“It is not a question of generically extending the invitation to Communion to all non-Catholic Christians.”
He noted that canon law permits non-Catholics to receive Communion on certain occasions, as long as they fulfill a number of conditions.
“We must undoubtedly continue the theological dialogue on the importance of the Eucharist and Holy Communion. And fortunately, there are already clear convergences in recent years,” he said.
Asked what kind of decisions the Synodal Way would be able to make, the bishop said that all participants were responsible for its conclusions.
He commented: “The binding implementation will, depending on the topic, be up to the Holy See and/or the local bishop. I repeat again: the Church in Germany is an integral part of the universal Church. This is beyond dispute and is evident in a great many areas. And so it will continue to be.”
“That is why we will proceed on the basis of the principle of subsidiarity by evaluating, within the framework of the Synodal Way, which steps we as a local Church can freely regulate and decide. And we will make a distinction between these steps and what is possible only in unity with the Universal Church.”
He expressed confidence that the Synodal Way would not result in failure but “lead to decisions that will help ensure that faith can once again be an option for people, and the Good News of the Gospel acquire meaning and strength in people’s lives.”
He added: “We must not stop looking for credible ways to proclaim the Gospel today. I remain confident.”
Chad Pecknold, associate professor of systematic theology at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., told CNA that in his latest comments Bätzing was “proposing the impossible.”
“He holds an erroneous view of what ‘doctrinal development’ means, arguing that the Church must be brought ‘up to date’ with progressive social norms,” he said.
“The Church cannot bless sin, and it cannot change eternal truths which Christ delivered once for all. What Bishop Bätzing is hoping to ‘develop’ amounts to nothing less than a different ecclesiology. It is not a Catholic ecclesiology, and it is not a new ecclesiology he proposes, but one which resembles Liberal Protestantism.”
He continued: “That he stands in such open defiance of Pope Francis, and the Faith Itself, should be evidence enough that Bätzing’s ‘Synodal Way’ is really not a ‘way forward’ but a way out of communion with Rome.”
Asked in the interview if the Synodal Way could serve as a model for Catholics in other countries, Bätzing referred to Pope Francis’ “historic” 2015 speech, in which he said that God expects the Church of the third millennium to take the “path of synodality.”
Bätzing said: “Well before the Church in Germany, Australia took this path, followed by other bishops’ conferences, I'm thinking of Ireland, the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM) and even us. The Italian bishops’ conference is considering how to follow a similar path.”
“You see, this is not a ‘German’ phenomenon but an interesting and valuable development of the local Churches -- each with its own particular traits -- within the community of the Universal Church.”
“Whether the Synodal Way is only a phase or whether it can become a permanent form for the life of the Church, this will be indicated to us by the Spirit of God, to whom we have entrusted ourselves by taking this path.”