The third General Assembly of the Synodal Path, initiated in Germany in 2019, was held from February 3-5, 2022 in Frankfurt am Main. 213 synodal members were gathered there to continue discussing the texts prepared by the synodal forums and to begin to vote on some of them.
Even before the beginning, the pressure has been continuously mounting due to the interventions of certain members or groups, such as the “Maria 1.0” group of extremely critical feminists, complaining about the inefficiency of the synodal process. Others are demanding more or less radical reforms, like Cardinal Marx preaching for the abolition of priestly celibacy.
During the press conference, it was no longer pressure, but blackmail that arose from the very table of the Presidium, which brings together the president of the German Bishops' Conference (DBK), Bishop Georg Bätzing , the vice-president of the DBK, Msgr. Franz-Josef Bode, the president of the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), Irme Stetter-Karp, and its vice-president, Thomas Söding.
Mrs. Irme Stetter-Karp thus underlined that the ZdK would interrupt the synodal assembly if the basic text or the text of action produced by the synodal forum “Power and separation of powers in the Church – common participation and sharing of the mission” were not adopted by the necessary majority of two-thirds of the bishops. In fact, a double majority is required for the adoption of a text: that of the Synodal Assembly and that of the group of bishops.
The Presidium's Orientation Text
A first vote adopted a “binding” text – which, in fact, means that the bishops will undertake to put it into practice. At second reading, 178 of the 213 participants voted in favor of the orientation document, the draft of which had been presented by the presidium. In the special vote of the bishops present, 41 voted in favor and 16 against. The text thus obtained the required double majority.
The 20-page text is titled “On the Path to Conversion and Renewal” and outlines theological foundations and criteria for future decisions. The most important sources for Christians are therefore the Bible, tradition, the magisterium, theology, as well as the “signs of the times and the sense of faith of the people of God.”
In point of fact, it is a revolution – and a theological aberration. From now on, sociological and political evolution, as well as the sensus fidei, taken in an ultimately “statistical” sense, will be able to change the interpretation of revelation. The consequences are immediate and will be noted in the following lines.
Power in the Church
The second text submitted to a vote on Thursday was also adopted by the plenary assembly. The basic text of the Forum, “Power and separation of powers in the Church – Common participation and sharing of the mission” received 178 favorable votes, representing an 88% approval rate.
With 74 percent of the bishops’ votes, the text also obtained the required two-thirds majority of the bishops as well as the equally required majority of two-thirds of the non-male voters (92 percent), who were also evaluated separately by following a request.
The document positively pays homage to the “norms of a plural and open society in a democratic rule of law” – even if the Church is fundamentally different from opinion-forming processes in society. The central term for the Catholic Church should therefore be “synodality.”
It is not difficult to understand that synodality here is synonymous with democracy, and with democracy in the modern sense of the term. In other words, all decisions should be made democratically, or at least be able to be controlled by voting.
Priestly Celibacy Under Discussion
The Synodal Path on the Future of the Catholic Church in Germany has adopted by a large majority an initiative aimed at relaxing the rule of celibacy for priests. The synodal assembly of Frankfurt adopted Friday in first reading, with nearly 86% of the votes, a document which invites the leaders of the Church in Germany to present proposals in this sense to the pope.
A second reading of the text with a compulsory vote is expected during the fourth synodal assembly in the fall.
The text, titled “Celibacy of Priests – Strengthening and Opening,” emphasizes the value of celibacy as a way of life for priests. But at the same time it asks for the authorization, by a pope or by a council, for married priests in the Roman Catholic Church. In addition, it has requested that the pope give the right to Catholic priests to marry and remain in office.
Several speakers criticized the positive assessment of the form of life without marriage contained in the text and asked that the risks and secondary effects of celibacy be named in a more critical manner.
However, the “signs of the times” are directly opposed to Holy Scripture and to all of tradition that has always elevated consecrated virginity above marriage. All the same, it is appalling to see individuals already schismatic in many positions, allegedly debating in the name of the Church and asking, even demanding, the destruction of the revelation of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Accountability at All Levels
The reform project of the Synodal Path aims to promote trust and transparency. This would require putting in place “regular accountability procedures.” The DBK and the ZdK should draw up corresponding framework of regulations.
If there is an obligation to report from the parish priest to the bishop and from the bishop to the pope, then it would be logical that such a provision also exists for the relationship between the parish priest and the parish. If the respective councils vote by a two-thirds majority against the parish priest or the bishop, they should submit their resignation – nothing less than that!
The text of action was adopted in first reading with approximately five-sixths of approval and transmitted to the power forum of the synodal way for the continuation of the work.
The Admission of Women to the Priesthood
In a vote described as historic by the participants, the Synodal Path voted by a large majority for the admission of women to the ordained ministries. The Assembly, meeting in Frankfurt, debated in first reading a basic text along these lines.
The document deals with gender equality in the Catholic Church and stresses that “it is not the participation of women in all the services and ministries of the Church which must be justified, but the exclusion of women from the sacramental ministry.” In addition, two action texts were adopted by a clear majority.
They plead for a female diaconate as well as for the creation of a commission under the aegis of a future national synodal council, which will have to consider the theme of the “sacramental ministry of the people of all sexes.” In addition, the German bishops must also bring this concern to the world synod initiated by Pope Francis.
The Election of Bishops
There should be more co-decision rights when electing Catholic bishops in Germany. The Synodal Assembly of the Synodal Path agreed on this point on Friday evening in Frankfurt am Main. At second reading, 177 participants (88%) voted in favor, 24 voted against and 6 abstained. Among the bishops present, 42 voted for (79%) and 11 against.
Changes in Catholic Sexual Morality
By a large majority, the Assembly declared itself in favor of modernizing the sexual morality of the Church. Concretely, it is a question of modifying the declarations on contraception as well as on homosexuality in the catechism. At first reading, two corresponding documents obtained a majority.
One of the two action texts recommends that the pope carry out a “doctrinal clarification and reassessment of homosexuality.” Real-life same-sex sexuality is not a sin and “should not be judged as inherently wrong,” according to the document.
“As homosexual orientation is part of the identity of man as he was created by God, ethically, it should not be judged differently from any other sexual orientation,” adds the text. This has consequences for those employed by the Church.
This is why the synod members asked that the blessing celebrations be possible for all couples. Homosexuals and civilly remarried divorcees should be able to have their relationship blessed by the Catholic Church. The participants agreed on Saturday in Frankfurt, at first reading, on a proposal along these lines.
Finally, and as a consequence for Church employees, a text of action pleads that civil marriages of same-sex couples or divorced persons no longer be grounds for dismissal for Church employees. This echoes the demands of the Out-in-Church movement, which sponsored the simultaneous “coming out” of 125 Church personnel in Germany.