Monday, February 19, 2024

Cardinal Schönborn to German bishops: Maintain unity with Rome

Austrian cardinal-theologian known for patient pastoral approach - The  Catholic Sun

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn from Vienna is calling on the German bishops to remain in dialogue with the Vatican. 

In an interview with the theological portal"" (Monday), he agrees with Rome's criticism of the planned progress of the German reform process

The envisaged involvement of lay people in fundamental decisions contradicts the constitution of the Church, he said.

In Schönborn's view, the German bishops should not take any decisions that could lead to a schism. They should "seriously ask themselves whether they really want to leave the communion with and under the Pope or rather accept it loyally. Refusing to give in would be obstinatio - a clear sign of a schism that nobody can want." 

In his view, ignoring the warnings from Rome would be negligent.

The background to Schönborn's unusual advice to his German confreres is their plenary assembly, which begins today, Monday, in Augsburg. Immediately beforehand, the Vatican had asked the German Bishops' Conference (DBK) not to vote on the statutes of a synodal committee as planned. 

The topic was therefore taken off the agenda. Reform groups and the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK) then called on the bishops to stick to their reform course anyway.

"Patience" of Pope and dicasteries "impressed"

Schönborn recalled that the Vatican had already stated several times that the Church in Germany was not authorised to establish a joint governing body of lay and clerical people. 

"I am impressed by the patience with which the Pope and the Roman dicasteries are trying to remain in dialogue with the German bishops and maintain unity and communion," emphasised the Cardinal. 

Therefore, the German bishops should also be expected to make concessions - "and the German bishops should also expect the ZdK not to overstep the mark".

The current conflict between the German bishops and Rome is not about "questions of power" or disciplinary issues, Schönborn added: "Rather, Pope Francis is fulfilling his core task of maintaining unity in the faith" because it is about the "basic understanding of the Church".

A bishop cannot delegate personal responsibility for important decisions and the transmission of faith to committees, said the cardinal: "Therefore, the idea of bishops voluntarily binding themselves to the decisions of synodal councils is also incompatible with the core of the episcopal mission."