Bätzing used the German term for culture war — “Kulturkampf.” Given its bitter historical context, this is a loaded concept, amid the current concerns over the German Synodal Way, including its demand for blessing homosexual unions.

The alternative to a culture war, Bätzing added, was “not adaptation, not simply agreeing to everything and going along with everything,” but “the ecclesial principle” of “discernment of spirits.”

“This is precisely what we have tried to do in the Synodal Way,” the bishop claimed. 

“The spirit of the times — ‘Zeitgeist’ — is the spirit of the world. Signs of the times are signs that God gives to people through culture, through a current development [movement], so that we can better understand what the Gospel wants.”

The president of the German bishops’ conference added: “We have to differentiate.”

Asked by EWTN Germany program director Martin Rothweiler about irritation caused by individual bishops moving forward on issues such as the blessing of homosexual unions openly defying the Vatican, Bätzing said: “Many more believers are irritated that the Church is not moving on this issue.” 

Diversity, not division?

While Bätzing used the opportunity to double down on his approach, it is clear that not everyone in the Church in Germany shares his vision. For instance, Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg has frequently sounded alarms over doctrinal drift. His concerns mirror those of a minority of other bishops.

Augsburg Bishop Bertram Meier, who will attend the synod in Rome, offered a nuanced view on Thursday, stressing the need for the “wealth of different positions, opinions, and creative ideas.” 

Yet, the prudent prelate warned that diversity should not become division. “I also wish that from the diversity of opinions no threats stand, but that we discover the richness of what catholicity means,” Meier remarked.