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German Bishop Responds to Open Letter Criticizing Synodal Way, Says No Danger of Schism

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WASHINGTON (CNS) — The head of the German bishops’ conference responded to an open letter from more than 70 bishops from four continents and expressed surprise at some of their words — and their silences.

Bishop Georg Bätzing, president of the German Bishops’ Conference, thanked the bishops for their April 11 letter and said he was glad the bishops are taking the process of the German synod path seriously. But he assured them that “the Synodal Way in no way undermines the authority of the Church, including that of Pope Francis, as you write.”

In a letter dated April 14 and posted on the website of the German Bishops’ Conference, the Bishop of Limburg reminded Bishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver and other signatories of letters from North America, to Africa, Italy and Australia that the decision to embark on the synodal meeting The path was to confront the systemic causes of the abuse and its concealment. He said it was “our attempt to renew a credible proclamation of the Good News.”

“This occasion and this context are particularly important to us, but, unfortunately, this is not mentioned at all in your letter. I would, however, be very surprised if you and the signatories of the open letter do not see the importance of the need to address the issue of abuse as a church and draw implications for the church and its structures.

Bishop Bätzing said it was important to speak openly about power and the abuse of power in the Church.

“Disguising yourself as an understatement, like you try to do in your letter, doesn’t really help.”

“Disguising yourself as an understatement, as you try to do in your letter, doesn’t really help,” the bishop said. “Unfortunately, such abuses of power – also on the part of the episcopal authorities – are not only a thing of the past, but also occur in the present and lead to massive violations of the rights and personal integrity of the faithful and The participation of the faithful in decision-making at all levels of ecclesiastical action (this is what we mean when we speak of the separation of powers) will in no way harm the authority of the office. hierarchical, it will give him a newly founded acceptance among the people of God, I am sure.”

The open letter to the Germans was signed by 49 bishops from the United States, four from Canada, 19 Africans, one Italian and one Australian, Cardinal George Pell. Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze, South African Cardinal Wilfred Napier and American Cardinal Raymond L. Burke were among the signatories. The letter noted that “events in one nation inevitably impact church life elsewhere.”

He raised seven criticisms, including “not listening to the Holy Spirit and the Gospel”, relying more on “contemporary sociological and political analysis, including gender, ideologies” than on Scripture and Tradition. , and being too focused on “power” and “autonomy.”

“The Synodal Path process, at almost every stage, is the work of experts and committees,” the letter says, calling the process “bureaucratic heavy, obsessively critical and introverted.”

“In its effect, the Synodal Way displays more submission and obedience to the world and ideologies than to Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour,” he said.

The synodal path includes forums in which issues are discussed and assemblies in which the people in the forums report and proposals are discussed and voted on. Certain texts must not only receive the approval of more than two-thirds of all the delegates, clerics and laity, but must also receive the approval of more than two-thirds of the bishops.

Bishop Bätzing said the whole synodal process was organized around Mass and prayer. He noted that because of the process, it “sometimes requires focused work on texts and resolutions, integrated into discussions, publications and media formats.”

The Synodal Way is not oriented towards ephemeral sociological theories or secular ideologies, but towards the central sources of knowledge of the faith.

He referred the signatories of the letter to the guidance text on the Synodal Path website.

“The Synodal Way, as described in detail in the Orientation Text, is not oriented towards ephemeral sociological theories or secular ideologies, but towards the central sources of knowledge of the faith: Scripture and Tradition. , the magisterium and theology, as well as the sense of faith of believers and the signs of the Gospel interpreted in the light of the Gospel.This fundamental orientation, in careful theological reflection, determines the deliberations of the Synodal Way”.

For this reason, he said that no one can think that the Catholic Church in Germany is in danger of becoming schismatic.

Concerns about the synodal path creating divisions and responding to the pressures of the times are some of the main issues cited by Nordic and Polish bishops, who have publicly expressed their concerns.

But on several occasions, Bishop Bätzing said the German Church was doing exactly what Pope Francis asked the country’s Catholics in 2019, which was to embark on a “spiritual journey asking for the guidance of the Holy -Mind”.

The German bishops are well aware of the concerns of other conferences about the direction their synodal path is taking. Bishop Bätzing admitted that there are widely divergent opinions on issues such as blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples or the ordination of women as deacons or priests.

The German Catholic news agency KNA reported that he had pledged that the bishops would submit all synodal reform decisions that can only be implemented at the level of the universal Church to the global synodal process launched by Pope Francis in preparation for the 2023 synod of bishops on synodality. Bishop Bätzing reiterated in his April 14 letter that certain proposed changes must be submitted to the universal Church.

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Greg Erlandson contributed to this story.