The role of the ZdK as co-equal participants with the German bishops was identified as a point of special concern in a Vatican assessment of the German synodal plans. A review of a draft of the synodal statutes was produced by the Pontifical Commission for Legislative Texts in August and sent to the German bishops by Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.
The PCLT concluded that the German plans would essentially form a particular council – a canonical body which can, though only with explicit Roman approval, legislate and teach authoritatively – instead of a synod, which is a purely consultative body. The commission also concluded that the German synodal plans created a "parliamentary" forum for treating universal Church teaching which was "ecclesiologically invalid" and sought to address topics which "cannot be the object of the deliberations or decisions of a particular Church without contravening what is expressed by the Holy Father."
After meeting with Pope Francis and Cardinal Ouellet last week, Cardinal Reinhard Marx insisted that the German "binding synodal process" could not be properly classified as either a council or a synod, but should be understood as something unique. Matthias Kopp, spokesman for the German bishops' conference, later insisted that while the synodal process is said to be "binding," this is not meant to imply any Church figure would be bound by the synodal conclusions. "Binding means it is a vote," not simply a discussion, said Kopp.
After approving their own version of the statues, the ZdK president and vice president will meet with the head of the German bishops' conference, Cardinal Marx, and Bishop Franz-Joseph Bode, vice chair of the conference. This group of four will consider and reconcile any changes between the statutes for the Synodal Assembly as approved by the two groups, and agree upon a final version before the Assembly is due to convene on at the beginning of Advent.
Senior Churchmen in Germany also confirmed to CNA that, regardless of any changes proposed by the Central Committee and agreed by Marx and Bode, there is no intention to seek Vatican approval for the final version.
A senior source in the German bishops' conference confirmed to CNA that the ZdK is expected to make changes "only on a very minor scale," but confirmed that it will be up to Cardinal Marx to determine whether the rest of the German bishops will be involved in approving the final version agreed upon with the ZdK leadership.