After bishops blocked a vote demanding changes to the Church’s teaching on sexuality at the German Synodal Way, organizers on Friday voiced their displeasure with the outcome and vowed to “take it to” Rome.
One of two presidents of the Synodal Way, Bishop Georg Bätzing, expressed “personal disappointment” that a blocking minority of bishops prevented the document pushing for changes to the Church’s teaching on homosexuality, bisexuality, gender identity, and masturbation from being officially adopted.
While nearly 83% of the synodal assembly in Frankfurt voted in favor of adopting the text, titled “Living in Successful Relationships,” only about 61% of the bishops did.
The document on sexuality, therefore, fell just short of a two-thirds majority, as 21 bishops rejected the text and three abstained, while 33 bishops voted for the document’s adoption, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.
Under the statutes of the German process, not only must two-thirds of the members present vote in favor of a text for it to be officially adopted, but two-thirds of the bishops present must vote “yes” as well.
Bätzing said the rejected text was nonetheless a product of the Synodal Way, reported CNA Deutsch, and “therefore we will take it to the level of the universal Church when we are in Rome in November for the ad limina visit when we go about preparing the World Synod with the continental bishops’ conferences in January.” An “ad limina apostolorum” visit is a papal meeting required for every diocesan bishop in the world in order to provide an update on the state of that bishop’s diocese.
The outcome of the vote on Sept. 8 led to emotional outbursts in the Frankfurt venue, with some participants accusing the bishops of not speaking out before voting against the proposed text.
After Thursday’s secret ballot, several bishops had said they had not spoken beforehand because they feared pressure from the synodal assembly.
Irme Stetter-Karp, the president of the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK) and co-president of the Synodal Way, decried this explanation on Friday as “whiny” and “somewhat helpless.”
“It is my wish to see a movement now emerging from the bishops’ conference as a result of what took place yesterday, that communication changes, that people speak with an open mind,” the ZdK president said.
The document on sexuality is only one of several courting controversy. Documents demanding the ordination of women and an end to priestly celibacy are also on the agenda, as well as the implementation of a permanent Synodal Council.
Critics have drawn comparisons to communist Soviets and accused the process of reinventing existing Protestant structures.