The Synodal Path to a German National Church (6): Benedict XVI’s Reaction

November 30, 2019

The German Episcopal Conference (DBK) and the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK) will begin a “synodal path” on Sunday, December 1, 2019. Previous articles have shown that its foundations are distorted and that the aims pursued by the ZdK are revolutionary. This situation was denounced by the former Pope Benedict XVI in April.

Before intervening in the debate on the foundations of the synodal path as understood by the DBK and the ZdK, Benedict XVI had noted the deficiencies of contemporary German Catholicism, particularly the action of the ZdK, in a speech he gave before its central committee on September 24, 2011, on the occasion of an apostolic trip to his native country (September 22-25, 2011).

Meeting with the German Catholic Laity

In this speech, Benedict, while he was still pope, used the idea of ​​“immersion trip” as a guideline. This concept consists of having “leaders from the fields of politics, economics and religion live among the poor in Africa, Asia,” or even Europe. This experience provides lessons that are more difficult to learn in developed countries.

The Pontiff continued to explain that if this program were carried out in Germany, “they would find much to admire here, for example the prosperity, the order and the efficiency. But looking on with unprejudiced eyes, they would also see plenty of poverty: poverty in human relations and poverty in the religious sphere.” This poverty is the fruit of a diffuse relativism, engendering an exacerbated individualism.

And the former pope, an astute expert on Catholic reality in his own country, added with pertinence: “The Church in Germany is superbly organized. But behind the structures, is there also a corresponding spiritual strength, the strength of faith in the living God? We must honestly admit that we have more than enough by way of structure but not enough by way of Spirit. I would add: the real crisis facing the Church in the western world is a crisis of faith. If we do not find a way of genuinely renewing our faith, all structural reform will remain ineffective.”

These lines well describe the ZdK: an imposing machine—handling a budget of 2.5 million euros—and an important representation because of the personalities that compose it and their links with political parties. But faith appears nonexistent, as manifested by the ZdK demands to participate in the synodal path.

The Reaction of the Pope Emeritus

On April 11, 2019, the German former pope published a text in which he spoke about the abuse-of-minors crisis, which is at the origin of the decision of the DBK to launch the synodal path. The analysis of the genesis of this event helps to arrive at a better understanding of the motivations of Benedict XVI. This text has already been presented in FSSPX.News. Its content should be reviewed.

This document begins with an investigation into the causes of the abuse crisis, such as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was able to analyze them as the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a privileged observation post. His analysis contrasts sharply with the MHG report commissioned by the German Bishops’ Conference, as well as with other presentations that were made, notably on the occasion of the summit convened in Rome by Pope Francis in February 2019.

The first cause can be found in the social context of the liberation of morals: “in the 1960’s an egregious event occurred, on a scale unprecedented in history. It could be said that in the 20 years from 1960 to 1980, the previously normative standards regarding sexuality collapsed entirely.” And he recalled on this subject the onset of pansexual demands and the promotion of pedophilia.

A second cause is connected to the revolution in moral theology and Church teaching on matters of morality. Benedict XVI writes: “Until the Second Vatican Council, Catholic moral theology was largely founded on natural law, while Sacred Scripture was only cited for background or substantiation. In the Council’s struggle for a new understanding of Revelation, the natural law option was largely abandoned, and a moral theology based entirely on the Bible was demanded.” By his own admission: the Council is responsible for the abandonment of the natural law. Hence the endless downward slide into moral relativism.

A third cause, finally, is the rejection of the magisterium of the Church, which is no longer recognized as infallible in matters of morality. This leads to the belief that “the Church does not and cannot have her own morality.” From then on, everything—or almost everything—is possible.

Catastrophic Ruptures

For the former pope, the causes he brought to light led to three essential ruptures. A rupture in formation in the seminaries: “as regards the problem of preparation for priestly ministry in seminaries, there is in fact a far-reaching breakdown of the previous form of this preparation.”

This breakdown in formation made it possible “in various seminaries [for] homosexual cliques [to be] established, which acted more or less openly and significantly changed the climate in the seminaries.”

A rupture in the recruitment of bishops: In that atmosphere of moral collapse, Joseph Ratzinger also admits that the implementation of the Council resulted in the elevation to the Church’s hierarchy of pastors who were inadequately formed for their tasks. Concretely, “a criterion for the appointment of new bishops was now their ‘conciliarity’, which of course could be understood to mean rather different things. Indeed, in many parts of the Church, conciliar attitudes were understood to mean having a critical or negative attitude towards the hitherto existing tradition.”

A rupture in canon law: This is where Benedict XVI finally directly addresses the issue of pedophilia and the inadequacy of the means to repress it that were provided by the new Code of Canon Law, promulgated in 1983. This passage is particularly instructive: “The question of pedophilia...did not become acute until the second half of the 1980s.” The bishops, “sought help, since canon law, as it is written in the new (1983) Code, did not seem sufficient for taking the necessary measures.”

At the source of this weakness, “there was a fundamental problem in the perception of criminal law. Only so-called guarantorism,  [a kind of procedural protectionism], was still regarded as ‘Conciliar’. This means that above all the rights of the accused had to be guaranteed, to an extent that factually excluded any conviction at all...[The] right to defense by way of guarantorism was extended to such an extent that convictions were hardly possible.” This judicial prejudice, deliberately inserted into the law, actually leads to, in its reasoning, the protection of the abusers.

A Courageous Diagnosis

The text is courageous and diagnoses the abuse crisis much better than the MHG report. It remains insufficient because it devotes itself more to the symptoms of evil than to their poisoned source: the Second Vatican Council and its adaptation to the world. However, it has the merit of suggesting three rarely mentioned aspects:

- The question of abuse, even if it is not new, has clearly increased in the post-conciliar period. The Council is guilty in two ways: by having broken down the barriers which protected doctrine and morals; and by having provoked a shameful laxity in the recruitment, formation, and protection of priestly vocations and of clergy, while society became more and more permissive.

- The spirit of the Council and the reform of canon law have made it more difficult to punish the guilty by inflicting just sanctions on them. Laws had existed before, more or less applied, but they were replaced by insufficient laws that the authority itself had to circumvent.

- The errors on the Church, her magisterium, her law, and her divine constitution, provoked or permitted all the deviations that have invaded the Church today.

The Synodal Path

These findings make it possible to make a judgment on the genesis and the announced goals of the synodal path in Germany.

Its premises are distorted. Wanting to show, through the MGH report, that abuse is a constant in the Church, and that it is thus linked to the very structure of the Mystical Body that is the Church, is an deception. First and foremost, the problem is the lack of holiness in the clergy. The Church has certainly experienced other periods when this holiness was sorely lacking. These periods of clerical decadence generally ended as a result of reforming councils which reestablished doctrine, piety, and discipline, while Providence aroused holy bishops and holy priests to show the way of renewal. On the contrary, far from a springtime of the Church that the Second Vatican Council announced, the crisis of the clergy has become worse than ever.

The synodal path uses revolutionary means. The triple power in the Church resides in the magisterium (teaching), orders (sanctification), and jurisdiction (laying down laws and judging offenses). By the divine will, as revelation teaches, they are united in the bishop and, at their highest power, in the pope. They are therefore inseparable, even if some superiors only exercise one or the other. That is why it is not for the laity to judge and decide matters of faith and morals.

Finally, its aims, as expressed by the ZdK as the condition of its participation, are incompatible with the Catholic faith. Wanting to separate the triple power, or to confer the priesthood on women is absolutely impossible. To claim that these questions are open is already to fall into error.

This “path” comes out of heresy and leads to heresy. It shows that the Church of Germany is already in schism and that it would like to be granted the prerogative to remain there, while trying to set an example for those who would be tempted to follow. It remains to be seen what Francis, the supreme pastor, will do for these lost souls.