Cardinal Kasper: Synodal Way’s ‘original sin’ was to set aside evangelization

CNA Staff   By CNA Staff

Cardinal Walter Kasper. / CNA/Bohumil Petrik.

Munich, Germany, Nov 9, 2021 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

An influential Catholic theologian has said that the German Synodal Way’s “original sin” was setting aside Pope Francis’ call to focus on evangelization.

Cardinal Walter Kasper has repeatedly expressed concern about the multi-year process bringing together Germany’s bishops and laypeople to discuss the way power is exercised in the Church, sexual morality, the priesthood, and the role of women.

The former president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity renewed his critique on Nov. 7 during an online study day organized by the Arbeitskreis Christliche Anthropologie (Christian Anthropology Working Group), reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

In June 2019, Pope Francis sent a 19-page letter to German Catholics urging them to focus on evangelization in the face of a “growing erosion and deterioration of faith.”

“It was the original sin of the Synodal Way that it put aside Pope Francis’ invitation to start from the basic mission of evangelization and thus in fact brought subordinate criteria to the fore,” Kasper said in his live-streamed talk.

“In purely formal terms, it has not abandoned the episcopate, but it has gutted it in its essence. On the whole, according to the synodal text, the bishop is not much different from a chairman of a supervisory board who is elected for a fixed term and can be voted out at any time.”

In his address, the 88-year-old German cardinal reflected on the role of the bishop within Catholic tradition, exploring which responsibilities a bishop can delegate.

Kasper asked whether the Synodal Way’s text on “Power and separation of powers in the Church” made the mistake of putting secondary matters such as “sociology, political science, and the humanities” in first place.

He noted that “today’s bishops are not new apostles; they exercise an apostolic ministry as successors.” The bishop’s mission to witness to and faithfully transmit the Gospel is not a temporary calling, he said.

He suggested that the Synodal Way was attempting to establish a kind of democratic check on power in the Church. He said that the Church could indeed learn from the democratic order, but only to the extent that its own order allows it.

Kasper noted that the early Church contained synodal elements. In the Acts of the Apostles, he observed, Christians came together to discern God’s will for the community.

But a synod should not be confused with a parliament where decisions are passed by a majority, he said. Instead, it should seek consensus, which is understood as a sign of the Holy Spirit.

“A synod should therefore not vote down and shoot down a minority without a serious exchange of arguments, as happened at the last meeting of the Synodal Way,” he commented.

“In doing so, the Synodal Way has made itself a farce of a synod.”

The most recent gathering of the Synodal Way took place in Frankfurt, southwestern Germany, on Sept. 30-Oct. 2.

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

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.

The meeting ended abruptly following votes in favor of a text endorsing same-sex blessings and a discussion of whether the priesthood is necessary.

Kasper said in June that he was “very worried” about the direction of the Synodal Way, which is not a synod in the traditional sense but rather “a sui generis [unique] process,” according to the German Cardinal Reinhard Marx.

“I have not yet given up hope that the prayers of many faithful Catholics will help to steer the Synodal Way in Germany on Catholic tracks,” Kasper remarked.

In September, he praised a text presenting an alternative to the document dedicated to the way power is exercised in the Church endorsed by members of the Synodal Way.

In his address at the online study day, Kasper said that the root meaning of the word “hierarchy” pointed to the rule of the Holy Spirit, rather than that of hierarchs.

“Power does not emanate from the people, nor is the bishop master of the synod,” he said.

Christian leadership does not consist of commanding others, he added. Leaders are instead called “to inspire, to motivate, to exemplify the spirit of the Gospel.”

“At the diocesan level, the establishment of synodal structures is already possible today. In some dioceses there have been good approaches to this for a long time, without a Roman cock ever crowing,” he concluded.

“The Synodal Way should therefore concentrate on what is already possible and also necessary in Germany today, instead of dealing with projects that can only lead to new frustrations.”

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  1. Forget about the German “synodal way.” Possibly now an unwitting decoy?

    Instead, this from the Vademecum (workbook) for the Synod on Synodality (Section 4.2): [1] “Therefore, the primary role [!] of the diocesan Bishop in this Synodal Process is to FACILITATE the synodal experience of the whole People of God on the journey towards a more Synodal Church; [2] It is recommended that the diocesan phase of the Synodal Process open and close with a liturgical celebration” [a what?], over which the Bishop can PRESIDE.”
    Rather than primarily a SUCCESSOR to the Apostles, now a “facilitator?”

    Rather than the sacrifice/celebration of the Mass, where the ordained priesthood has been diminished from ALTER CHRISTI to that of “presider,” now the bishop can “preside?”
    Rather than knowing WHERE the “endless journey” of synodality is taking us, we find it’s a tautology: “toward a more Synodal Church.”

    So, when all the 5,000 diocesan/synodal non-parliamentary flip charts are facilitated and selectively synthesized—will we find that the “consensus” (the “sensus fidei”) is NOT about any particular content or doctrine, but only about steps toward the compendium—universal “participation” in the PROCESS itself! As with Marshall McLuhan way back in the 1960s, regarding the new mass media, in the new synodality “the medium IS the message!”

    All this with Germania’s drop of cyanide in the synodal punchbowl: upending (so to speak) sexual morality, or the priesthood, or the institutional Church (e.g., displacing Lumen Gentium on real “collegiality”), or Natural Law or whatever—all this synodal “listening” serving to mute episcopal or papal accountability. In the secular world when bad-apple investments were bundled with secure investments (termed “derivatives”), the result in 2008 was global financial collapse—“too big to fail?”

    So CARDINAL KASPER is quite correct. Synodality in Germania AND now across the globe (2021-2023) should be about “evangelization.” And, further, it should not be diluted into a generic Christianity…

    • And those who participate and lead should be Orthodox Catholic rather than modernists, historicists, Hegelians, Transcendental Thomists, agnostics, and sadly crazy demented sinful fools.

  2. Kasper is too late with his fellow countrymen. The German Church is well on its way along the wide road.

    What is ‘bound on earth is bound in Heaven’ does not refer to a democratic majority and Christ did not come to destroy the Mosaic Law.

  3. Whether Cardinal Kasper experienced a flash conversion [from an understanding of a changeable divine essence] his apparent positive intention that “a synod should not be confused with a parliament where decisions are passed by a majority, he said. Instead, it should seek consensus, which is understood as a sign of the Holy Spirit” is not a changeable admission of his previous understanding. Why? It’s the assumption that the Holy Spirit will guide the minds of the vast multiplicity of down to the parish mini synods. A joke reserved for the devious cognoscenti.
    The very purpose of synodality is to promote change certainly not orthodox adherence to the Holy Spirit when Magisterial oversight is relinquished voting on consensus discouraged papal review a matter of guesswork on the part of the Church. Is all this Francis’ naivete or Francis’ guile, the latter evident in an exquisite stratagem of duplicity? Faithful Kasper adjuring the German bishops convincing only to duped bishops herded into the universal endless synodal journey.
    Lord what can save us when bishops simply bleat and murmur if not your mighty arm?

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