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German Catholic bishop suggests ‘Synodal Way’ is using abuse crisis to reshape Church

CNA Staff   By CNA Staff

Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg. (Credit: Diocese of Regensburg)
Regensburg, Germany, Sep 30, 2021 / 03:00 am (CNA).

A German Catholic bishop suggested this week that the country’s “Synodal Way” is using the abuse crisis to reshape the Church on Protestant lines.

Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg questioned why the German Catholic Church’s progress in tackling abuse was seldom acknowledged, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

He said: “The fact that interested parties now continue to pretend that nothing has actually happened so far, that without a valid comparison of institutions and without a historical classification of the cases of abuse, the peculiarities of the Catholic Church are systemically blamed for it, feeds my suspicion that the sexual abuse is being instrumentalized here in an attempt to reshape the Catholic Church along the lines of Protestant church orders, where ‘synod’ means something different than in the Catholic Church, namely a kind of church parliament.”

Voderholzer, a professor of dogmatics, made the comment while preaching at Vespers at Regensburg Cathedral on Sept. 26.

The bishop is a prominent critic of the “Synodal Way,” a multi-year process bringing 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 German bishops’ conference initially said that the process would end with a series of “binding” votes — raising concerns at the Vatican that the resolutions might challenge the Church’s teaching and discipline.

Bishops and theologians have expressed alarm at the process, which is expected to end in February 2022, but bishops’ conference chairman Bishop Georg Bätzing has vigorously defended it.

In his sermon, Volderholzer recalled that he and Cologne Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki had proposed an alternative set of statutes for the Synodal Way in August 2019 that was rejected by a majority of German bishops.

He said that the alternative statutes stressed the importance of the new evangelization, mission, and catechesis, in accordance with a 19-page letter that Pope Francis sent to German Catholics in June 2019.

In his letter, the pope called for evangelization in the face of a “growing erosion and deterioration of faith.”

“Every time an ecclesial community has tried to get out of its problems alone, relying solely on its own strengths, methods, and intelligence, it has ended up multiplying and nurturing the evils it wanted to overcome,” he wrote.

Earlier this month, Voderholzer launched a new website that presented an alternative to the text endorsed by members of the Synodal Way’s Forum I, focused on the way power is exercised in the Church.

The 36-page document, called “Authority and responsibility” and translated into English, is the first in a series that will also address the topics of the other three synodal forums.

The text was co-authored by Fr. Wolfgang Picken, dean of the city of Bonn, Marianne Schlosser, a theology professor in Vienna, Austria, journalist Alina Oehler, and Augsburg auxiliary Bishop Florian Wörner.

Speaking in Rome on Sept. 17, the influential German theologian Cardinal Walter Kasper praised the alternative text,

The 88-year-old former president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity said that text adopted by members of the Synodal Way attempted “to reinvent the Church in the face of the crisis with the help of an erudite theological structure.”

“There is much that is correct in it, but also much that is hypothetical. In the end, many wonder whether all this is still entirely Catholic,” he commented.

Preaching on Sunday, Volderholzer quoted Kasper extensively, expressing his agreement with the theologian considered to be close to Pope Francis.

Volderholzer’s intervention came on the eve of a plenary session of the Synodal Way in Frankfurt, southwestern Germany, on Sept. 30-Oct. 2.

The event is the second meeting of the Synodal Assembly, the Synodal Way’s supreme decision-making body.

The assembly consists of the German bishops, 69 members of the powerful lay Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), and representatives of other parts of the German Church.

A group of German Catholics presented a new reform manifesto on Sept. 29, reported CNA Deutsch.

The Arbeitskreis Christliche Anthropologie (Christian Anthropology Working Group) published the manifesto online. It called for a new start in the German Church, arguing that the Synodal Way was failing to offer authentic reform “in a dramatic fashion.”

Pope Francis addressed fears about the trajectory of the Synodal Way in an interview with the Spanish radio station COPE aired on Sept. 1.

Asked if the initiative gave him sleepless nights, the pope recalled that he wrote an extensive letter that expressed “everything I feel about the German synod.”

Responding to the interviewer’s comment that the Church had faced similar challenges in the past, he said: “Yes, but I wouldn’t get too tragic either. There is no ill will in many bishops with whom I spoke.”

“It is a pastoral desire, but one that perhaps does not take into account some things that I explain in the letter that need to be taken into account.”

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  1. Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer is certainly correct. In the secular world, the familiar adage is “never led a good crisis go to waste”.

    That the Synodal Way would stoop to such transparent manipulation is sure evidence of what Pope Francis calls “ideological colonization.” Also, evidence of an elitism which assumes, theologically, that the captive audience is as stupid as hell.

  2. Linking the Abuse Crisis to the Federalization of Bergoglio’s Post-Catholic Church is justified, in that the same players are responsible for both the Problem and their destructive Solution. The Sankt Gallen Mafia “Kingmaker” Cardinal McCarrick started his pedophile career in the Swiss town of Sankt Gallen – the Freemasonic town of the annual European Episcopal Conferences [Taylor Marshall, 2019] and centre of operations of the evil Aleister Crowley [1875-1947]. The first Sex Abuse summit in the Church was hosted by the key player McCarrick. Ten years later his spiritual son “Cupich” held the same role. The Sankt Gallen Mafia leader today is Jorg Bergoglio, in charge of cleaning up the Sankt Gallen ruined Church. He was obliged to “discipline” McCarrick after international outrage, reducing him to the State of a normal everyday Catholic in a hideaway luxury appartment for a few years. The Sankt Gallen pre-electoral pact with China was finalized for Bergoglio by McCarrick and Paolin to the dismay of Catholics Worldwide. Cardinal Zen was mocked by Paolin and those around him for bemoaning the persecution of Chinese Catholics which ensued and for “not smiling enough.” His attempts to seek papal audiences meet the same open dialogue from Bergoglio as that shown to the Dubia Cardinals. The link is thus the right one to make: the culprits are now in charge of finishing the Alta Vendita as published by Pope Leo XIII and reprinted in “Infiltration” by Taylor Marshall, 2019. Sofia Institute Press: Crisis Publications with a foreword by Bishop Athanasius Schneider.

  3. “German Catholic bishop suggests ‘Synodal Way’ is using abuse crisis to reshape Church”.
    Seems quite obvious to me.
    And where does Pope Francis fit into the picture? The inconsistency of his decisions on clergy abuse in the German versus the American context has been noted by more than one commentator.

  4. Voderholzer reminds this writer of the parody, a cowboy attempting to herd cats into the corral. German bishops like strays have their own ideas. Even the domestic creature who will run to the food dish when called responds to virtually nothing else except to be petted. My brother in law who has taken to pet cats sort of trains them by gentle swats with rolled newspaper [the Pope’s letter and Volderholzer’s latest alternative writings amount to similar swats]. This topic including Bishop Voderholzer’s August Authority and Responsibility plus Cardinal Kasper’s surprisingly positive review were covered here recently. My opinion then was suspicion of Kasper’s intentions. Perhaps seeking a modest synodal approach to keep the thing intact. As the original idea for Church modernization Cardinal Carlo Martini believed the simple existence of such an ongoing, according to Pope Francis virtually eternal ‘journey’ would inevitably bring about hoped for radical transformation. Whether heterodox or orthodox is the big question. Although human nature sets into its vagrant course unless strongly directed by Rome. As Voderholzer wisely envisions whenever an ecclesial body sets off on its own. Each bishop with his own brilliant ideas strays off course in different directions. Charles Krauthammer on cats facetiously opined that cats like the French were distant sophisticats. This troop of German bishops instead seem more taken to idiosyncratic wanderlust.

    • Cardinal Martini was not alone. To repeat a “comment” submitted a week ago, and worth repeating. This, from Ratzinger:

      “The real content of Christianity is not the discussion of its Christian content and of ways of realizing it: the content of Christianity is the community of word, sacrament and love of neighbor to which justice and truth [!] bear a fundamental relationship. The dream of making one’s whole life a series of discussions [an “endless journey”!], which, for a time, brought even our universities to the brink of paralysis, also exercises an influence on the Church under the label of the conciliar idea.

      “If a council [synodality] becomes the model of Christianity per se [the Synod’s preparatory documents: the ‘form, the style, AND the structure of the Church’], then the constant discussion of Christian themes comes to be considered the content of Christianity itself, but precisely there lies the failure to recognize the true meaning of Christianity [….]

      “[In Don Quixote] the arrogant certainty with which Cervantes burned his bridges [e.g., Traditiones custodis versus both Summorum Pontificum AND Sacrosanctum Concilium?] behind him and laughed at an earlier age has become a nostalgia for what was lost. This is not a return to the world of the romances of chivalry but a consciousness of what must not be lost and a realization of man’s peril [!], which increases whenever, in the burning of the past, he loses the totality of himself [the real sensus fidei].

      “Certainly we cannot return to the past, nor have we any desire to do so [!]. But we must be ready to reflect anew on that which, in the lapse of time, has remained the one constant [!]. To seek without distraction and to dare to accept, with joyful heart and without diminution [!], the foolishness of truth—this, I think, is the task for today and for tomorrow: the NUCLEUS of the Church’s service to the world, HER answer to “the joy and hope, [and!] the grief and anguish of the men of our time (Gaudium et spes).”

      (All of the above: Ratzinger, “Principles of Catholic Theology,” 1987, CAPS added).

      • It’s not the first time it’s been pointed out:

        “Nor do We merely desire that Catholics should shrink from the errors of Modernism, but also from the tendencies or what is called the spirit of Modernism. Those who are infected by that spirit develop a keen dislike for all that savours of antiquity and become eager searchers after novelties in everything: in the way in which they carry out religious functions, in the ruling of Catholic institutions, and even in private exercises of piety. Therefore it is Our will that the law of our forefathers should still be held sacred: ‘Let there be no innovation; keep to what has been handed down.’ In matters of faith that must be inviolably adhered to as the law; it may however also serve as a guide even in matters subject to change, but even in such cases the rule would hold: ‘Old things, but in a new way.’”

        Pope Benedict XV, Ad Beatissimi Apostolrum, § 25.

      • Ratzinger through Beaulieu: “…constant discussion of Christian themes comes to be considered the content of Christianity itself, but precisely there lies the failure to recognize the true meaning of Christianity” to me.

        Where’s, then, the needful call to prayer? It’s Friday. a day of traditional penance. First Friday, a day of traditional reparation. October 1, feast day of St. Therese:

        My Lord and my God
        Today one thing pleases the world,
        tomorrow another.
        What is praised on one occasion
        is denounced on another.
        Blessed be You,
        my Lord and my God,
        for You are unchangeable for all eternity.
        Whoever serves You faithfully to the end
        will enjoy life without end in eternity.

  5. +J.M.J. Granted, just as Jesus said that God the Father can rise up sons of Abraham out of stones, and I’m praying every day for increased priestly and religious vocations. However, in general, how do you get men to want to be priests if access to the Sacraments is not that easy, and Church teaching is suppressed? Do adolescents and young adults have daily access to Mass, Confession, Eucharistic Adoration, Benediction? Does anybody teach t0hem traditional prayers such as the Holy Rosary (all 20 Gospel Mysteries? Do they have access to studying Catholic Scriptures in conjunction with the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Papal and Church Council documents, lives and writings of the saints, Church History, Sacred Music (especially consistent with Church teaching on transubstantiation),Sacred Art, Catholic Philosophy (e.g. on the subject of being by St. Thomas Aquinas, etc.), using the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Papal encyclicals as study guides, examining the moral standpoints of literary works? Thanks for you consideration.
    In caritate Christi, Mrs. Richard Avian (Carol Avian)

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