Did the Vatican ‘snub’ German bishops over Synodal Way?
Facing the German bishops in Rome, Nov. 18, 2022: Cardinal Luis Ladaria Ferrer SJ, Prefect of the Dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, and Cardinal Marc Ouellet PSS, Prefect of the Dicastery of Bishops (from left). | Vatican Media
Pope Francis meeting with the German bishops at the Vatican, Nov. 17, 2022 | Vatican Media
German Bishops at Mass in the Papal Basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls during their visit in Rome, Nov. 17, 2022 | Daniel Ibáñez / CNA
Cardinal Reinhard Marx and fellow bishops from Germany meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican, Nov. 17, 2022 | Vatican Media
Bishop Georg Bätzing and ZdK president Irme Stetter-Karp at the "Synodal Way" assembly in Frankfurt, Germany, Sept 8. 2022 | Synodaler Weg / Maximilian von Lachner
On Saturday, a president of the German Synodal Way accused the Vatican of “snubbing” German Catholics.
Irme Stetter-Karp is president of the Central Committee of German Catholics and co-president of the Synodal Way.
In a statement released Nov. 19, the laywoman said that the “fundamental criticism of the Synodal Way” raised last week by the Vatican “not only snubs the German bishops, who overwhelmingly consider reforms necessary. It also disregards the impatience of many Catholics with their Church.”
Sixty-three German bishops were in Rome last week for talks with Pope Francis and the Roman Curia.
A joint statement issued by the Holy See and the German Bishops’ Conference on Friday spoke of dialogue and patience — but otherwise showed there was little agreement between the Vatican and the German prelates over the process that has raised worldwide concerns and warnings of a new schism coming out of Germany.
‘Catholic in a different way’
The German Bishops’ Conference president, Bishop Georg Bätzing, told journalists at a press conference Saturday morning that there was no departure from Catholicism intended. Instead, he said, supporters of the Synodal Way wanted to remain Catholic, “but we want to be Catholic in a different way.”
Bishop Stefan Oster of Passau was one of the first bishops to speak out after the visit to Rome.
He emphasized that there had been “no concessions at any point” to the German process.
Oster also noted the absence of Pope Francis at the Friday meeting, “contrary to our expectation and contrary to the first announcement.”
The fact that the pope did not participate in the meeting with Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and the heads of some other dicasteries — despite being announced originally — was seen by the president of the German Bishops’ Conference as a positive.
Grateful for lack of clarity
Bishop Bätzing, of Limburg, said: “The pope is a clever Jesuit. He let us wrestle with one another as brothers.”
Bätzing said some German bishops had sought “clarity” over controversial resolutions of the Synodal Way, asking questions to get “clear answers” to questions, in the sense of “is it possible or not?”
Bätzing said: “And there was no clear answer. I am grateful for that.”
Though the Roman Curia might once again summarize “its objections, its concerns” of the German process, the Synodal Way had made its decisions, also concerning a permanent Synodal Council, Bätzing added.
The Vatican intervened in July against such a body, warning of a threat of new schism from Germany.
Bishop Oster on Friday said the Vatican prefects, especially Cardinal Luis Ladaria, who heads up the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Dicastery for the Bishops, had “made it very clear that, on the one hand, they want to continue to be in dialogue with the bishops in Germany, as well as about the decisions and results of the Synodal Way in Germany.”
At the same time, Oster said, he “did not perceive any concessions at any point, but rather clear opposition from both of them” on the essential issues. These included, Oster said, moral teaching and the role and structure of the Church.
AC Wimmer, a multilingual Australian with Bavarian roots, is the founding Editor-in-Chief of CNA Deutsch. Launching his journalism career in a Munich daily in 1992, AC has since become a global news executive and broadcaster. He's held senior roles at Australia's SBS and served as editor-in-chief of the historic Münchner Kirchenzeitung. A holder of degrees in Philosophy and Chinese Studies from the University of Melbourne, Anian Christoph Wimmer — Chinese name 刘威猛
— sat on the jury of the Catholic Media Award of the German Bishops’ Conference, is a former Honorary Research Fellow in Communications at the University of Melbourne and has served on the Board of Caritas in Munich.
A Vatican cardinal has defended himself against the accusation by the president of the German bishops’ conference, Bishop Georg Bätzing, of making a “totally unacceptable gaffe” over remarks regarding the German Synodal Way.