On Oct. 1, 168 participants out of a total of 214 voted in favor of a document challenging traditional Church teaching on sexual morality following its first reading.
Synodal Forum IV’s text on “Living in successful relationships” calls for the development of blessings for same-sex couples.
CNA Deutsch reported that the forum’s chairman Bishop Helmut Dieser of Aachen argued that the evaluation of sexuality should in future begin “from the person,” rather than natural law.
The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) declared in March that the Church does not “have the power to give the blessing to unions of persons of the same sex,” outlining its reasoning in an explanatory note and accompanying commentary.
The Vatican statement, issued with the approval of Pope Francis, sparked protests in the German-speaking Catholic world. Several bishops expressed support for blessings of same-sex couples, while churches displayed LGBT pride flags, and a group of more than 200 theology professors signed a statement criticizing the Vatican.
Priests and pastoral workers in Germany held a day of protest in May during which they conducted blessing ceremonies attended by same-sex couples.
On Sept. 30, the synodal assembly’s opening day, participants voted by a narrow majority of 95 to 94 to discuss “the question of whether the priesthood is needed at all,” CNA Deutsch reported.
But at the closing press conference, Bätzing criticized media reports suggesting that the Synodal Way would be debating the “abolition” of the priesthood.
“No one can say that the German Church is going to do away with the priesthood. That is not true,” he insisted, arguing that the vote instead gave the synodal forum on priesthood a mandate to “positively recall the reasoning once again why and where the position of the priestly ministry is in the midst of God’s people.”
While the synodal assembly voted to discuss the necessity of the priesthood, the Synodal Way’s complex procedures mean it is unclear whether there will be an official debate on the topic.
In the run-up to the Synodal Way, the German bishops’ conference clashed with the Vatican after it initially suggested that the process would end with a series of “binding” votes -- raising concerns in Rome that the resolutions might challenge Church teaching and discipline.
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CNA Deutsch noted that Germany’s bishops will be under no obligation to implement the Synodal Way’s resolutions in their dioceses.
It added that it remained uncertain how Pope Francis and the Vatican would respond to direct challenges to Church teaching.
Pope Francis addressed concerns about the Synodal Way in an interview with the Spanish radio station COPE aired on Sept. 1.
Asked if the initiative gave him sleepless nights, the pope recalled that he wrote an extensive letter that expressed “everything I feel about the German synod.”
Responding to the interviewer’s comment that the Church had faced comparable challenges in the past, he said: “Yes, but I wouldn’t get too tragic either. There is no ill will in many bishops with whom I spoke.”
“It is a pastoral desire, but one that perhaps does not take into account some things that I explain in the letter that need to be taken into account.”