Archbishop Cordileone supports Archbishop Aquila’s call for repentance for German synodal path

Archbishop Cordileone Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco | CNA

The Archbishop of San Francisco has publicly supported Archbishop Aquila’s response to the German bishops’ “synodal path.”

In his open letter dated May 13, Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver had warned about the fundamental text produced by the first forum of the German Catholic Synodal Path, saying that it advances “untenable” views of the Church.

On Wednesday, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco stated his support for Archbishop Aquila’s letter.

“We are all in Archbishop Aquila’s debt for such an extraordinary, reasoned, and theologically rich response to the German bishops’ ‘Synodal Path,’ which proposes a radical transformation to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Church he left us,” stated Cordileone on Wednesday.

Archbishop Cordileone said Aquila’s letter “reminds me of the forthright way St. Paul spoke to the Corinthians, Galatians, Thessalonians and others.”

Aquila, in his May 13 letter, had called on bishops to be the first to “repent and believe” even as they call the world to do the same. While his letter was dated on the feast of the Ascension, he released it on May 26, the feast of St. Philip Neri. It is a 15-page commentary on the German synodal path text.

The German bishops’ “Synodal Path” includes bishops and lay people, and addresses four major topics: how power is exercised in the Church; sexual morality; the priesthood; and the role of women.

While the German bishops initially said the process would conclude with a series of “binding” votes, the Vatican told the bishops their plans were “not ecclesiologically valid.”  The process began on Dec. 1, 2019, and is expected to end in February 2022.

Some critics of the process have expressed concerns that it could conclude with certain positions contrary to the Church’s teaching and discipline on the ordination of women and intercommunion.

While the synodal path text rightly mentions the Church’s “crisis of credibility” due to the recent sex abuse scandals and coverups, the Church’s response must include clarity about its teachings, Archbishop Aquila said.

“If the Church is unwilling to tell the truth with prudence and courage about matters of discomfort to her own leaders, why should the world trust the Church to tell the truth on matters of discomfort to the world?” he wrote.

On Wednesday, Cordileone agreed and called the German bishops’ vision of the Church a “radical rupture.” He said the bishops’ text “describes a Church that will be grounded not in Christ’s eternal Truth, but instead preeminently conditioned by the world.”

Archbishop Cordileone cited Aquila’s letter that such a church proposed by the synodal path text would be “comfortably accepted by it [the world] as one respectable institution among others.”

“Archbishop Aquila reminds us of the words of Pope Francis, ‘The Successor of Peter, yesterday, today and tomorrow, is always called to strengthen his brothers and sisters in the priceless treasure of that faith which God has given as a light for humanity’s path’,” Archbishop Cordileone said.

“Yes.  Let us remember above all our first love, Christ crucified,” he added.

Archbishop Aquila also offered criticisms of other parts of the German text.

“Even in the Church, legitimate views and ways of life can compete with each other even in core convictions,” the text stated. “Yes, they can even at the same time make the theologically justified claim to truth, correctness, comprehensibility, and honesty, and nevertheless be contradictory to each other in their statements or their language.”

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Archbishop Aquila responded that such a claim is “remarkable...if only for its incomprehensibility.”

“It is difficult to know how to comment on it, for such a candid rejection of the law of non-contradiction is already its own reductio ad absurdum,” he added. “Despite lip service to the authority of Scripture and tradition, it is evident that the Synodal Assembly’s interpretive approach is sufficiently malleable to strip them of any truly decisive content.”

He warned that the text revealed “deeper maladies” in its view of Church authority.

The text has “an astonishing paucity of references to the Gospels,” he said.  The Church’s hierarchical nature was the “manifest intention of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit themselves,” he said, and is “outside the competence of the Church, in Germany or elsewhere, fundamentally to alter it.”

The Church’s hierarchy is not purified through a worldly system of checks-and-balances, but through “penance and the sincere pursuit of holiness,” he continued.

The text wrongly demands that the Church be “easy to grasp and efficient, designed for its effectiveness and able to be used without causing harm,” he wrote.

“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,” Aquila wrote.

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