The Arbeitskreis Christliche Anthropologie - Working Group on Christian Anthropology - an association of German anthropologists, philosophers, theologians, and Catholic journalists, issued a manifesto in the face of the drifting Synod Assembly of the Church of Germany.
The protest in Germany is spreading fast against the Synodal Path, which held its Second General Assembly from September 30 to October 2. After the alternative site, created by Bishop Voderholzer and supported by Cardinal Kasper, a new critical site has appeared on the web.
The Working Group for Christian Anthropology (ACA) is a free initiative, not tied to any public or religious institution, in which Christians who love anthropology, ethics, philosophy, theology, and journalism open a place of debate.
The group's website reads like this:
“The debate on new paths for the Church in Germany is in full swing: why are so few people allowed to speak out? Why can't priests get married and women become priests? Who will be blessed, who will not and why? Does sex still have something to do with marriage? With all of this, where is God and my personal faith?”
“We ask, together with you! We love the Church and we want to develop it. The reform process needs a fresh start and new perspectives! Do you want to know more about the passionate debates of the Synodal Path? Do you want to know alternative theological and philosophical points of view?”
The ACA published a manifesto which warns against the very serious drift of the German Synodal Assembly and proposes theses for a real reform. The preamble explains:
“As Catholic Christians, we acknowledge the necessity of foundational reform for our church. However, there has never been genuine and deep renewal without repentance and the life changing rediscovery of the Gospel. It is for this reason that the so called ‘Synodal Way’ in Germany falls short of the conditions for genuine reform.
“In its fixation on external structure, the Synodal Way misses the heart of the crisis; it violates the peace in congregations, abandons the path of unity with the universal Church, damages the church in the substance of its faith and paves the way towards schism.” That is clear.
ACA offers nine alternative theses
The legitimacy of the Synodal Path, which the manifesto completely calls into question, on a canonical level - it is not a true synod - and on the level of representativeness, which has been biased by the massive intrusion of the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK)—referred to without being named. It even speaks of a “‘secular’ redistribution of power” which implies an “internal secularization of the Church.”
The very way of approaching this reform, which it considers to be necessary, ignores the interior aspect, which must always come first.
The link with the universal Church and with the Pope is dangerously relativized. It suffices to remember the opposition to the document of the Congregation for the Clergy on the organization of parishes, the blessing of homosexual unions and the insistence on asking for the ordination of women.
The fact is that the management of sexual abuse cases by the hierarchy served as a pretext to initiate a reform of the power structures of the Church. The Group says it does not want “a church of functionaries with a bloated apparatus and permanently installed chatter,” even if it concedes the need for a greater place for women and the laity in general.
As for the place of women, the Manifesto feels obliged to state that “women should not be second class people in the Church.” But it underlines the contempt of the Synodal Path for the Ordinatio sacerdotalis declaration affirming that “the Church has no authority whatsoever to ordain women as priests, and that all the faithful of the Church have to adhere to this decision that is binding for all times.”
Faced with the proliferation of sexual unions opposed to the faith of the Church - divorced and remarried, cohabitation, premarital relations - the authors assert that the Synod Assembly seeks to conform the doctrine of the Church to current trends in the world.
The ACA notes that the Synod Path “exaggerates this perspective of mercy and pastoral concern for the salvation of all people present in Amoris Laetitia through its disregard of sin.” “The tendency is to proclaim ‘a right to sexual intimacy for all,’ that obstructs the fruitful complementarity of the sexes in God’s order of creation and undermines the normativity of marriage.”
The Manifesto explains that “the Synodal Path obscures this specific calling of the priesthood by marginalizing it theologically and strategically. It does so systematically trying to promote theologically qualified lay people into substitute positions of the priesthood. We reject that kind of lobbyism and oppose both the secularization of priests and the clericalization of lay people.”
Finally, the ACA believes that the crisis of abuse in the Church is being exploited for bad purposes: “One can rightly speak of 'abuse of abuse’ here, because sexual abuse has been used in the Synodal Path to enforce unrelated goals and positions in the Church. This has led to an irresponsible distortion of a debate in dire need of the greatest care and caution.”
The Manifesto adds relevant explanations on this point. Thus, it is ignored whether other types of churches - hierarchical or not - are affected to a similar extent by abuse. The reaction to the abuse has been transformed into a proxy war, which is really about the demands for a liberal church program.
Turning the guns of the innovators against them, the authors say this attitude reveals that synod members care more about their image than about the victims. The Synodal Path and its proposals have not broken, but rather reinforced this attitude. But the logic of ecclesial self-preservation leads here, not to real reform, but to ecclesial atheism.