The president of the German Catholic Bishops’ Conference has responded to a letter from the Nordic bishops expressing concern over the direction of the “Synodal Way”.
Bishop Georg Bätzing insisted in a letter dated March 28 that the multi-year process presented no risk of schism.
In the letter, seen by CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language press partner, he said the “synodal way” did not seek to create a Sonderwega term steeped in history which literally means special path, for the German Church isolated from the world Church.
He wrote, “I would like to counter the concern that Catholics in Germany might neglect their integration into the community of the universal Church or even take a particular path away from that community.”
“On the other hand, I can assure you that in the deliberations and decisions of the Synodal Way, a very careful differentiation is made as to the changes and reforms that can be carried out within the framework of the diocesan responsibility of the members of the German Bishops’ Conference and which questions, concerns and wishes for reform must be placed in the context of the global church, especially in the synodal journey of the global church.
Bishop Bätzing was referring to the synod on synodality, which will take place in Rome in 2023, after a two-year consultation process.
Nordic Catholic bishops released an open letter to Bishop Bätzing on March 9 expressing fears over the trajectory of the Synodal Way, an initiative bringing together bishops and lay people to discuss burning issues following a devastating crisis of clerical abuses in Germany.
In the letter, they warned against “surrender to the Zeitgeist” and “depletion of the content of our faith.”
Bishops of Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland released the letter after Synodal Path participants voted in favor of draft texts calling for the abolition of priestly celibacy in the Latin Church , to the ordination of female priests, to homosexual blessings and changes. to Catholic teaching on homosexuality.
In his response, Bishop Bätzing said he appreciated the Bishops’ concerns, but that their “expressed and implied fears do not correspond to the actual deliberations, discussions and decisions of our Synodal Way.”
He recalled that the process followed a crisis of abuse that had rocked the Church in Germany.
“Starting from the truly catastrophic and deeply shameful fact of sexual abuse and its concealment within the Church, German Catholics are looking for new ways of practicing the Church with great care and well-founded theological recommitment,” a- he declared.
“All these reflections and deliberations are aimed at making room for the Gospel in the life of the Church, to be able to collaborate again more freely in the coming of the Kingdom of God”, he added, “and to thus create the basis to be able to give an account of the reason for our hope to all those who ask for it.
Bishop Bätzing then responded to the Nordic Bishops’ comment that Church leaders are “charged to embrace as ours, with gratitude and reverence, the undiminished deposit of faith transmitted by the Church.”
He wrote: “I would also like to specify here that the immutable and unalterable depositum fidei [deposit of faith] should not be understood in such a way that any ecclesiastical practice, any regulation and any social form of the Church, which have developed in the course of history and in well-determined circumstances of time, already represent by themselves this deposit immutable.
“Many organizational aspects, structures, and also allocations of competence in the Church have been formed in response to concrete historical conditions and must then also be subject to change and renewal when they prove obsolete or even hinder the proclamation of the Gospel due to changing conditions.”
Citing the Dogmatic Constitution of Vatican II on the Church, Lumen gentiumthe German bishop continued: “The sacramental mystery of the Church is not affected by this, since the following always applies to the Church simultaneously: She is “both holy and always in need of being purified, [and] always follows the path of penance and renewal.’”
“These are the changes that preoccupy the Synodal Way and, in its search for new ways towards this end, it is guided by the essential sources of Faith: Scripture and Tradition, Magisterium and Theology, as well as the meaning of the faith of the faithful and the signs of the times. ”
The bishop of Limburg in western Germany made a similar argument in a March 16 letter to Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, president of the Polish bishops’ conference.
Bishop Bätzing was responding to a strongly worded letter from Gądecki, who wondered if the Synodal Way was rooted in the Gospel.
In his letter to the Nordic bishops, Bishop Bätzing echoed their warning against “surrender to the Zeitgeist,” or the spirit of the times.
“I would like to assure you that the Synodal Path always takes this warning to heart,” he wrote. “No one can care to frivolously align the action of the Church with prevailing fashions.”
“Nevertheless, the reflections of the Synodal Way, in the good ecclesial tradition and in close connection with the declarations of the Second Vatican Council, are based on the hypothesis that God, the Creator and Sustainer of the world, also reveals himself in this world and in the history of mankind, and that its activity and nature can also be seen in the events of history in a condensed form.
In conclusion, the German bishop asked the Nordic bishops to keep in touch in the hope that they can “strengthen and deepen” their exchange.