News Analysis

Overlooked: German bishops to discuss morality

What happened?

Cardinal Reinhard Marx has announced that the German Church will start a “synodal process” to discuss – along with priestly celibacy and “clerical power” – moral teachings. He said that doctrine on sexual morality must acknowledge recent academic developments. The process could lead to a “binding” outcome.

Why was it under-reported?

The announcement seemed almost designed to be dull: a “synodal process” is something bishops often talk about. The other topics of discussion are also very familiar: priestly celibacy is likely to dominate the Amazon synod later this year, and “clerical power” has been a common theme of Church debates over the past year.

But given that many voices in the German Church hold radical views on doctrinal matters, the synod could turn into a direct challenge to Catholic teaching.

What will happen next?

Expect controversy. The working group on “sexual morality” will be headed by Bishop Franz-Josef Bode, who made waves last year when he said that the Church should “consider a blessing” for same-sex couples.

Some German churchmen will speak up for Catholic teaching. Cardinal Walter Brandmüller recently said: “Some bishops, especially in the field of morality, have expressed views that are diametrically opposed to Scripture. But in doing so, one removes oneself from the very foundations of the Church’s existence.”