The legal opinion of the Pontifical Commission for Legislative Texts, sent to the Germans by Ouellet, concluded that the bishops seem intent on convening a particular council “without using the word” as a means of passing binding resolutions without Roman approval.
A council differs from a synod in that, with Vatican approval, it is able to make new policies for the Church in a particular reason.
But Marx said Germany’s plans are not for a council, or even a synod in the traditional sense, but something unique and not anticipated by canon law.
“The Synodal Way is a sui generis process,” Marx wrote. “The draft statutes should therefore by no means be read and interpreted through the lens of canonical instruments such as a plenary council. It is not a Particular Council!”
The cardinal’s letter also insisted that the Vatican legal assessment is based on a draft of the German plans which “has long been outdated” and had since been “further developed in July and August.”
The version of the statutes passed by the German bishops’ executive committee on Aug. 19 was obtained and published by CNA.
While Marx noted that the statutes include a recognition of the authority of both the diocesan bishop and the episcopal conference, Article 2 of the current statues say that the Synodal Assembly “has deliberative power.”
Despite Marx’s insistence to Ouellet that the statutes underwent further changes in August, CNA has obtained internal documents from the German bishops’ conference that show that the statutes most recently voted on by the executive committee, were drafted Aug. 1 and remained unchanged through the end of that month.
CNA has confirmed with officials at both the Congregation for Bishops and the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts that the Vatican was already in possession of the most recent draft of the German synodal statutes by the time Ouellet’s letter was sent to Marx on Sept. 4.
The current version was also considered by Marx to be sufficiently finalized that he instructed conference officials to prepare authorized translations of the statues in various languages following the Aug. 19 meeting. Senior conference officials told CNA that it is the intention of the German bishops to create an example which can be “exported” to other parts of the world.
The results will be “helpful for the guidance of the universal Church and for other episcopal conferences,” Marx wrote.
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The text of Marx’s letter was released to German media over the weekend, appearing in Frankfurter Allgemeine on Saturday.