Monday, February 19, 2024

ZdK: Bishops should defy Rome and continue reform

The Catholic laity in Germany are calling on the bishops to continue the Synodal Path reform project, even against all the stop signals from Rome. 

"The Catholic Church in Germany will not have a second chance if it stops the synodal path now," warned the President of the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), Irme Stetter-Karp, on Sunday.

She was irritated that Rome had asked the German Bishops' Conference "virtually by express mail" not to vote on the statutes of the Synodal Committee at its spring plenary assembly in Augsburg next week and to wait for talks in Rome first: "This means a further delay in the urgently needed reforms in the Church." 

The ZdK expects the Synodal Committee "to be fully operational at its next meeting in June".

It is a contradiction if Rome promotes synodal processes - for example through the World Synod - but then "puts a stop sign on the German reform path", added ZdK Vice President Thomas Söding: "I assume that the German bishops will reliably stand by their own decisions. We expect a prompt decision, ratification of the statutes and constructive further work on the synodal path. In discussions with Rome, the German bishops will have to emphasise the urgency of further work."

The ZdK also pointed out that it was the bishops who had asked the laity in 2019 to start the Synodal Path with them in view of the crisis of confidence in the Church. 

In addition, the bishops had also agreed to the establishment of a Synodal Committee with the necessary two-thirds majority. 

"We expect Rome not to undermine the good cooperation between the German bishops and the representation of the laity, but to value it and recognise it as a resource," added Stetter-Karp.

Letter from Rome

In a letter that became public on Saturday evening, the Vatican reaffirmed its scepticism towards the Church's path of reform in Germany. 

The Bishops' Conference therefore complied with the request and removed the planned vote on the statutes of the Synodal Committee from the agenda of its plenary assembly.

In recent years, the Vatican has repeatedly stated that the Church in Germany is not authorised to establish a joint governing body of lay and clerical members. However, this is what the synodal path provides for. 

The Synodal Committee constituted in November is to prepare the establishment of a Synodal Council. 

In this body, bishops and Catholic laity want to continue their consultations on the topics of power, the role of women, sexual morality and the priestly way of life and make joint decisions.

Four German local bishops had spoken out against participating in the committee and against funding the project through the Association of German Dioceses. Bishops Gregor Maria Hanke (Eichstätt), Stefan Oster (Passau), Rudolf Voderholzer (Regensburg) and Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki (Cologne) referred to reservations from the Vatican. According to the four bishops, even the establishment of a preparatory synodal committee runs counter to Pope Francis' directives.