In June, Pope Francis wrote to the entire Church in Germany about the bishops' synodal plans, warning them against a "new Pelagianism" and trying to "adapt" the Church "to the spirit of the age."
On Saturday, Marianne Schlosser, a theologian appointed by Francis to the International Theological Commission and the committee assigned to study the historical role of female deacons, said she was pulling out the German synodal process.
Scholesser said she was ending her participation in the German synodal forum on the role of women in Church ministries and offices, calling the process "fixated" on the ordination of women to the priesthood.
"We must see what the German's vote on this week," a second official at the Congregation told CNA Monday morning. "For the moment, Marx asks that we not to believe our eyes when we read the [draft] statutes."
While Marx has attempted to assure Vatican officials that the "binding synodal process" first announced earlier this year will not be "binding," the German bishops' conference has also assured the Central Committee of German Catholics that resolutions passed during the assembly will become normative in Germany.
Asked about the apparent contradiction between Marx's assurances to Ouellet, and both the draft synodal statutes and the "guarantee" given to the Central Committee, both officials at the Congregation said they are waiting for a clear indication from the German session this week.
"If you are asking if Cardinal Marx will say one thing in Rome and another in Germany, perhaps," the senior official told CNA. "[But] we know there will be a text and a vote, and we will see then what the fact is."
However, both officials told CNA, Marx's insistence to Ouellet that the Synodal Assembly would have no actual ecclesiastical power could limit the Vatican's scope to intervene.
"The insistence that the synod is not a synod but an open forum for discussions creates difficulties to intervene," one official noted. "We must see what the mechanisms are to conclude the discussions."
Since meeting with the pope last week, Marx has – according to multiple sources in Rome and the German bishops conference – told several German bishops that Francis said he was "unaware" of the Sept. 4 letter from Cardinal Ouellet, in an effort to reassure them that the synod would not meet with opposition from the pope.
A senior official at the Congregation for Bishops told CNA that there is "no question" that the pope had been sent the letter and legal assessment sent to Marx.
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"All of this was done on behalf of the Holy Father – it is because of his concerns, in his [June] letter, that it was written at all."
The official told CNA that "It cannot be said what the Holy Father said to Cardinal Marx in private, no one knows but him."
"Though," he noted, "if the Holy Father said [to Marx] that he was happy with the German plans to continue, Cardinal Marx would share that statement, I am sure."