The archbishop warned that this approach makes divine revelation captive to “endlessly protean hermeneutics of ‘dialogue’.” This should be contrasted with “the authentic understanding of dialogue articulated by Vatican II and developed by the post-conciliar popes.” For Aquila, the text’s reinterpretation of the Church’s teaching office corresponds to “explicit, radical doctrinal relativism.”
According to Aquila, the fundamental text’s interpretation of the Second Vatican Council documents is “selective and misleading” and works “to prop up untenable views of the nature of the Church, her relationship with the world, and her foundation on divine revelation.” These views are “impossible” to reconcile with a full understanding of the Council and result in a vision for the Church that risks abandoning Christ, the one who has “the words of eternal life.”
Despite the synodal assembly’s apparent emphasis on process and dialogue, Aquila said, the assembly “believes itself not only competent but duty-bound to make binding decisions for the Church” and to break through “blockading discourse.”
“The Synodal Assembly in fact proposes truly radical revisions of the structure of the Church and of her understanding of her mission,” he said. The fundamental text’s proposals are based on “a partial and tendentious account of the origin and nature of the ordained ministry” that is at odds with the Church’s own understanding.
On the issue of women’s ordination, Aquila said the text implicitly questions the distinction between the priesthood of the baptized and the ministerial priesthood. The text’s approach “seems calculated to undermine the definitive and permanent character of the Sacrament of Holy Orders.”
The archbishop specifically cited the fundamental text’s call to re-evaluate the teaching of St. John Paul II that the Church is unable to ordain women to the priesthood. He doubted the text’s claim that there are “new insights” that question this teaching’s coherence.
Aquila thought the trends of the fundamental text showed symptoms of “deeper maladies” linked to its view of authority in the Church.
While Lumen gentium, the Second Vatican Council’s dogmatic constitution on the Church, “could hardly be more forceful in its restatement of the doctrine of direct episcopal succession from the Apostles and of this succession’s divine institution,” the fundamental text hardly acknowledges this and shows “an astonishing paucity of references to the Gospels.”
The hierarchical nature of the Church, in Catholic teaching and in the Second Vatican Council, is taught to be the “manifest intention of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit themselves,” said Aquila, and it is thus “outside the competence of the Church, in Germany or elsewhere, fundamentally to alter it.”
This hierarchical nature is for the sake of the whole Church, and this means that Church structures of authority are not simply a power that can be balanced or checked by others to ensure good governance, as some worldly models would advise. Rather, these structures and those in the hierarchy must be purified through “penance and the sincere pursuit of holiness,” in Aquila’s words.
For Aquila, the German synodal text reinterprets the Church in “remarkably anthropocentric terms,” such as its belief that because the Church is a “sign,” it must “be understood” and “must speak the language of its recipients.” While the Christian message begins from common ground, the archbishop said, eventually people are “confronted with the otherness of the transcendent God, whose thoughts are not our thoughts and whose ways are not our ways” but has invited us to become practiced in “the Lord’s way of speaking.”
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The fundamental text “badly misconstrues” the Church as an instrument for mankind, in its demand that the Church, as the German assembly says, “must be easy to grasp and efficient, designed for its effectiveness and able to be used without causing harm.”
“The Sacraments—and much less the Church!—are not our ‘instruments’. They are God’s instruments, for he alone is the principal efficient cause of all the graces mediated through the Church and the Sacraments,” said Aquila.
While the German synodal assembly has noted in passing that many Catholics who leave the Church are displeased with Church teaching on same-sex relationships and divorce and remarriage, and some Catholic bishops in Germany have called for changes on these matters, Aquila said he would refrain from discussing these topics which appear to be reserved for the synodal path’s second forum.
At the same time, he reaffirmed his commitment to Pope Francis’ teachings in his 2016 apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia on outreach and accompaniment for those who have suffered broken family relationships or who show a homosexual orientation.
“The Church has a sacred obligation to proclaim God’s love for every human being, a love so great that he sent his Son to save the world,” said Aquila.
The synodal assembly, Aquila argued, wrongly avoids the dynamism and tension between the Church and the world. It seems to see the Church as “equally beholden” to both “the demands of the Gospel and the standards of a pluralistic, open society in a democratic constitutional state.”