Rich shepherds, poor sheep (EN)

The Synodal path taken by the German bishops increasingly resembles the path taken by Luther in his days. The Vatican is doing all it can to limit the damage, but Germany does not seem to be giving an inch to Rome.

Rome's major moves followed the German bishops' decision in 2019 to move forward with the Synodal Path, an effort initially prompted by revelations of sexual abuse of priests and cover-ups. But as the time for change gained momentum, attention shifted to a list of proposed "binding" reforms that, if approved by the German bishops, would conflict with Church teaching on homosexuality, ecumenism, Church order, and the ordination of women to the priesthood. Such a move by the Church in Germany could lead to a schism with Rome, to a Reformation 2.0.

Deeply concerned about this change of direction, Pope Francis wrote a letter to the German Church in June 2019, warning that if they continued on this course, their approach would result in "multiplying and feeding the evil it sought to overcome." In September 2019, Cardinal Marc Ouellet (Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops) wrote to the then President of the German Bishops' Conference Cardinal Reinhard Marx, saying that the decisions of the Synod Assembly have no binding authority. Cardinal Marx did ignored the instruction and informed Rome that the meeting will take place as scheduled. Other subsequent warnings from the Vatican were similarly ignored.

On March 15, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published a responsum ad dubium on same-sex unions, clearly stating that priests are not allowed to bless these partnerships. The statement and the accompanying note were approved for publication by Pope Francis. The ruling is widely interpreted as an attempt to curb Germany's reform programme. The statement was openly criticised by the participants of the Synodal Way. Meanwhile, the recently published "Fundamental Text", the document that reflects the deliberations in Germany, has caused further concern, as the authors of the document claim that "there is no single truth of the religious, moral and political world, and not a single way of thinking that can claim ultimate authority".

In a response, George Weigel concluded that the German bishops had reached the point of "apostasy". The question arises whether it is wise for the Vatican to let the Synodal Way play out to its end before taking further steps. Meanwhile, it is becoming increasingly clear what the bishops' positions really are. The shepherds who are supposed to lead the flock are letting themselves be led less and less by The Good Shepherd. The urge to reform Church teaching and practice in accordance with secular ideologies that question the very reality of truth, and redefine the Apostolic Tradition of the Church as an oppressive system that unjustly favours a male hierarchy and clergy, is becoming more and more apparent. In this context, Scripture and Tradition become subordinate to the process of the Synodal Way, which seeks to create its own binding truth.

The Church in Germany is the richest in the world thanks to the national 'Kirchensteuer' (in 2020 it amounted to 6.7 billion euro!). The Church behaves as if it represented a class rather than the interests of the Church, an elite class that is rich and has liberal demands that they want to please. The bishops feel obliged to that class, it seems.  The irony is that this is happening under a pope who wants to be a pope for the poor.