickly run into another controversy soon after its publication when notorious Francis critic and Vatican cardinal Robert Sarah – originally included among the signatories – denied involvement in the petition.

“Appeal” ringleader archbishop Viganò – who shot to fame in conservative circles in 2018 when he accused Pope Francis of having covered up the sexual abuse crimes of former cardinal Theodore McCarrick – then released a blow-by-blow account of his alleged contact with Sarah over the “appeal”.

Viganò went so far as to accuse the cardinal of inflicting a “grave wrong” on the “truth” by backing out of the petition.

When he first denied any involvement in the “appeal”, Cardinal Sarah wrote on Twitter that “from a personal point of view, I may share some questions or preoccupations raised regarding restrictions on fundamental freedom but I didn’t sign that petition”.

A day later, he claimed that the controversy over his entanglement was “seem[ing] to occupy a lot of people”, whom the cardinal accused of wanting “to exploit” the polemic in one way or another.

The irony was delicious: only in January Sarah had found himself embroiled in another dispute over alleged authorship, when he claimed that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI had co-written with him a book defending priestly celibacy – an assertion that turned out to be false.

Sarah’s book was published just as Pope Francis was considering a relaxation of celibacy in the context of last October’s Amazon Synod: a fact that led not a few in the Church to accuse him of betraying both the current pontiff as well as the pope emeritus.

Next on Novena:

Prospect of one “world government” after COVID-19 divides Catholic conservatives, progressives

Pope emeritus’ private secretary takes down Cardinal Sarah, again: “Benedict never approved the celibacy book”

Benedict’s personal secretary denies Francis pressure to scratch Emeritus’ name from celibacy book cover

German laypeople accuse Benedict, Sarah of creating “division” in Church with “irresponsible” anti-optional celibacy stance

Bombshell: Benedict asks for name, image to be removed from celibacy book Sarah said they co-wrote


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