It’s hard to generalize about American Catholics’ perceptions of the Synodal Path, which vary.
Quite a few are troubled or alarmed by the ideas they hear reported as coming from the Synodal Path. The letter is not about the behind-the-scenes dimensions of the process in Germany, about which most Americans know little, but about the content of the published Fundamental Text, which seems in places impossible to reconcile with the deposit of faith that bishops are to safeguard.
As the Holy Father wrote to the German bishops, it is necessary to "recover the primacy of evangelizing," rather than pursuing unnecessary - and also damaging - changes in the teaching or in the structure of the Church” (Letter, June 29, 2019).
CNA: Do you fear that a similar process could be started in the U.S.?
Archbishop Aquila: It is hard to see anything quite like the German Synodal Path happening in the U.S. as there are a very different set of dynamics here. In any case, also here in the U.S. we are called to be attentive and prudent. I want to reaffirm fidelity to the Holy Father, and I am eager for the next couple of years of reflection on the meaning of authentic Catholic synodality. Prayer, the Gospel, the Cross, a biblical understanding of authority and power resting in Jesus and faithfulness to the Gospel must be at the heart of the discussion.
CNA: You also wrote: "Although the financial impact of the abuse scandals on the Church has been severe, this should not be the primary motivation for reform. To the extent that such consequences are just, they are not to be deplored, but should be received as from the hand of the just God." Do you have the impression that money plays too big a role for the Church in Germany?
Archbishop Aquila: That line was not directed at Germany in particular but to every local Church that has been affected by scandal. It’s about responding to scandal with genuine humility, honesty, and repentance—seeking first the kingdom of God, the will of the Father, and remembering that we cannot serve two masters. The scandals came about for many reasons, but at the heart was a lack of the love of God and neighbor and an incoherent life of faith.
CNA: The Catholic Church is in a particularly serious crisis in Germany at the moment. Where do you see possibilities to face this crisis?
Archbishop Aquila: We just celebrated Pentecost, and Pope Francis has reminded us that the Holy Spirit can always bring renewal. Trust in Jesus, in his word, and remember your first love. Praying for renewal of the whole Church, including the Church in Germany, and of course here in the US. It’s God’s Church, not ours!
Pope Francis reminded us in his Angelus of March 22, 2015, “For this reason, to those who, today too, ‘wish to see Jesus’, to those who are searching for the face of God; to those who received catechesis when they were little and then developed it no further and perhaps have lost their faith; to so many who have not yet encountered Jesus personally…; to all these people we can offer three things: the Gospel, the Crucifix and the witness of our faith, poor but sincere.
The Gospel: there we can encounter Jesus, listen to Him, know Him. The Crucifix: the sign of the love of Jesus who gave Himself for us. And then a faith that is expressed in simple gestures of fraternal charity. But mainly in the coherence of life, between what we say and what we do. Coherence between our faith and our life, between our words and our actions: Gospel, Crucifix, Witness.” We would do well to heed the Holy Father’s words!
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