German bishops’ leader expresses disappointment in Pope Francis

Bishop Georg Bätzing, chairman of the German bishops’ conference, meets with Pope Francis at the Vatican, June 24, 2021 Bishop Georg Bätzing, chairman of the German bishops’ conference, meets with Pope Francis at the Vatican, June 24, 2021. | Vatican Media.

The chairman of Germany’s bishops’ conference on Sunday expressed his disappointment with Pope Francis, insisting that “the teaching of the Catholic Church” must be “changed,” especially concerning homosexuality and the role of women.

In a May 22 interview, Bishop Georg Bätzing expressed his “disappointment” in the pope, adding: “But in the sense of a deception,” reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

Bätzing used the close-sounding German words Enttäuschung (“disappointment”) and Täuschung (“deception”).

Explaining what he meant by this, the bishop said: “The pope, even in the Catholic Church, even with all the powers vested in him, is not someone who could turn the Church from its head onto its feet, which is what we would like.”

Bätzing added: “He is doing what he can. Namely, he is initiating a process where all these questions are put on the table. For the 2023 world synod and for questions, so to speak, like ‘Are groups allowed to participate, are LGBTQ allowed to participate?’ he always says: everyone.”

In the wide-ranging interview with national state broadcaster Deutschlandfunk, the bishop of the Limburg, western Germany, said: “I believe that in the final realization of what our image of God and man is, discrimination against homosexuals, people living in relationships, for example, should not be framed as a prohibition, but as a possibility that is encountered in an appreciative way.”

Bätzing also said that on the matter of ordaining women to the Catholic priesthood, he wanted to “maintain a balancing act in such a way” that he could say what the Church’s teaching is, but at the same time recognize that “this teaching no longer finds acceptance among the faithful, not only in a social context, among the faithful.”

“The sensus fidelium, that is, the sense of the faithful, has moved on,” Bätzing said. “This is a sign that we must take up theologically and that leads to change. And that’s what I’m committed to. So, I don’t sit in the armchair and say ‘this is the way it is now,’ but I really give a lot of my strength to achieving this. And I believe that change is going to happen.”

Bätzing acknowledged that he personally knew another prominent prelate whose public departure from the Catholic Church last week made headlines around the world.

The former priest Andreas Sturm, who was vicar general of the Diocese of Speyer, had also called for a change of the Church’s teaching on homosexuality. Announcing his departure from the Church, Sturm cited frustration over a lack of changes to Church teaching in a number of areas, especially sexuality and the ordination of women.

Asked whether he would contemplate a similar step, Bätzing replied that he would also consider turning his back on the Church altogether if he “got the impression that nothing would ever change.”

“However, I have the impression that a lot is changing at the moment,” the 61-year-old bishop said.

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