A view from Germany: The Synodal Way abuses the Catholic Faith

The Synodal Way, which has come to an end, has made it clear with great matter-of-factness that the doctrine and the faith of the Church are considered negotiable. If this conviction is shattered by Rome, one can only hope that it will not tear the German Catholic Church apart.

A blessing service as part of a day of action in defiance to the Vatican’s ruling on same-sex unions in the Youth Church in Würzburg, Germany, May 10, 2021. (Gehrig/CNA Deutsch)

The consequences of the Synodal Way cannot be gauged yet. Much was decided: The dioceses in Germany are to enable the blessing of homosexual couples. They are to allow lay people to preach at Mass. They are to propagate an image of man that complies with gender ideology and ask the Pope to lift the obligation to celibacy and to examine whether women can be admitted into the ministry after all.

The discussion of all these topics was justified with the prevention of abuse. Officially, the Synodal Way had been established for this purpose. Since then, however, that purpose has merely served as an all-too transparent fig leaf. Whoever expressed doubts regarding the legitimacy of the process was reminded that the goal was, after all, the prevention of abuse.

But just how the discussion of lay preaching, for instance, would serve that goal, why the celibacy of priests should be lifted, even though the MHG-study*, to which the Synodal Way refers, explicitly sees no connection between abuse and celibacy (which is in line with other studies on the subject): none of these things were taken into consideration.

Instead, the abuse scandal serves as a vehicle for interested parties to enforce what some church officials, a part of the Federal Association Catholics and of Academic Theology, have demanded for decades: a comprehensive self-secularization, the abandonment of central beliefs and traditional faith practices. Here we also find the reason why it is so hard to explain what the Synodal Way actually consists of: anyone with a minimal understanding of religion must find this process absurd. For religions revolve around truth. But how is one supposed to vote on truth?

Walking together is only possible on the foundation of the Church of Christ

Ten texts on three (of a total of four) topics were “passed” at the fifth Synodal assembly: priesthood, women in the Church, and Catholic sexual ethics. Are the decisions being implemented in the dioceses?

In some dioceses, such as Aachen or Berlin, for instance, homosexual unions are, in fact, already being blessed, despite explicit interdiction by Rome. Initiatives are being organized where men and women preach at Holy Mass on their own authority. All these things are already happening and are widely tolerated, regardless of the fact that a rather substantial number of the faithful suffer and do not agree with them.

And here lies a fundamental problem with the Synodal Way: it claims to be “synodal,” which means being on a “common path.” Walking together, as has been asserted consistently in recent years, was the way forward for the Catholic Church. A Catholic, who is faithful to the Magisterium, would counter that this “walking together” is only possible on the foundation of Christ’s Church and her teachings.

In the Bätzing-Stetter-Karp Church there is no place for Catholics who are faithful to the Magisterium

But even without this appeal to divine authority, based solely on how the Synodal Way sees itself, this process is implausible: repeatedly, Irme Stetter-Karp, for instance, president of the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK) and thus part of the presidium of the Synodal Way, and Bishop Georg Bätzing, president of the German Bishops’ Conference (DBK) and likewise head of the presidium, have made it clear that in the church they envision there will be no room for dissenters.

Those who disagreed were laughed at, put under pressure, labeled as psychopaths, placed in the vicinity of right-wing extremists, accused of promoting acts of violence against minorities, and indirectly even of being responsible for suicides. None of this happened behind closed doors: anyone can watch the live streams of the meetings and verify all of these statements.

The “walking together” thus consisted mainly in the silencing of those who did not follow the majority opinion. This extended even into the voting results: the Synodal Way can boast that papers were adopted with nearly 100 percent approval rate. Proof of overwhelming unanimity? Actually, there were abstentions, but these were simply not counted.

In concrete terms, for example, the paper calling for the diaconate of women, i.e. making ordained ministry available to women, was adopted with 93.65 percent approval. However, this figure only comes about because 13 abstentions are not included in the overall calculation. During the deliberations, Bishop Bätzing even used his authority as president of the bishops’ conference to emphatically urge his dithering confreres to abstain if they could not accept the text.

Under canon law the Synodal Way does not exist

The Synodal Way is therefore in no way democratic. This also manifests itself in the blatant breach of law that briefly made the headlines before the last Synodal assembly: in the fourth plenary assembly the minority had been deprived of the right to a secret ballot. Even though this was contrary to the statutes, as several canon law experts have since determined, the Synodal Way has adhered to this false interpretation of the statutes even now. Those concerned, however, have no recourse, because under canon law the Synodal Way does not exist!

This form had been decided upon, because establishing a synod was in no one’s interest. A synod would have been defined by canon law and could not have been used to push through the secular agenda of the ZdK and several bishops. The resolutions in their entirety are therefore non-binding—theoretically. The respective delegates, however, are completely indifferent to this. They have agreed to a kind of church role-playing game: they have created a parallel universe, in where agreements apply that are dictated by the game masters.

In that universe, it is a sign of tolerance to ridicule the bishop who asks for a secret ballot, a sign of rationality to burst into tears when a factual argument is presented, and a sign of democratic consciousness to erase abstentions from the overall result and to manipulate voting patterns.

The Sovietization of dioceses was postponed—for now

In the world of the Synodal Way, a non-body under canon law is entitled to make non-decisions with non-legitimation. Whoever points out that “the emperor is naked” can expect to be hounded by the secular as well as the ecclesiastical press, and to be pressured by church officials. In this manner the Synodal Way is attempting to force decisions from the parallel world into the reality of the Church.

That this procedure has limits became manifest through the fate of the core piece of the agenda texts, of all things: a paper was supposed to be adopted, according to which councils for “joint consultation and decision-making” should be established in all parishes and dioceses, or developed from existing consultative bodies. Even Cardinal Walter Kasper, not exactly a conservative hardliner, commented in strong words on the proposal to restructure the church into a council system: a “Supreme Soviet in the Church” was “obviously not a good idea.” An assessment apparently shared by Pope Francis, who has explicitly forbidden the project on several occasions.

At this point, even disenfranchised bishops regained their voices: faced with the choice of entering into open disobedience against Rome, a remnant of ecclesiastical sensibility became apparent and the Synodal proponents had to fear that the text would be rejected. So it was postponed and thus failed—for now—because of the factual authority of the Pope.

The Rhine still does not flow into the Tiber

One can only fervently hope that this authority will be able to keep further aberrations at bay. For the resourceful church officials wisely ensured that the end of the Synodal Way would not be the end of their project of remodeling doctrine and Church: at the Synodal assembly, they elected a Synodal Committee. This committee is to discuss the postponed texts and prepare a Synodal Council for the whole of Germany by 2026. This council is then supposed to steer the fate of the Church in Germany for an indefinite period of time.

The fact that the Pope has vetoed this project, too, is being deliberately ignored; after all, there is still a lot of water going to flow down the Rhine until 2026. But German Catholics must beware: The Rhine does not flow into the Tiber. At the Synodal assembly, it was made clear with great matter-of-factness that the doctrine and the faith of the Church are considered negotiable. If this conviction is shattered by Roman realities, one can only hope that it will not tear the Church apart.

Related at CWR:
“The Catholic Church in Germany after the Synodal Way: Three Scenarios” (February 23, 2023)
“The Church in Germany is on the path into total insignificance” (February 6, 2023) by Birgit Kelle

*Translator’s note: MHG refers to a consortium of various German scientific institutions: the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim, the Institute of Criminology at the University of Heidelberg, the Institute of Gerontology at the University of Heidelberg, and the Chair of Criminology, Juvenile Law and Corrections at the University of Gießen. This consortium published a report, entitled “Sexual abuse of minors by catholic priests, deacons and male members of orders in the domain of the German Bishops’ Conference”, and the acronym MHG refers to the locations of the consortium: M(annheim)-H(eidelberg)-G(ießen). 

Editor’s note: This essay was first published in German on the corrigenda* website and is posted here with kind permission of the author. The essay was translated by Frank Nitsche-Robinson.

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About Anna Diouf 1 Article
Anna Diouf is from the Rhineland with East Brandenburg, Westphalian and Senegalese roots. The trained musician ventured into journalism and has been working as an editor and presenter at the Catholic television station EWTN since 2022. She also works as a freelance author.


  1. Sadly, I dont think the church will be torn apart. I say sadly, because I think if approved all over as a matter of fact decision, this poison will spread until it engulfs the entire church. Allowing these radical apostates to leave the church would be the better option. The pope has already shown himself incapable of reprimanding politicians in serious scandal with the church, such as Biden and Pelosi on abortion. He allowed the pachamama idol on Vatican grounds and waved it along as if we should respect pagan belief in order to be “nice”. I think in fact he will do NOTHING to discipline the Germans. And a defacto split is the best case scenario. The worst case scenario is that the Pope imports this garbage all over the universal church, again on the grounds of ” niceness”, which seems to be the overriding concern of those on the left these days. In fact, the only ones he could not seem to muster the energy to be nice to was Donald Trump and the US, taking every opportunity to bash the President and the US for having the sheer nerve to attempt to control the border. But not to worry, ignorant US voters made sure they voted in the Democrats, so thats no longer a worry. The clock is ticking on the Pope’s ability to say something to stop these Bishops in their tracks. Failure to do so is abdication of his basic responsibility as Pope. WHY is he still SILENT??? Force them to recant. If they will not, simply remove them from office. There must certainly be that number of qualified Catholic priests to take their place. How could the replacements possibly do a worse job than what has just been perpetrated? The German Bishops dont want a catholic church. They want a three ring circus, with a heavy dose of Protestant-lite.

    The photo above in this article is possibly the ugliest catholic sanctuary I have ever seen. ZERO inspiration to the spiritual. I have seen building lobbies that look more appealing. Doubtless a harbinger of things to come.

  2. Any successor of Peter who refuses to correct error in the Church with regard to its established and time-honored teachings has forfeited the right to hold the office. What more is there to explain?

  3. This is a result of post Vat II liberalism intentionally being introduced/infiltrated into the Church; efforts underway before that.

    An example: the line in the sand on the Latin rite mass for instance, while grave unfettered sins may go unchecked.

  4. Take away the revenue from the mandatory German “church tax” and all of those “professional Catholics” at the Synod would instantly disappear. Most of the parishes and institutions would close. The German Catholic Church is an empty suit.

    • I agree that the Church tax feeds all this and is terribly scandalous. But for a Vatican faced with serious financial problems, they would be hard pressed to cut off that revenue stream.

  5. We read: “Those who disagreed were laughed at, put under pressure, labeled as psychopaths, placed in the vicinity of right-wing extremists…”

    “Extremists?” From an intelligent and historical point of view–which has very little audience among the lemming German bishops–the parallel with Anglicanism and the thought of St. John Henry Newman comes to mind…As with the so-called centrist Arian and Monophysite (or der Synodale Weg!) parties, “the truth lay, not with the Via Media, but with what was called ‘the extreme party’ [the universal Catholic Church]”.

  6. “Take away the revenue” – Andrew above.
    Sounds to me like an option worth consideration. Who controls this money stream?

    • Gilberta,
      Part of the picture, or maybe even most of the picture, is that the money stream comes through the church tax collected by the central government (as a surcharge in the income tax, about 8%).

      This fee is then allocated to the the Catholic Church and the Protestant and Calvinist ecclesial communities. And, because high rollers contribute so much, the total rake-in still rises even as hundreds of thousands decline to check the box on the income tax form (thereby also being branded by the bishops as “apostates” and automatically excommunicated).

      Try to imagine the bishops crossing the high rollers and the secularist agenda of the gummint! Instead, der Synodale Weg! What we have here is the Investiture Crisis of the 11th and 12th Centuries, except that the radicalized laity extends beyond the palaces to self-appointed street-level laity.

  7. The Rhine has flowed into the Tiber for WAY TOO LONG. Or, isn’t it the case that the Crosiers and Mitres of many of our higher-ups have been set down in exchange for calculators and general ledgers? Wasn’t that the situation with the recognition of the Official Chinese Party “catholic” Church? 2 Billion dollars appears to have purchased the CCP all the clout they needed from our current Vicar of Christ, no? Originally, it only took 30 pieces of silver and, sadly, Truth and Morals and judgments which bear directly upon the teachings of the church are still for sale. If it’s not too dramatic a gear to engage, inquire with the 4 bishops consecrated by AB Marcel Lefebvre about these same views. I wonder if they’ll show any hesitancy at all to break with what has always been the recognized and well established teachings of the church. I suspect we all know the answer to that inquiry. Yet, somehow, the SSPX are is “schism” while the German Bishops, who have embraced HERESY are not. Expressed in a simple Mathematical formula, the above comments can be summarily posited as follows:

    Moral Truths < Heresy + $$$

  8. Does anyone believe, based on prior knowledge or past performance of Francis, that Rome will speak?

    The abstract of this article says, “If this conviction is shattered by Rome, one can only hope that it will not tear the German Catholic Church apart.”

    Can anyone give examples? When has Rome recently recognized and/or attempted to shatter any movement against the faith or against Christ’s Church???

  9. I have always believed that the German push for same sex “blessings” is really about an endgame where 1) the sin of homosexuality is negated and 2) priests are allowed to marry. The consequence of these two items is that the German priests want the freedom to have gay partners and instead of hiding their perversions, celebrate “marriages” amongst themselves and live sinfully out in the open with their male partners.

  10. Rather than the theology of “walking together” for four years into fantasyland, perhaps Der Synodale Weg sadly disguises an immeasurable loss–a loss pushing to be filled with the chatter of noisy voting, lay homilies severed from the buoyancy of the Apostolic Succession, painted priestesses substituting for the temple prostitutes of old, and the hollow suites of amnesiac bishops and priests…

    So also needed, in addition to leadership at the theological level, might simply be the words of a novelist whose deep eyesight into such a hell came with an equal four years (equity!) of hard labor in an equal (!) Soviet gulag. One of Dostoevsky’s figures (Trophimovitch) says it this way:

    “The whole law of human existence consists in this: that man can at all times bow before something infinitely great. If human beings came to be deprived of the infinitely great something, they would no longer want to live and would die in despair. The incommensurable and the infinite are as necessary to man as the little planet on which he moves [….] man cannot live without kneeling.”

    Kneeling—a penetrating prescription for modernday despair forgetful of the infinite, as in Germany. And much more so than the abdicating Bishop Batzing’s blessing of another posture…

  11. And Bergoglio dithers … or does he? Every day that passes without a decision to condemn is a day that shouts papal complicit with this insanity. Bergoglio is responsible for this.

  12. … the temerity of Batzing to bring back Brown Shirt tactics. Intimidate, vilify and shut down any dissent. That’s what I call a “synodal church.” Next thing you know Batzing will make faithful German Catholics wear yellow crosses.

    … and Bergoglio fiddles while the Church burns.

  13. Perhaps Justin Welby will establish an “ordinariate” for the Church in Germany. They will fit right into the Anglican Communion. Sad

  14. In the Holy book of Matthew,chapter 16,verse 18, Jesus speaks that upon this rock ( referring to Peter, I will build My church. Saint Peter was married. I am new to Jesus’Holy Catholic and Apostolic church,but even I know that homosexuality is wrong and gay couples should never be given “blessings”. And although women have an important roles in the church, Jesus laid the foundation of the priesthood according to the order of Melchizedek as males . When people in powerful positions attempt to change what God thru His Son has ordained for His church,all of the faithful will suffer.

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