The final session of the German synodal journey, a great reflection on the future of the Catholic Church, is being held from Thursday March 9 to Saturday March 11 in Frankfurt. This is the closing of this ecclesial consultation launched in 2019, following the trauma in the Church of Germany after the revelations on the extent of sexual abuse.
This process, which has metamorphosed into progressive reform, worries Rome. In Germany, it is rather the fear of a status quo that dominates, raising fears of the disappearance of the Catholic institution in the country, prey to a massive haemorrhage of the faithful.
The subjects on the agenda of this final meeting have given rise, since Thursday, March 9, to tense debates between a majority, favorable to these developments, and a minority, critical.
On the menu of this last assembly, are discussed, in addition to the prevention of abuse, topics as diverse as sensitive. It is about the “celibacy of priests: strengthening and opening”, “women in services and offices” or “women in sacramental ministries”, “celebrations of blessing for couples who love each other” (homosexuals, divorced) or ways of “dealing with gender diversity”.
“My Church deserves that we do not simply leave it as it is now,” said Bishop Georg Bätzing, President of the German Bishops’ Conference in the opening remarks of this last session. “The changes we seek are intended to help the Church once again better fulfill her mission: to be a bridge, a sign and a tool for God’s encounter with men. This will lead the faithful to broader horizons and greater freedom,” the Bishop assured.
For this final session, the members of the Plenary Assembly voted Friday, March 10 in favor of the participation of women in homilies and asked the pope to evaluate the obligation of celibacy for priests. They must then decide, among other things, on a text proposing to authorize the blessings of divorced and remarried couples and homosexual couples.
where to shock
In 2018, the publication of an independent report on sexual abuse committed over the past fifty years and on the coverage of abusive priests by bishops sent shock waves among Catholics.
The German episcopate then launched, in March 2019, a synodal path to include the laity in the reflection. This consultation brings together 277 members in the Plenary Assembly: the 62 German bishops, lay people elected from the Central Committee of German Catholics and representatives of Catholic organizations in the country.
The working groups are responsible for drafting texts submitted to the vote of the members of the Plenary Assembly. To be accepted, they must in particular obtain the votes of two-thirds of the episcopate.
The discussions focus on four themes: distribution of powers, place of women, priesthood today and sexual morality. However, from the first sessions, a strong desire for global structural reform had emerged, with no direct link to the crisis of abuse, on subjects such as the ordination of women, the modification of the catechism on homosexuality or intercommunion with the Protestants. “Progressive” and “democratic” orientations that arouse Rome’s concern about the unity of the Church.
As early as June 2019, in a “letter to the people of God on the march in Germany”, the pope warned German Catholics against the “temptation” to stick to “purely structural reforms”. Francis also insists on the need to “restore priority to evangelization”.
Within the German Church itself, tensions are emerging between progressives and conservatives. Four lay women resigned at the end of February and denounced in a column in the daily Die Welt, the “questioning” and the “sometimes complete redefinition of the essential foundations of Catholic theology, anthropology and practice of the Church”. , fearing that “the Church in Germany is becoming more and more distant from the universal Church”.
Leave a Reply