Vatican challenges plans for a synod in Germany

The Vatican says plans for a binding Church synod in Germany are “not ecclesiologically valid.”

However, Cardinal Reinhard Marx is defending the “synodal procedure” the German bishops have initiated with the Central Committee of German lay Catholics, against Rome’s attempts to question its canonical legality.

He says the German bishops have the right to debate matters on which the Magisterium has already ruled.

Marx announced plans for a “binding synodal process” earlier this year.

The planned “Synodal Assembly” documents were approved in August by the executive committee of the German bishops’ conference, ahead of a final hearing at a full meeting which will be held next week.

Cardinal Marc Ouellet, head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, says the Assembly must conform to guidelines issued by Pope Francis in June.

He was referring to a letter Francis wrote to the German bishops warning them to respect the universal communion of the Church.

“Every time the ecclesial community has tried to resolve its problems alone, trusting and focusing exclusively on its forces or its methods, its intelligence, its will or prestige, it ended up increasing and perpetuating the evils it tried to solve,” Francis wrote.

Ouelett’s letter also points out that a synod in Germany cannot act to change universal Church teaching or discipline.

A four-page legal assessment of the German bishops’ draft statutes was attached to his letter.

The assessment, which came from the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, says the German bishops’ plans violate canonical norms and set out to alter universal norms and doctrines of the Church.

It notes the German bishops’ proposal to discuss four key themes: “authority, participation, and separation of powers,” “sexual morality,” “the form of priestly life,” and “women in Church ministries and offices.”

“It is easy to see that these themes do not only affect the Church in Germany but the universal Church and – with few exceptions – cannot be the object of the deliberations or decisions of a particular Church without contravening what is expressed by the Holy Father in his letter,” the assessment adds.

Marx repudiates the Vatican’s assessment of the synodal process for the upcoming meeting and the topics it plans to discuss.

“The suspicion on Rome’s part that by discussing such subjects as power, women’s position in the Church, sexual morality and the priestly way of life, the German bishops were ignoring their true calling as shepherds was unacceptable”, he says.

“We bishops are doing what we are committed to as shepherds in order to liberate evangelisation and proclamation of Christ’s Message from the obstacles which stand in the way.”


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