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‘Astonished’ German leaders take issue with Holy See’s latest warning about the ‘Synodal Way’

AC Wimmer By AC Wimmer for CNA

Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg at a press conference of the German "Synodal Way" / Synodaler Weg / Max von Lachner

CNA Newsroom, Jul 22, 2022 / 09:42 am (CNA).

The latest warning by the Holy See about the risk of a new schism from Germany arising from the “Synodal Way” has been rejected and met with “astonishment” by its organizers, who in turn accused Rome of not acting like a synodal Church.

However, at least one German bishop and a reform group welcomed the new intervention from the Vatican, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

Following the statement by the Holy See on Thursday, the presidents of the German Bishops’ Conference and the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK) said they were stunned by the intervention.

“In our understanding, a synodal Church is something else!” Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg and Irme Stetter-Karp declared in response to the Vatican’s intervention. “This also applies to the way today’s communication has been handled, which has been a source of astonishment for us.”

They added, “It is not a good example of communication within the Church, if statements are published which are not signed by name.”

While one German prelate, Bishop Bertram Meier of Augsburg, welcomed the statement from Rome, writing the concern for unity was clearly “virulent,” CNA Deutsch reported, the “Synodal Way” organizers accused the Vatican of a lack of willingness to communicate: “Unfortunately, the Synodal Committee has not been invited to a discussion [with Vatican bodies] to date.”

In its statement on Thursday, the Holy See said: “The ‘Synodal Way’ in Germany does not have the power to compel bishops and the faithful to adopt new forms of governance and new orientations of doctrine and morals.”

The Vatican’s note said it seemed “necessary to clarify” this, in order to “safeguard the freedom of the People of God and the exercise of the episcopal ministry.”

The statement of July 21 warned: “It would not be permissible to introduce new official structures or doctrines in dioceses before an agreement had been reached at the level of the universal Church, which would constitute a violation of ecclesial communion and a threat to the unity of the Church.”

In reaction to Bätzing’s and Stetter-Karp’s response, the secretary-general of the Nordic Bishops’ Conference, herself a German religious, raised the question whether the controversial process itself suffered from a “communication problem.”

Sister Anna Mirijam Kaschner pointed to an apparent perception that the process was seeking to change — or depart, on its own “separate way” — from the Church’s teaching on a number of issues, including celibacy, the ordination of women, and sexual morality.

Concerns over the risk of a departure from the universal Church’s teaching on the “Synodal Way” — a Sonderweg in German — were first raised in 2019, when Cardinal Reinhard Marx initated the process.

In their most recent statement, such concerns were again rejected by Bätzing and Irme Stetter-Karp: “​​We never tire of underlining that the Church in Germany will not follow a ‘special German path,'” they said. “Nevertheless, we see it as our duty to clearly state where we believe changes are necessary.”

Similarly, Kaschner noted, Bätzing had so far rejected concerns raised by hundreds of bishops; concerns that were raised as well by Catholics in Germany.

Bätzing has previously also expressed his disappointment in Pope Francis.

Immediately after the publication of this latest warning, the publicist and co-founder of the “New Beginning,” a German initiative critical of the “Synodal Way,” said that the Vatican had pulled the “emergency brake” on the process: “The danger of a schism is over,” Bernhard Meuser said.

As early as 2019, Pope Francis warned of disunity in his letter to German Catholics.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, a German theologian considered close to Pope Francis, in June 2022 warned that the process is at risk of “breaking its own neck” if it does not heed the objections raised by a growing number of bishops around the world.

In April, more than 100 cardinals and bishops from around the world released a “fraternal open letter” to Germany’s bishops, warning that sweeping changes to Church teaching advocated by the process may lead to schism.

In March, an open letter from the Nordic bishops expressed alarm at the German process, and in February, a strongly-worded letter from the president of Poland’s Catholic bishops’ conference raised serious concerns.

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  1. The next question is why is Batzing is a collared shirt and tie when he should be wearing a priestly collar? The Germans are astonished???? REALLY??? How about myopic, oblivious, mind-numbed, ill-informed,self-righteous,prideful, etc?? I can think of yet more adjectives but you get the drift. The Methodist church is presently experiencing a schism of sorts due to an abrupt leftward turn by their leadership.MANY individual churches are voting to leave and form a new Methodist hierarchy. Destruction is what happens when you have selfish “my way or the highway” thinking by leadership who depart from traditional teachings.

  2. The thing about a deer frozen in the headlights is that it is not looking; instead, with its large and keen ears (and weak eyes) it is listening.

    Not much of either in the above photo of Batzing…his accusation that no one is communicating. Hello! To concede favored access to the”synodal way” is to concede the very point at issue—the presumed theological legitimacy of the German block-party.

    As for Cardinal Kasper, who arguably got this whole thing rolling back in 2014-15 in his two hour monologue introducing the Synod of the Family, we read that he “…in June 2022 warned that the process is at risk of ‘breaking its own neck’ if it does not heed the objections raised by a growing number of bishops around the world.”

    This warning came only after Marx and Batzing (and Hollerich) openly and simultaneously called for torpedoing the Church’s teaching on sexual morality. Openly! They departed from the script of careful double-speak! Now the end game is fully exhibited, so to speak, because unwittingly sabotaged by mouthpieces of the “synodal path” itself. You just can’t get good help these days!

    Best for Kasper (now posing as a middle-grounder!) to isolate the virus, so that the original agenda might proceed unimpeded and still be “aggregated and compiled” into the 2023 Synod on Synodality. Just wondering what Cardinal Kasper really thinks? How much of the agenda that he started is he really disowning? Just a question here, nothing more definitive. Does a leopard change its spots?

    • But first, let us pray that they see the light and turn around. There are already too many in the Church behaving no different from Protestants.

      • Would that some erring progressive Catholics held the biblical view of some faithful Protestants.
        I know many godly, prolife Protestants who agree with us on almost every social and family issue. They’re not the enemy.

      • Hello Mal, would you point out a reason or two why there is a difference between the Church of Rome and protestant denominations? it doesn’t have to be lengthy, however, having your perspective would be welcome.

        God bless you,


  3. Reading this account, with its references to “the Synodal Way,” “a special German path,” “the New Beginning,” “a separate way,” and blah blah blah, one could easily get the impression that Jesus Christ was a first century marketing guru with a knack for creating pithy brand messaging, rather than the, you know, Savior of the world.

    • I was replying earlier today to a comment on another site about this issue and it occurred to me that our hierarchy operates as though they were influenced by the popular, non directional psychology movements of the 1970s. Those virtually destroyed the Immaculate Heart of Mary order in California and the same hands off, non directional, encounter group approach may enable that for the German Church as well.

  4. “Astonished?” Seems they are quite inward looking if the response to Sonderweg surprises them. Pray for them who are wanting worldly values in Church teaching.

3 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. ‘Astonished’ German leaders take issue with Holy See’s latest warning about the ‘Synodal Way’ – Via Nova Media
  2. ‘Astonished’ German leaders take issue with Holy See’s latest warning about the ‘Synodal Way’ | Passionists Missionaries Kenya, Vice Province of St. Charles Lwanga, Fathers & Brothers
  3. ‘Astonished’ German leaders take issue with Holy See’s latest warning about the ‘Synodal Way’ | Franciscan Sisters of St Joseph (FSJ) , Asumbi Sisters Kenya

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