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Nordic Catholic bishops: German ‘Synodal Way’ fills us with worry

CNA Staff   By CNA Staff

Cardinal Anders Arborelius of Stockholm is pictured after a consistory at the Vatican in this June 28, 2017, file photo. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)


Tromso, Norway, Mar 10, 2022 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Nordic Catholic bishops issued an open letter on Wednesday expressing alarm at the direction of the German “Synodal Way.”

In the March 9 letter, they cautioned against “capitulation to the Zeitgeist” and “impoverishment of the content of our faith,” reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

While acknowledging the challenges facing the Catholic Church in Germany, they said that “the orientation, method, and content of the Synodal Path of the Church in Germany fill us with worry.”

The Synodal Way is a multi-year process addressing the way power is exercised in the Church, sexual morality, the priesthood, and the role of women in the wake of a devastating clerical abuse crisis in Germany.

The Nordic bishops published their letter after Synodal Way participants voted in favor of draft texts calling for the abolition of priestly celibacy in the Latin Church, the ordination of women priests, same-sex blessings, and changes to Catholic teaching on homosexuality.

“Throughout the world, a number of Catholics ask questions about the lifestyle and formation of priests, the role of women in the Church, the range of views on human sexuality, etc,” the Nordic bishops wrote.

“In the legitimate search for answers to the questions of our time, we must nonetheless respect boundaries set by topics that stand for unchangeable aspects of the Church’s teaching.”

“It has ever been the case that true reforms in the Church have set out from Catholic teaching founded on divine Revelation and authentic Tradition, to defend it, expound it, and translate it credibly into lived life — not from capitulation to the Zeitgeist. How fickle the Zeitgeist is, is something we verify on a daily basis.”

The Bishops’ Conference of the Nordic Countries brings together the Catholic bishops of Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Iceland.

The open letter, addressed to German bishops’ conference chairman Bishop Georg Bätzing, was signed by Church leaders including Cardinal Anders Arborelius of Stockholm, Bishop Erik Varden of Trondheim, Bishop David Tencer of Reykjavik, and Nordic bishops’ conference president Bishop Czesław Kozon of Copenhagen.

Sister Anna Mirijam Kaschner, the conference’s general secretary, also signed the open letter. The German religious is a member of the Missionary Sisters of the Precious Blood.

The Nordic bishops’ intervention follows the publication of a letter last month by the president of Poland’s bishops’ conference expressing “fraternal concern” over the “Synodal Way.”

In the almost 3,000-word letter to Bishop Bätzing, Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki questioned whether the initiative was rooted in the Gospel.

In their roughly 1,000-word letter, the Nordic bishops wrote: “The global synodal process has aroused great expectations. We all hope for a revitalization of Catholic life and of the Church’s mission. However, there is a risk that we, in so far as we stay enclosed within paradigms of process thinking and structural change, end up conceiving of the Church as a project, the object of our agency.”

They said that the image of the Church as the People of God on pilgrimage should be complemented by other images drawn from Catholic tradition, especially the Church as “a mystery of communion.”

“We find that Catholics who constitute and carry the life of our parishes and communities instinctively sense this sacramental mystery but are not necessarily the ones inclined to fill in questionnaires or participate in group discussions,” they wrote.

“Let us not forget, in the context of the synodal process, to attend carefully to their witness also.”

They went on: “Right now, when Europe, subject to deep divisions, is threatening to explode, we ascertain: we need a higher criterion of unity. Christ alone is our hope!”

“In his name, the Church is called to be ‘a lasting and sure seed of unity, hope and salvation for the whole human race’ (Lumen gentium, 9).”

“Only if the Church’s life ad intra [internally] is rooted in Christ, only if we live out of the fullness of his revelation, shall we measure up to this vocation. We can hardly expect a new fullness of Catholic vitality to follow from impoverishment of the content of our faith.”

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  1. The Nordic bishops write: “It has ever been the case that true reforms in the Church have set out from Catholic teaching founded on divine Revelation and authentic Tradition, to defend it, expound it, and translate it credibly into lived life — not from capitulation to the Zeitgeist.”

    The predictable knee-jerk of the GERMAN bishops (or whatever it is that they’re jerking around), will be to say that the Nordic remark is, what, “rigid and bigoted” and out of step with the “paradigm shift.”

    But, from St. John Henry Cardinal NEWMAN, the “father of the Second Vatican Council, we then have this: “The effect of the definition [papal infallibility as part of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit] is “not to enfeeble the freedom or vigour of human thought in religious speculation, but to resist and control its extravagance.” Or, from ST. AUGUSTINE (part of the Council’s ressourcement!): the tendency toward “fantastica fornicatio”–the prostitution of mind to its own fancies.

    To be filled “with worry” at such self-prostitution is a big and welcome step in the right direction, as we “journey together” otherwise like lemmings in exploitable synodality. Why, even Cardinal KASPER earlier expressed his “concern” for what he actually started (weaseled by synthesizers into Amorous Laetitia, Chapter 8 and footnote 351). Concern! So there!

    The proof of the pudding will be whether the synodal continental “SYNTHESIS” in Europe will vomit out the German swill, or just pass it through as part of what is “aggregated” or “compiled” by “facilitator” bishops (successors of the apostles?) genuflecting before this extravagant wording spliced into the Vademecum? Or, maybe the backstop will be the strategically placed synodal relator-general Cardinal HOLLERICH, in public statements–already posturing as a hand puppet for what many see as a foregone conclusion of leading from behind.

    It need not be so…

  2. With all the bad news a most welcome pronouncement of marching orders for the Church from the Nordic bishops, regardless of Cardinals Hollerich, Grech and a trend toward the Zeitgeist that Sweden’s Cardinal Arborelius instead associates with the German Synodal Way. Perhaps it’s diplomacy, [Arborelius is certainly perceptive and does recognize the overall danger] not to criticize papal appointees. The strength of the Nordic bishops statement suggests that link with the great Synod on Synodality.
    A shadow synod the German Way continues to spout error distancing Catholicism from the truth, which elicited this magnificent [in context of the current malaise] testament to the faith, “It has ever been the case that true reforms in the Church have set out from Catholic teaching founded on divine Revelation and authentic Tradition”. A decoy [as Beaulieu queries] synod that exists only by permission of Francis.
    Nordic bishops pasture a growing, a new Catholic Church in Scandinavia. While jaded Europe languishes converts usually bring fresh vitality, the influx of Poles other Catholic ethnicities joining as if themselves rediscovering the depth and beauty of our faith.

  3. Everyone in the Church thinks the German Schismatic Way is dangerous and a ticking time bomb that needs to be stopped. Everyone except the Pope.

    • Pope Francis does will do more. He knows that this group of Germans are on tyhe wrong trach and he will stop them. He welcomes Germans who think otherwise.

    • Johann, why would he stop it when that is what he has planned all along? They are his hands, his voice, his body to paraphrase St Teresa of Avila

  4. « the image of the Church as the People of God on pilgrimage» has in itself a World Council of Churches ie neo-Protestant ring to it. It suggests Christianity is some kind of mystery tour conducted by a capricious leader.
    That may be the case for those myriads of novel protestant ecclesial communities whose origins were/are accommodation with a particular historic Zeitgeist but it is not the case for the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church which is destination reached.

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