Germany’s synodal path has failed


Cardinal Walter Kasper says the German way forward on its “synodal path” has failed.

Kasper, who is the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity’s President Emeritus, points to the Second Vatican Council’s path in synodal fellowship.

The Church would have a future only if it continued on that path – a path that the German synodal path “had failed to take,” he says.

This won’t mean acting like bookkeepers, but “in creative loyalty and synodal fellowship by listening to God’s Word and to one another together.

“In my and other people’s opinion, the German ‘synodal’ gives the impression that it can and feels it has to discover a new Church and must push through its own agenda.”

As the German way forward has “unfortunately failed”, he says he puts all the more hope in the World Synodal Process Pope Francis has launched.

The Catholic Church’s future must concentrate on the Gospel Message and the “wounds of the world”, not just itself, he says.

The Council should not be seen as a break with tradition but as a “new departure to a more alive and comprehensive understanding of tradition and catholicity”.

To do justice to the Council as a whole, it is necessary to go deeply into the Council’s texts and editorial history. This is a theologically challenging and demanding undertaking that is still ongoing, Kasper notes.

At the same time, the Council and its documents had meanwhile become a part of church history, he says.

Francis belongs to a post-Council generation who regard the decisions and documents as facts from which it is necessary to think further.

“And that raises the question of the yet undetected future potentials in the Council texts,” Kasper points out.

The question of the Church’s relationship to the world must be re-examined, he says.

The corresponding Council document “Gaudium et spes” was determined by an “optimistic outlook” of the time, Kasper recalls.

Since then, secularisation and the priestly sexual abuse crisis have led to a massive loss of trust in the Church. They have also made the “crisis of faith in God” more visible. That was something unforeseen at the time of the Council, Kasper says.

In the Western World today, atheism and widespread indifference to the question of God are common.

This means renewing church structures is “irrelevant for the majority of people and is only of interest for church employees”, Kasper says.

It also means regarding the question of God, post-conciliar theology must go “deeper than the Council was able to” and look into the “metaphysical homelessness of modern human beings.”

The ongoing debates on church reform would benefit from another look at what the Church constitution Lumen Gentium said on the common priesthood of all the faithful, Kasper says.

The Council highlighted the co-responsibility of the laity, but that did not mean that there was “rivalry or opposition” between lay Catholics and priests and bishops, he stresses.


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