Wednesday, November 29, 2023

German reformers undeterred by warnings from Pope and Parolin

Der Synodale Weg und die Krise der Kirche - DOMRADIO.DE

Four German theologians who have criticised the reforms proposed by the Synodal Path initiative wrote to Pope Francis on 6 November, prompting a response in which he expressed serious concerns about its plans.

Katharina Westerhorstmann, Marianne Schlosser, journalist Dorothea Schmidt and philosopher Hanna-Barbara Gerl-Falkovits received a reply to their letter dated 10 November.

Francis said that he shared their “concern over the numerous concrete steps with which large parts of this local church threaten to distance themselves more and more from the common path of the World Church”.

The handwritten letter, signed “Franziskus”, criticised the German Church for concentrating on itself and discussing the same topics repeatedly.  

Pope Francis said it “sought salvation” in creating more new committees.

Francis encouraged the reformers instead “to go out and encounter our brothers and sisters, especially those on the thresholds of our churches, in the streets, in the prisons and in the hospitals”.

He particularly criticised the German Church’s decision to establish a “synodal committee” consisting of bishops and lay people, who would share decision-making.

An “advisory and decision-making committee” such as this was “not compatible with the sacramental structure of the Catholic Church”, the Pope emphasised.

The Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK) has voted almost unanimously in favour of the statutes of a synodal committee which will establish a permanent synodal council within the next three years. The German bishops are due to vote on the issue in February.

“We local bishops adhere to the synodal council’s statutes. This is not a psychological procedure but a conscious ‘Yes’,” said Archbishop Heiner Koch of Berlin, the ZdK’s spiritual assistant.

However, he admitted that several auxiliary bishops did not agree, which made the ZdK’s vote in favour of the statutes “a very, very important sign” for the bishops and their final vote in three months’ time.

The Pope’s letter was followed on 24 November by an official note from the Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin addressed to the secretary of the German bishops’ conference, Beate Gilles.

He reiterated that the Vatican was not prepared to discuss either the Church’s teaching on homosexuality or John Paul II’s apostolic letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis in which he had declared that the Church did not have the authority to ordain women with the German bishops.

Parolin said both issues were “non-negotiable” when the German bishops meet the heads of the various dicasteries in the Vatican for discussions in January, April and June 2024.

Citing in the Church-wide Synod on Synodality, Parolin said it was “imperative to respect this universal synodal path and avoid the impression that parallel paths are being pursued which are indifferent to one common path forwards”.

In response, the ZdK president Imre Stetter-Karp observed that before the recent Synod in Rome – which included female voting delegates – Cardinal Parolin had said that women voting at a synod was unthinkable and unlawful as it contradicted church law. “And what did the Pope do? Suddenly it was both lawful and possible.”

Thomas Söding, the ZdK’s vice-president, said: “It is not a case of negotiating. It’s a question of whether or not one faces the problems the Church is confronted with.”