Vatican warns German Catholic Church of potential for schism

German Catholic Church schism

The Vatican has warned the German Catholic Church of the potential for a schism if it pursues new moral or doctrinal norms during its Synodal Way process.

Members of the Synodal Way, a group made up of equal numbers of German bishops and lay Catholics, meet regularly. In February, they called on the Catholic Church to allow priests to marry, women to become deacons, and same-sex couples to receive the Church’s blessing.

The Holy See made clear that it views the Synodal Way’s calls for addressing homosexuality, celibacy and women in the Church as divisive and warned those calls could cause a schism.

In a statement published on 21 July, the Holy See warned that any attempts at imposing new doctrines through the German Synodal Way “would represent a wound to the ecclesial union and a threat to the unity of the church.

“It will not be permitted to initiate new structures or official doctrines in the dioceses before an agreement has been reached at the level of the universal Church,” said an unsigned “Statement of the Holy See.”

The statement warned German reformers they had no authority to instruct bishops on moral or doctrinal matters.

It is the second time the Holy See has weighed in publicly to rein in German progressives who initiated a reform process with lay Catholics responding to clergy sexual abuse scandals.

Francis wrote a letter to the German church in 2019, offering support for the process, but warned church leaders against falling into the temptation of change for the sake of adaptation to particular groups or ideas.

The “Synodal Path” has sparked fierce resistance inside Germany and beyond, primarily from conservatives opposed to opening any debate on issues such as priestly celibacy, women’s role in the church, and homosexuality.

Preliminary assemblies have already approved calls to allow blessings for same-sex couples, married priests and the ordination of women as deacons. One has also called for church labour law to be revised so gay employees don’t risk being fired.

Dozens of bishops from around the world warned earlier this year that the proposed German Catholic Church reforms, if approved at the final stage, could lead to schism.

The next assembly of the “Synodal Way” is scheduled for 8-10 September.


Religion News Service

La Croix International

Deutsche Welle


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