German Bishop Defends Synodal Way

Bishop Georg Bätzing, right, chair of the German Bishops’ Conference

A top bishop in Germany is defending that country’s Synodal Way after dozens of international bishops published an open letter critical of the process, which has been quite LGBTQ-positive in draft documents.

Earlier this month, 74 bishops from a variety of nations issued a letter against the Synodal Way and its alleged “potential for schism,” according to the National Catholic Reporter. The signatories said the process set a “destructive example” that could undermine the church’s authority. It reads in part:

“1. Failing to listen to the Holy Spirit and the Gospel, the Synodal Path’s actions undermine the credibility of Church authority, including that of Pope Francis; Christian anthropology and sexual morality; and the reliability of Scripture.

“2. While they display a patina of religious ideas and vocabulary, the German Synodal Path documents seem largely inspired not by Scripture and Tradition — which, for the Second Vatican Council, are ‘a single sacred deposit of the Word of God’ — but by sociological analysis and contemporary political, including gender, ideologies. . .

“5. The Synodal Path process, at nearly every step, is the work of experts and committees: bureaucracy-heavy, obsessively critical, and inward-looking. It thus itself reflects a widespread form of Church sclerosis and, ironically, becomes anti-evangelical in tone. In its effect, the Synodal Path displays more submission and obedience to the world and ideologies than to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.”

The final point the bishops make is that the Synodal Way, rather than advancing synodality, could lead Catholics to distrust the concept more by sowing greater confusion.

Signatories of the letter, who were primarily from the U.S. and Tanzania, included some of the most LGBTQ-negative voices in the church. They include, Cardinal Raymond Burke, formerly of St. Louis, Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver, Archbishop Charles Chaput, formerly of Philadelphia, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, Bishop Robert McManus of Worcester, Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, and others. Cardinal George Pell, formerly a Vatican official and archbishop of Sydney, also signed.

In response, Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg, who is president of the German Bishops’ Conference, issued his own letter rejecting claims the Synodal Way was harming the church’s authority or leading to schism. NCR reported:

“[Bätzing wrote: ‘This occasion and context is particularly important to us, but, unfortunately, it is not mentioned at all in your letter. I would be very surprised, however, if you and the signatories of the open letter did not see the importance of the necessity to face the question of abuse as a church and to draw consequences for the church and its structures.’

“Bishop Bätzing said it was important to speak openly about power and abuse of power in the church.

“‘Euphemistic dressing up, as you try to do in your letter, does not really help,’ the bishop said. ‘Unfortunately, such abuse of power — also by episcopal authorities — is not only a thing of the past, but is also happening in the present and leads to massive violations of the rights and personal integrity of the faithful and religious. . .'”

Bätzing has recently defended the German church’s actions against critical letters from the Nordic Bishops’ Conference and a leading Polish prelate, too.

Debate over the Synodal Way is clearly extending well beyond Germany’s borders as conservative opposition organizes to try and stop a process which, among other advances, has appraised LGBTQ people and their relationships quite positively. Draft documents being considered in the Synodal Way include calls for the church to bless same-gender couples and reconsider teachings on homosexuality. That  LGBTQ-negative prelates are so concerned about these items shows the potential for change towards an inclusive church these proposals have.

Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, April 27, 2022

7 replies
  1. Richard Rosendall
    Richard Rosendall says:

    The fundamental problem with the right-wing bishops’ perspective can be seen in two terms referenced in their open letter: “Christian Anthropology” and “gender ideology.”

    The Church has been at war with science for five centuries and refuses to stop. “Christian Anthropology,” like “Natural Law,” is religious dogma dressed up in pseudo-scientific drag. To these bishops, truth is not something to be sought and searched and explored, but to be imposed from the top down. It is reified and branded with a capital T.

    This is not science. It is the opposite of science.

    How do the bishops handle real science? They label it “ideology“ and attack it as political.

    This is the poisonous fruit of the madness of authoritarianism. The bishops don’t want to study gay and trans people’s nature, they want to tell us (from their position of aggressive, willful ignorance) what our nature is, just as the Vatican responded to Galileo’s telescopic observations by telling him to put down the telescope and showing him the instruments of torture.

    Capital-T Truth without truthfulness or intellectual humility is disinformation. As it applies to gay and trans people it is a tool of cruelty and hate.

    Until these churchmen relinquish their claim to a top-down, imposed “Truth”—itself an ideology central to their point of view—the Church as an organizational hierarchy controlled by blinkered old men must be seen as obscurantists at war with the community of believers and the teachings of Christ. Cardinal Burke’s performative finery cannot conceal that.

    Reply
    • Mary
      Mary says:

      Excellent response, Richard. I thank you and Bishop Batzing for voicing these sensitive and powerful observations. It’s good to see that there are those, across the globe, who will not let these bishops’ words go unchallenged.

      Bishop Batzing spoke about the Nordic Conference letter on the German Synodal Way: “Open letters irritate me,” and that there would be a response, “in an objective way.”

      Think about this: This recent letter from “international” bishops shows that they see things changing and are quite nervous. The numbers of Catholics who see the harmful, direct results of authoritarianism is growing and becoming more vocal.

      I have a dream:

      I’m in a Munich cafe enjoying a refreshing glass of beer. Cardinal Marx, Michael Brinkschroeder, and Pope Francis are seated with me. From across the plaza, a plaintive, clear whistle makes its way, wrapped in the sounds of sweet, electric guitarplay. It’s “Winds of Change” by the Scorpions.

      We laugh as we stand. A toast is made. Ein Prosit! Ein Prosit! Der Gemütlichkeit!

      Gemütlichkeit is an interesting word. It encapsulates a feeling of belonging, social acceptance and leaving your troubles at the door. Sounds real nice.

      Stay strong, brothers and sisters.

      Reply
    • Chuck
      Chuck says:

      Excellent. So much of the hate and vitriol in this country against trans & gay people comes right from the language of the Vatican. What an outrage they can claim any authority in these matters. They need to direct Catholic leaders throughout the world to be moral leaders and voices to this suffering vulnerable group.

      Reply
  2. DUANE SHERRY
    DUANE SHERRY says:

    When it comes to power, far too many in the Church hierarchy fail the character test:

    “Nothing discloses real character like the use of power. It is easy for the weak to be gentle. Most people can bear adversity. But if you wish to know what a man really is, give him power. This is the supreme test.” – Robert G. Ingersoll

    Reply
  3. Loras Michel
    Loras Michel says:

    A very enlightening article to contemplate deeply. Not being free themselves, carefully hiding behind closed doors under heavy guards, and trapped within the false security of dogma, some of our Bishops will do anything to prevent anyone else the means to enjoy the freedom which true authenticity entails and which Jesus invites us to. A heart that is
    filled with self loathing, perhaps around these very issues, and a false ego cannot have compassion for the welfare of others whose heart is open.

    Bishop Georg Bätzing holds a key that might unlock that prison gate. Gosh that takes courage. Prayers and love that the Synodal Way proceeds smoothly under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

    Reply
  4. Tom Bower
    Tom Bower says:

    I note the names of US hierarchy members who spoke out against Synodality and the potential for welcoming LGBT individuals into the Church are no longer really exercising authority because of age or a general view of them as missing the Spirit of Christ who welcomed everyone to the family of God. They really have a rock blinding themselves. I pray they open their hearts to the healing grace of the Holy Spirit.

    Reply
    • Loras Michel
      Loras Michel says:

      I love your reflection Tom. The beauty of old age and death for all of us is that it cleanses the universe and gives space for the fresh healing wind of the Spirit to make all things new. The Resurrection of Jesus necessitated the importance of first dying so as to give birth to new life. Roll away the stone so that light can enter. Perhaps these old men still have time to witness the light as the Spirit is always willing and can bring about a change of heart otherwise impossible for man alone.

      Reply

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