No threat of schism, says leading German bishop

No German schism

German Catholics are not seeking to “detach ourselves as the German national Church from Rome,” and there is no risk of schism, according to the chairman of the German Catholic bishops’ conference.

Even as Catholics in Germany plan a national protest against the Vatican’s ban on blessing on same-sex couples, Bishop Georg Bätzing has insisted that the protestors “are not schismatics”.

“Our bond with Rome and the Holy Father is very tight,” said Bätzing, just days before the May 10 protest.

The nationwide protest event was organised after Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) made a decree stating that Church does not have the power to bless homosexual unions.

German Church leaders say the Vatican’s ban on such blessings is unchristian because it openly excludes people based on their sexual orientation.

The CDF document was discussed at the country’s ongoing “Synodal Way”, which expressed disagreement.

Bishop Bätzing said blessing same-sex couples was one of many topics discussed at the Synodal Way’s forum on sexual morality.

The multi-year process brings together bishops and lay people to discuss four main topics: the way power is exercised in the Church; sexual morality; the priesthood; and the role of women.

The 60-year bishop said that the German Church started the “Synodal Way” in response to the clerical abuse and plummeting membership.

Record numbers of German Catholics have left the Church in recent years, with 272,771 people formally deserting it in 2019.

Bishops and cardinals outside of Germany have been increasingly critical of the debates in the country.

Retired Cardinals Camillo Ruini of Italy and George Pell of Australia are among those who have raised concern about the Synodal Way, which they fear is leading to a “de facto schism”.

“There is a percentage of the German Church that seems to be resolutely heading in the wrong direction,” said Pell, who currently resides in Rome.

Bishop Bätzing also commented on the debate in Germany over whether Protestants should be invited to receive Holy Communion in Catholic churches.

The Limburg bishop said that the current debate was not about a general invitation to Protestants to receive Communion, but rather about the Church’s approach to individual non-Catholic Christians who wish to receive the Eucharist.

He said: “I personally respect such a decision and do not deny Communion when someone presents themselves who believes what we Catholics believe and desires to receive the Lord.”


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