The German Synodal Path Widens into a Schismatic Road

February 25, 2021
Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck, president of the 1st forum

The progress of the German Synodal Path is being disrupted, like many other events, by the health crisis. However, some of the planned meetings are happening slowly but surely. Thus, the 1st synodal forum completed the text which will be examined in the general assembly: this document proposes a total subversion of the divine constitution of the Church.

As a reminder, four forums had been formed in the preparatory phase, to prepare working documents that would serve as a basis for synod forums - or synod commissions. Thus, during the first meeting of the Synodal Path in December 2019, and especially during the second, in January 2020, the assembly elected the members of the forums - or synodal commissions.

These were tasked with preparing, from the working documents, the texts that would be presented to the assembly for discussion before being put to a vote. The work of the first forum, entitled “Power and the separation of powers in the Church,” has been completed.

This text has been published in German, as well as in English. The Pillar site has obtained a copy of this latest version. The result is unfortunately no surprise.

A Revolutionary Will

The editors faithfully followed the recommendations of the MHG inquiry, commissioned by the German bishops to investigate the abuses. This independent inquiry, carried out by academics, had reach a conclusion regarding the need to reform the structures of the Church, which is responsible, according to the authors, at least in large part, for the crisis of abuse, as well as the crisis of confidence which followed.

The goal is given with the outline of the text: “to renew the order of power, and above all the structure of leadership of the Catholic Church, by greater participation of all the faithful.”

This proposition is explained several times. In this way, “governance must always be co-determined by those who are ruled,” which implies that “ecclesiastical decision-makers be elected, and that they be regularly confronted with elections in which the powers granted to them can be confirmed or delegated to others.”

Distorted Theological Tools

In an attempt to give theological legitimacy to what follows, the authors explain the theological foundations on which they are based. This passage is very instructive.

“At the beginning of all tradition there is no text and no doctrine, but a living encounter that is transmitted through communication.” Here we have a marked case of immanentism. Revelation is not a truth revealed by Jesus Christ and transmitted by his Church, it is a communication - of what nature? - in a “living” encounter - the preferred word of the immanentists.

This tradition “takes place in dialog: through the whole Church—today one would say: by virtue of the (con-)sensus fidei fidelium—, through the institutions of the ecclesiastical magisterium, which have been set up differently in the course of history, through outstanding holy persons, through theology.” This means that, developed in the consensus of the faithful, and sanctioned by an authority which endorses it, Tradition is formed over the centuries, a true reflection of its time.

If a reader of this article has read the encyclical Pascendi by Pope Saint Pius X before, they should be rubbing their eyes. This is, almost word for word, one of the elements condemned by the Holy Pontiff. But it is not finished.

The text continues: “In addition to these ecclesiastical authorities, already in the 16th century “other” external authorities (loci alieni) were named, as we would say today, independent of revelation, which contribute to the understanding of revelation: human reason, philosophy and history; today supplemented by human consciousness, the cosmos of science, social and cultural developments, insights of ecumenical dialog and other cultures and religions.”

The editor refers to the traditional treatise “of theological places - loci in Latin,” which classifies the documents resulting from Revelation, indicating their place in the work of theology. Sacred Scripture and Divine Tradition come first. The writings of the Fathers, the texts of the councils, and other sources follow. Human reason, philosophy and history can only provide assistance, to help to better understand divine Revelation.

It is therefore surprising that human consciousness presents itself. The author forgets to say that it has been denounced in Pascendi [no.8]. As for saying that science, social developments, ecumenical dialogue, other cultures and religions can be considered as theological places, is to absolutely confuse the natural order and the supernatural order. It is to claim that these purely human values ​​can enlighten us on the intimate life of God and His grace.

With such premises, everything is to be feared. 

The Revolutionary Program

The starting principle follows from the foregoing: “the Church can no longer specify its mission independently of the forms of thought of its time and culture and its secular responsibility.”

The aim is presented as follows: “The goal is to guarantee the shared responsibility and participation of all the faithful in both deliberative and decision-making processes and to communicate them anew with the special ministry of bishops and priests.” The point is driven a few lines later: “If the practice of the Church prevents good structures of shared power and shared responsibility, this practice must be changed.”

In other words: “Restrictions on access to the Church's ministries must be dismantled.” And so that there can be no mistake as to what it is about, it is specified: “This includes a separation of powers appropriate to the Church, in which executive, legislative, and judicial powers are precisely distinguished so that power is controlled and limited.”

“The necessary changes affect all the basic functions of the Church (liturgy, witness, diakonia), in which the community of the Church (communio) is expressed, at all levels of action (local, regional, national, universal), not least in Church legislation, administration and jurisdiction.

The most enlightening words may be found a little further on: “canon law needs further development inspired by the biblical witness and by the recon-ciliation of the living Tradition of the Church with the principles of democratic societies.”

In other words, the model is democratic society, the model on which the new structure of the Church should be based. All that follows is only a development of this principle considered as the living tradition of today, fruit of the consensus of the faith of the faithful.

Challenging Divine Right and the Teaching of Christ

The text does not hesitate to confront institutions of divine right. It thus claims that all the faithful share the three munera—the three functions entrusted by Christ to the hierarchy of the Church: government, teaching, and sanctification.

That is why “it is also necessary to readjust the constitutional structure of the Church in order to strengthen the rights of the faithful in the governance of the Church.” That is not governance. 

“No one has the competence to decide single-handedly on the content of faith and principles of morality.” This is not what Catholics believe.

“Access of women to ordination,” so much for sanctification.

These three propositions are purely and simply heretical. They attack the sacred hierarchy, given by Jesus Christ Himself to His Church. They contest papal infallibility, defined by the First Vatican Council. And in the end, they attack the dogma which reserves sacred ordination to men only.

The Church of Germany is objectively in schism. This conclusion has already been stated in the series of articles devoted to the establishment of the Synodal Path. It has since been taken over by some mitered heads. But how did we get to the current situation?

The Infocatolica website reveals that a “senior official of the Congregation of Bishops of the Vatican told The Pillar last Sunday that his congregation is aware of the document, which is now under review at the Apostolic See.”

He adds that “the congregation has already intervened to remind the German Bishops’ Conference of the nature and limits of authentic synodality, in accordance with the letter the Holy Father himself wrote on the question.”nHow does this congregation hope to stop a process that has been allowed to gain momentum? One has only to remember how the intervention of a Roman congregation was brushed aside by Cardinal Gerhard Marx in September 2019.

Today, whatever Rome does, a considerable part of Germany is lost to Catholicism. If Rome allows it, the votes will ratify the proposals, and reforms will begin in the German dioceses. If Rome intervenes in a strong way—and how would it do that?—the result will be the same, perhaps worse.

The expectations are so high, the goal seems so close to being achieved, many Germans are so convinced that they are the new Messiah for the Church, that nothing can stop them. And what will the bishops do?

Without forgetting that Rome itself, led by the Pope, sends signs which can only encourage the Synodal Path. The appointment of women to positions of high responsibility in the Vatican is one of its demands. The continuation of the Roman commissions on the female diaconate is explicitly exploited in the analyzed document, to show that the way is not closed for the female priesthood. Rightly so.

The Pope said, during one of his “flying magisteriums” on September 10, 2019: “I pray that there is no schism, but I am not afraid,” admitting moreover that one can happen. The schism is already there, and the Pope is doing nothing.

Dr Claudia Luecking-Michel, co-chair of the 1st forum