From Thursday September 8 to Saturday September 10, 2022, the fourth and penultimate assembly of the German Synodal Path took place in Frankfurt, which was an opportunity to measure the determination of part of the Church of Germany to go to the end of a schismatic process.
During the first day, a dramatic change occurred, with the rejection of the text on sexual morality, thanks to the refusal of 21 bishops who voted against the text and represent enough of a minority to block the text, as reported in the previous article.
A Concert of Lamentations
After the rejection of the text of which each proposal is in turn more scandalous, a concert of lamentations rose on the second day, Friday, September 9, complaining about this refusal. Several bishops have expressed their disappointment.
Msgr. Heiner Wilmer, Bishop of Hildesheim, recognized that this is a setback for the reform projects for the Church. “I voted in favor of the basic document on the reform of Catholic sexual doctrine and I am very upset that the two-thirds majority of bishops was not reached,” he said.
He shares the disappointment of many Catholics at the text’s failure to pass during the vote on Thursday evening. The reform of the sexual doctrine of the Church is and remains an essential subject according to him. “The rejection of the basic document by a minority of bishops does not change anything,” he continues, and he made the assurance that he will continue to commit to a renewal of Catholic sexual morality.
A Benedictine nun went so far as to speak of “self-excommunication” of the bishops concerned! This term was firmly rejected by one of them who was supported by Bishop Georg Bätzing, president of the German Bishops' Conference (DBK) and co-president of the Synodal Path.
A Text Contrary to Catholic Doctrine and Discipline
In the evening, after many disturbances linked to the negative vote, the assembly resumed its march towards the abyss. A document, entitled “A re-evaluation of homosexuality in the Magisterium,” proposed for a second reading, was adopted by a large majority: 92% of the delegates and 83% of the bishops approved it.
It is an “action” text, therefore intended for practical purposes. It is based on the text rejected the day before, which posed a problem that was perceived by some, but brushed aside by the presidency.
Comprising only three pages, in this text, “The Synodal Assemble recommends that the Pope conduct a clarification and re-evaluation of homosexuality in the Magisterium.” It is asserts that “same-sex sexuality – also practiced in sexual acts -- is thus not a sin that separates a person from God, and it is not to be judged as bad in itself.”
Concretely, it calls for a revision of the catechism, stating in particular that “ ‘homosexual acts’ must be deleted from the Compendium’s list of ‘principal sins against chastity.’” In addition, “the Church should confess that She has caused people suffering and violated their dignity in many places through Her teaching and practice in relation to homosexuality.”
And “homosexuality is not a disease. So-called ‘conversion therapies’ are therefore to be rejected.” And finally, “no person should be prevented from taking up church offices and becoming ordained as a priest, and that no person who is in the service of the Church should suffer disadvantages in their career because of having a homosexual orientation.”
The justification put forward is based on the evolution of mentalities and human sciences. “The re-evaluation of lived homosexuality proposed here embarks on a path that seeks to build bridges between the Church’s existing teaching and tradition towards a further development.”
Amendment of the Basic Order of Church Service
In Germany, there exists the Basic Order of Church Service in the Framework of Church Employment Relationships, which regulates the hiring, treatment, and dismissal of personnel employed by ecclesiastical institutions.
This regulation provides, along with provisions concerning the quality of work, and measures based on the moral life of the employee. In particular, it provides that a disordered moral life is grounds for dismissal. The text adopted in second reading by the Assembly of the Synodal Path, as well as by the bishops, aims at abolishing these provisions.
In the name of human dignity and the evolution of public opinion, “the Basic Order should in future no longer permit decisions in favor of a form of partnership that is legal as being in breach of the loyalty obligations, and accordingly, prevent a person from being recruited into the service of the Church or bring about the termination of an existing employment relationship.”
In addition, “a non-discrimination clause should be inserted into the Basic Order prohibiting church employers from failing to recruit a person on the basis of his or her gender identity or choice of a legal form of partnership, or from dismissing a church employee on such grounds.”
Finally, “the regulations concerning the Missio canonica should be amended in the same way.” The same applies to the procedure for granting the Nihil obstat. However, it is specified for this last point that, “as a universal Church matter, they are to be altered along universal Church lines.”
In other words, the document opposes any sanction or discrimination in the hiring of remarried divorcees or homosexual couples.
Finally, the second day ended with the adoption of the basic text of the Third Forum, on the equal rights of women in the Church. Adopted at second reading by 92% of the delegates and 82% of the bishops, the text demands the equality of women in all positions of responsibility and access to ordained ministries.
It should be noted in the introduction that “the institutional, official form of the Church is to be shaped at all times,” which directly opposes the divine constitution of the Church.
The way to achieve this is then outlined: “This absolutely must include reflecting on the different theological positions from the perspective of gender equality, entering into a close exchange with the social sciences, cultural studies, and human sciences, and constructively taking up their reflections on gender theory.”
The writers also sought their inspiration in the theology and practice of the Orthodox, as well as the Reformed… not forgetting the famous Würzburg Synod. They contest Church tradition and question the final decisions on the exclusion of women from ordained ministries.
The Assembly of the Synodal Path was thus reassured: the revolution is advancing, and the schism – not to say heresy on certain points – is consolidating in hearts and practical dispositions.