The big story: German Catholics divided on synodal path

German 'synodal way' participants meet in Frankfurt (CNS)

What happened?

German Catholics have publicly clashed as the two-year “synodal way” begins.

Cardinal Rainer Woelki said that the synodal way, a two-year series of discussions, had confirmed “all my fears”.

The cardinal told domradio.de: “We witnessed the implementation of a de facto Protestant church parliament.”

Tim Kurzbach, chairman of the Archdiocese of Cologne’s diocesan council, accused the cardinal of “destroying the authority of his episcopal office”.

What German Catholics said

Critics of the synodal path say that it aims to undermine, and possibly reject, settled Catholic teaching. More than half of the delegates are lay people; of the total of 230 delegates, 94 have been appointed by the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), whose members have frequently questioned Church teaching on questions such as women’s ordination and sexual ethics.

Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck of Essen told the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung last week: “Personally, I can now believe that women will become priestesses.”

Fr Hans Langendörfer, the secretary of the bishops’ conference, said last month in an interview with the Bonn General-Anzeiger that “there is no ban on speaking about the priesthood of women” in the synodal path. Last week five bishops proposed new rules, including that the synodal path could not vote through resolutions which contradicted Catholic teaching. But their proposals were rejected in a vote.

Cardinal Gerhard Müller told LifeSite: “In a suicidal process, the majority decided that their decisions are valid even if they contradict Catholic doctrine.” The cardinal said that the composition of the synodal path – 52 per cent lay people and only 30 per cent bishops – contradicted the bishops’ own sacramental authority to teach and govern.

Meanwhile, priests from the group Communio Veritatis issued a statement saying the synod organisers “want a church other than the one founded by Christ”. They described the synodal path as a “pseudo-theological disaster full of falsehood and lies”.