Pope warns that Germany might pose a threat to the unity of the church. Signs of this have already appeared as the Nordic bishops underlined their anxiety at the German process in an open letter in March.
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The Vatican has once again warned of a new German schism that will emerge from the “Synodal Way.”
The Vatican stated in a formal statement (read below) released in Italian and German on Thursday that “the ‘Synodal Way’ in Germany does not have the power to compel bishops and the faithful to adopt new forms of governance and new orientations of doctrine and morals.”
In order to “safeguard the freedom of the People of God and the exercise of the episcopal ministry,” the Holy See stated that it seems “necessary to clarify” this.
The Vatican warned: “It would not be permissible to introduce new official structures or doctrines in dioceses before an agreement had been reached at the level of the universal Church, which would constitute a violation of ecclesial communion and a threat to the unity of the Church.”
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Cardinal Reinhard Marx launched a contentious procedure known as the “Synodal Way,” or Synodaler Weg in German and often referred to as the “Synodal Path.” Its organizers, the German Bishops’ Conference and the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), want to talk about four basic things: the priesthood, the role of women, sexual morality, and how power is used in the church.
In his address to German Catholics in 2019, Pope Francis wrote about the procedure and forewarned of discord.
In June 2022, Cardinal Walter Kasper, a German theologian closely associated with Pope Francis, issued a dire warning, stating that the German process runs the risk of “breaking its own neck” if it ignores the concerns voiced by an increasing number of bishops worldwide.
A “fraternal open letter” to Germany’s bishops was published in April by more than 100 cardinals and bishops from all over the globe, warning that the process’ push for significant changes to Church doctrine may result in schism.
The Nordic bishops underlined their anxiety at the German process in an open letter in March, and the president of the Polish Catholic bishops’ conference expressed grave worries in a strongly written letter in February.
Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg, the president of the German Bishops’ Conference, has frequently dismissed all worries and expressed displeasure in Pope Francis in May 2022.
More recently, a different proponent of the German process said that the “Synodal Way” proposed “a conscious statement against the current Catholic catechism,” in an effort to alter the Church’s position on homosexuality.
He cited a passage that discussed shifting attitudes toward homosexuality as well as masturbation, marriage, sexual lust, and other themes relevant to Catholic doctrine.
The Vatican reiterated in its statement from Thursday a section of the pope’s letter from 2019 in which Francis had cautioned — in German — against certain Churches becoming ““separated from the universal Church,” adding that in such cases “they would weaken, perish and die.”
German proposals, according to the Holy See, should instead “flow into the synodal process of the universal Church, in order to contribute to mutual enrichment and to give witness to the unity with which the Body of the Church manifests its fidelity to Christ the Lord.”
Read the statement below: