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