More tainting of traditionalists as extreme right wingers

The AfD (Alternative for Germany Party), which will meet tomorrow in Magdeburg for the federal party conference, is high in the opinion polls, CDU leader Friedrich Merz irritated with statements about co-operation. In the Church, too, conservative circles are up in arms against reforms. What are the reasons? What can be done about it? "" asked Ursula Nothelle-Wildfeuer. The theologian is a Professor of Christian social theory at the Faculty of Catholic Theology at the University of Freiburg.

Ms. Nothelle-Wildfeuer, the AfD is gaining ground in election polls, and in the church there has been some fierce criticism of the reforms from conservative circles. In your opinion, are society and the church drifting to the far right in a similar way?

I think there is a comparable pull to the right. In the church, I don't see the growing strength of tradition in the sense of carrying the "fire" on, but in resisting any change and cementing the old. From a social point of view – and this also applies to the church – I see the reasons in the complexity of the challenges of our time. There is a nostalgia for old times and simple answers to keep the pressing questions that arise clear.

In the church, reform-oriented forces are repeatedly accused of lacking orthodoxy. The President of the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), Irme Stetter-Karp, speaks of hatred, the Deputy Federal Chairwoman of the Catholic Women's Community (KFD), Agnes Wuckelt, has received two death threats...

Cathcon: Cardinal Koch received death threats for criticising the Synodal Path.

In the Church, there is another motive to those mentioned: There is a development away from the Second Vatican Council, which looked at human beings and their dignity, towards holding on to an abstract truth. Anyone who believes in possession of this truth condemns those who think differently as heretics. However, these people overlook the fact that nobody has leased the truth and that a discourse is also needed in the church, which they refuse to do. What's more, anyone who thinks they have and defend the ultimate truth may also think that every means is right.

In a statement that was later withdrawn, CDU leader Friedrich Merz indicated cooperation between the CDU and AfD in the local community. Was that a misleading formulation or a "trial balloon"?

Ultimately, I can't judge that. However, I have my doubts as to whether a comment simply “slips through” on a question of such fundamental importance. It seems he wanted to test what kind of reactions there are and whether existing boundaries can be stretched. Of course, it will happen that the AfD votes with the democratic parties at the local level, for example, on factual issues, it will not be possible to prevent that. But organizing majorities for your own concerns with the help of the AfD would be a form of cooperation that I don't understand is possible.

Not all AfD voters are fascist, but the party is fascist, says former CDU General Secretary Ruprecht Polenz: "It's about the train, not the passengers." How can you win back AfD voters for democratic parties?

By making these parties themselves better policies that conform to their own principles. The fact that Thorsten Frei, a federal politician from a party that has the C in its name, wants to abolish the basic individual right to asylum is totally unacceptable. I consider such concessions to be fundamentally wrong. They shift the debate to the right and alienate the center. In the media, too, it is not helpful to use slogans from right-wing rhetoric. The aim is to make policies that concern all citizens plausible and understandable. In addition, those who take the principles of Christian social ethics seriously also guard against competitive thinking - for example in the discussion of whether refugees are supported more quickly or better than people who have been living in precarious circumstances in this country for a long time.

AfD electoral successes could force adventurous coalitions in Brandenburg, Saxony and Thuringia in 2024 in order to prevent right-wing extremists like Björn Höcke in the government. Will this work?

I can't predict that. However, it is the political duty of all democratic parties to prevent the AfD from participating in government. It's about the system question - the integration of anti-democratic forces is doomed to failure based on historical experience. The democratic parties must not get bogged down in small things, but must uphold fundamental democratic values together.

At the end of the Weimar Republic, there was an anti-democratic parliamentary majority from the extreme right and left. Do you see similar signs today?

I think the vast majority of German society is democratic. In light of this, I don't see the danger as comparably great. However, we must be careful that the rifts between the different views do not become so deep that there is no longer a middle.

Cathcon: With anti-traditionalist rhetoric like this, she is guilty of opening rifts up in the Church.


To speak of a shift to the right in the church in the Bergoglio pontificate and in the face of a German bishops' conference that supports 80% of the synodal path and has elected Bätzing chief - that can hardly be surpassed in terms of ridiculousness.


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