Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Did the Vatican ‘snub’ German bishops over Synodal Way?

 Pope Francis meeting with the German bishops at the Vatican, Nov. 17, 2022. Vatican Media

On Saturday, a president of the German Synodal Way accused the Vatican of “snubbing” German Catholics.

Irme Stetter-Karp is president of the Central Committee of German Catholics and co-president of the Synodal Way.

In a statement released Nov. 19, the laywoman said that the “fundamental criticism of the Synodal Way” raised last week by the Vatican “not only snubs the German bishops, who overwhelmingly consider reforms necessary. It also disregards the impatience of many Catholics with their Church.”

Sixty-three German bishops were in Rome last week for talks with Pope Francis and the Roman Curia. 

A joint statement issued by the Holy See and the German Bishops’ Conference on Friday spoke of dialogue and patience — but otherwise showed there was little agreement between the Vatican and the German prelates over the process that has raised worldwide concerns and warnings of a new schism coming out of Germany.

‘Catholic in a different way’

The German Bishops’ Conference president, Bishop Georg Bätzing, told journalists at a press conference Saturday morning that there was no departure from Catholicism intended. Instead, he said, supporters of the Synodal Way wanted to remain Catholic, “but we want to be Catholic in a different way.”

Bishop Stefan Oster of Passau was one of the first bishops to speak out after the visit to Rome. 

He emphasized that there had been “no concessions at any point” to the German process.

Oster also noted the absence of Pope Francis at the Friday meeting, “contrary to our expectation and contrary to the first announcement.”

The fact that the pope did not participate in the meeting with Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and the heads of some other dicasteries — despite being announced originally — was seen by the president of the German Bishops’ Conference as a positive. 

Grateful for lack of clarity

Bishop Bätzing, of Limburg, said: “The pope is a clever Jesuit. He let us wrestle with one another as brothers.”

Bätzing said some German bishops had sought “clarity” over controversial resolutions of the Synodal Way, asking questions to get “clear answers” to questions, in the sense of “is it possible or not?”

Bätzing said: “And there was no clear answer. I am grateful for that.”

Though the Roman Curia might once again summarize “its objections, its concerns” of the German process, the Synodal Way had made its decisions, also concerning a permanent Synodal Council, Bätzing added.

The Vatican intervened in July against such a body, warning of a threat of new schism from Germany.

Bishop Oster on Friday said the Vatican prefects, especially Cardinal Luis Ladaria, who heads up the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Dicastery for the Bishops, had “made it very clear that, on the one hand, they want to continue to be in dialogue with the bishops in Germany, as well as about the decisions and results of the Synodal Way in Germany.”

At the same time, Oster said, he “did not perceive any concessions at any point, but rather clear opposition from both of them” on the essential issues. These included, Oster said, moral teaching and the role and structure of the Church.

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