Imposed problems, lack of competence on the part of delegates appointed on questionable criteria, biased votes – recent testimony has tarnished the image of the German Synod, which was meant to represent the face of the Catholicism in Germany.
The president of the German Bishops' Conference (DBK) probably could have done without this new stone thrown in his garden. On an ad limina visit to Rome, Bishop Georg Bätzing aimed to explain to the sovereign pontiff his concerns about an alleged “lack of understanding” of the synodal process on the part of the Vatican: a task made more difficult by the intervention - probably calculated – from a group of German intellectuals.
An Elite Opposed to the Synodal Path
Neuer Anfang, or New Beginning, brings together eminent lay people who, far from being traditionalists, are none the less frightened by the abuses of the German Church which walks briskly and shamelessly tramples the infallible teaching of the Church and her divine Constitution.
One of the members of this group, Hanna-Barbara Gerl-Falkovitz, director of the European Institute of Philosophy and Religion at the Philosophical and Theological University Heiligenkreuz in Austria, winner of the 2021 Ratzinger Prize, explains how the train of the synod went off the rails. It is a first-hand testimony, since the philosopher herself took part in the synodal meetings.
“I was nominated after the ‘normal’ nominations, when it became clear that only specific opinions were desired. Some bishops insisted on appointing up to 20 people from outside the official mainstream,” says Mrs. Gerl-Falkovitz.
What we came to understand, intuitively, was that the dice were loaded from the start, and that the organizers of the synod wanted to impose the most transgressive themes. But our philosopher was not finished with her surprises: “The problems appeared clearly during the first session in the spring of 2021. The first wishes already concerned having homosexuality accepted, and unlimited access for women to the sacrament of Holy Orders.”
Incompetent Political Delegates
Progressive projects only remained to be passed by relying on the shortcomings of the union delegates. Regarding the ZdK, the Central Committee of German Catholics, partner of the Episcopal Conference for the synod, Mrs. Gerl-Falkovitz recognizes its usefulness in the political representation of German Catholics, but not for a reform of the Church.
Thus, the members of the ZdK “are far from having all the skills required in theology as many come from the business world, or from Catholic organizations specializing in social issues: none in fact represent German Catholics, since they were not chosen by that part of the population,” specifies the German academic.
But, she continues, “after the abuse crisis of 2018, I have the impression that the bishops felt helpless and desperately sought help from the laity. The problem is the rule [of votes]: one man, one vote, regardless of theological ability, practice and devotion, and regardless of ordination or vows.”
The academic first points to the permanent structure, composed of clerics and lay people, envisaged to supervise the dioceses. “This permanent ‘Council’ poses a great problem: it is absolutely impossible to see how the laity could be legitimate theologically to lead the dioceses with the bishops. Church law and Catholic tradition are strictly opposed to this concept.”
She also notes that the text of the recognition of homosexuality as a “gift of God,” although refused by the vote of the bishops, will be taken up by some of them in their diocese, resulting in the blessing of same-sex couples, and their participation in the service of the Church.
The Pope Must Speak
For the academic, it is time for Rome to “recall the red line not to cross,” because “the ideas of the German synodal path could act like a virus that spreads throughout the Church.”
“I wrote to the Pope personally,” she adds. “He should speak clearly. So many people in Germany do not understand his judgment and have become uncertain. They yearn for clarity. He should speak clearly. His opinion is missed by many people in Germany, who are perplexed, as they yearn for clarity.”