Vatican City, Sep 18, 2019 / 15:00 pm
This week, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the German bishops’ conference, travels to Rome. There he will meet with Cardinal Marc Ouellet, head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, to clear up some “misunderstandings” about the German bishops’ intended synodal process.
The stakes of the closed-door meeting are high.
The German bishops seem poised to press ahead with plans for a “synodal assembly,” despite criticism of the plan from Curial offices and the pope himself. The matter seems likely to escalate into an open conflict between the Apostolic See and one of the most influential bishops’ conferences in the global Church.
Marx first announced the “binding synodal path” earlier this year. In addition to creating a new Synodal Assembly in partnership with the Central Committee of German Catholics, the bishops intend – indeed have already begun – a review of universal Church teaching and discipline on a range of sensitive matters, including sexual morality, the role of women in offices and ministry, and clerical celibacy.
Critics say the German plan disregards, or defies, the universality of teaching and discipline that makes the Catholic Church catholic.
In June, Pope Francis wrote a letter to Germany Catholics offering a corrective to their bishops’ plans. He warned against a “new Pelagianism” and the temptation to “adapt” the Church “to the spirit of the age.”
Most specifically, the pope warned the German bishops against striking out on their own. Communion with the whole Church, he said, and respect for the hierarchy, are vital to any authentic understanding of synodality.
“Every time an ecclesial community tried to resolve its problems alone, trusting and focusing exclusively on its forces or its methods, its intelligence, its will or prestige, it ended up increasing and perpetuating the evils it tried to solve,” he told the Germans.