Kasper criticises Germany’s Synodal Way reform

Germany's Synodal Way reform proposals

Germany’s Synodal Way reform proposals have had some sharp criticism from German theologian cardinal Walter Kasper.

He agrees reforms are necessary but says the Church should not become “a mass that can be kneaded and shaped to suit the situation”.

The proposal to create a permanent Synodal Council to govern the Catholic Church in Germany is “not a renewal, but an outrageous innovation,” he says.

It would mean bishops could “de facto no longer exercise the task and authority vested in them if they voluntarily renounce it in an act of self-obligation and declare that they will follow the decisions of the synod or the future Synodal Council.

“Ultimately, such a self-obligation would be tantamount to a collective resignation by the bishops.”

The Synodal Way’s aim is to change the bishop’s ministry as the “fundamental pillar of the old Church,” he says.

“Whoever saws away at this pillar will break the neck of the Church.”

To avoid this, Kasper says the bishops must heed the objections raised by a growing number of bishops around the world.

In February, a strongly-worded letter from the president of Poland’s Catholic bishops’ conference raised serious concerns.

In March, an open letter from the Nordic bishops expressed alarm at the German process.

In April, more than 100 cardinals and bishops from around the world released a “fraternal open letter” to Germany’s bishops. They warned that sweeping changes to Church teaching advocated by the process may lead to schism.

Reiterating the synod’s role, Kasper says any Synodal Way reform proposals must hear what the Holy Spirit has to say to the Church today about “corrections we need to make and the direction we should take.

“There can be no ideologically predetermined answers to these questions that are imposed by majority votes.”

It was “the original sin of the Synodal Way” that it did not base itself on the pope’s letter to the Church in Germany.

Francis had proposed a synod where people were to be guided by the Gospel and the basic mission of evangelisation.

However, the German process, initiated by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, “took its own path with partly different criteria”.

German bishops’ conference president, Bishop Georg Bätzing, has repeatedly rejected all concerns. He made it clear he was disappointed in the pope in May this year.

Earlier this month Francis reiterated that he told Bätzing that Germany already has “a very good Evangelical Church” and that “we don’t need two.

“The problem arises when the Synodal Way comes from the intellectual, theological elites and is much influenced by external pressures.”

Bätzing, who is president of the Synodal Way, is also a signatory to the “Frankfurt Declaration”. This petition demands German bishops should declare their commitment to implementing resolutions passed by the process.

Kasper decried this push for “commitment” saying it was “a trick and, moreover, a lazy trick.”


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