Synodal Quotes – A Transparency Offensive by the Initiative of the Catholic Laity Neuer Anfang (New Beginning)

Facing the debates and papers on the so-called German „Synodal Path“, there is great concern among Catholics, not only in Germany, that a fragmentation or even a schism of the Catholic Church in Germany from the universal Church is taking place.

Moreover, the German debate will not remain without effects on the universal Church and will flow into the deliberations of the worldwide synodal process initiated by Pope Francis. This makes it all the more important that everyone knows what is actually being voted on in Germany. Numerous concerned letters and warnings from bishops and cardinals to the confreres in Germany, but also from Rome and Pope Francis himself, already testify to the growing concern. Mostly, they have not received answers or only euphemistic and appeasing words.

Indeed, many bishops and officials like to quieten suspicions in the media: After all, they are all just „suggestions“; it is an „open process“ and a „dialogue;“ the Pope, of course, has the last word; it is not about wanting to separate oneself from the universal Church.

However, most bishops agreed with texts that undermine the magisterium of the Church and the episcopal power and destroy the Church’s continuous teaching on Christian anthropology („created as man and woman“), love, marriage, and sexuality.

Moreover, the Committee even announced that it did not want to respect the voting result rejecting the foundational text on Forum IV, „Life in successful relationships.“ After the paper, which scandalously raises homosexual and bisexual practice moral-theologically to the rank of a norm variant of human sexuality, was brought down by 21 courageous bishops in the vote, several bishops declared – contrary to any synodality and also against any understanding of democracy – they would nevertheless continue to orient themselves in their dioceses to the rejected proposal.

Bishop Georg Bätzing single-handedly announced that he would nevertheless introduce the text into the worldwide synodal process and submit it during the ad-limina visit of the German bishops in Rome.
We ask: What is the point of debates and votes on the Synodal Path if every „unwanted“ result is ignored
even by the president of the German Bishops‘ Conference?

Very few Catholics in Germany, let alone worldwide, have worked their way through the piles of paper presented and decided in the name of a much-quoted „reform“ and under the pretext of pursuing the reappraisal of the abuse scandal. Although the desires of „the faithful“ and their wishes for reforms are allegedly discussed there, very few Catholics participate in this debate, which is mainly pushed forward by Church officials. Quite a few Catholics in Germany also consciously turn away because they want nothing to do with it and are not heard anyway.

At the same time, there is disagreement in the media and public discourse – also and especially among theologians – about the question of what is being decided at the Synodal Path. Whether this is still compatible with Catholic doctrine or whether the supposed reform project „Synodal Path“ maneuvers the German Church into a schism.

Transparency by original quotations

As an initiative of the Catholic laity, we have decided to bring light into the darkness of the countless foundational and implementation texts. We have written a compilation of the essential topics and quotations from the orientation text and all four forums of the Synodal Path for you and all interested parties. Everything has been translated into several languages. (Spanish, English, Italian). You will find the texts below under this link in the respective languages available for download. We let the texts speak for themselves, which brings more clarity and transparency than the media interpretations that circulate and are widely disseminated. Just read for yourself what is really decided on the German Synodal Path!

Dear Bishops and Cardinals, we ask you: Read the summaries of the original quotations from the decisions of the German Synodal Path and, if you consider it necessary, give your view on it. As Catholic laity in Germany, we want to preserve the unity of the universal Church and ask for your prayers and support.

Your initiative „Neuer Anfang“ (New Beginning) from Germany.

Below you will find the 5 documents each as full text expandable on the homepage and as PDF download under the links. Yes, you are welcome and encouraged to share it!

Download „Synodal quotes from orientation text“ (PDF)
Download „Synodal Quotes from Forum 1“ (PDF)
Download „Synodal Quotes from Forum 2“ (PDF)
Download „Synodal Quotes from Forum 3“ (PDF)
Download „Synodal Quotes from Forum 4“ (PDF)

Orientation text of the Synodal Path
„On the Path of Conversion and Renewal. Theological Foundations of the Synodal Path of the Catholic Church in Germany“

 (Decision of the Synodal Path at the Third Synodal Assembly on February 3rd, 2022)

The supreme magisterium of the Church has presented the binding doctrine on revelation in the dogmatic constitution on divine revelation Dei Verbum of the Second Vatican Council, considering the entire tradition, namely the Council of Trent and the First Vatican Council. The presentation of this doctrine is not a dogma in the formal sense but enjoys the highest binding character as an act of the supreme magisterium and as a testimony to the continuous teaching tradition.

An architecture of theological epistemology that reflects this binding character results from this presentation by the magisterium.

In general, it can be said that the Synodal Path’s orientation text dissolves this architecture and fundamentally shifts it. The pragmatics of the text reveal the goal of this tectonic shift: It is about the preparation of the revision of Christian teaching, in which sources of revelation (“history”, “signs of the times”) are being made prominent, which lie beyond the eschatologically final and complete revelation of God in Jesus Christ (cf. DV 4 and factually already DV 2).

Furthermore, the unity of scripture, tradition, and magisterium (cf. DV 10), which is decisive for Dei Verbum, is dissolved. Correspondingly, the sole ultimate authority of the magisterium to interpret the Word of God (cf. ibid.) is ignored.

So, in total, you will have to realize: The text breaks with the supreme doctrine of Dei Verbum at crucial points. It does so clearly on the matter, but not openly. It disguises the facts in what appears to be traditional language. Therefore, it is necessary to analyze the course of the text precisely.

It is decisive that in No. 10 of the orientation text and the further architecture of the text, the unity of scripture, magisterium, and tradition, programmatically postulated by Dei Verbum 10, is dissolved. The magisterium is separated (against DV 10) from scripture and tradition, subordinated to the sense of the faithful and the signs of the times, and finally assigned to theology. This fundamental shift determines the entire further architecture of the orientation text. Therefore, it is not an inaccuracy but clearly a systematic option.

In the text, due to potential revelation quality, the so-called signs of the times“ factually become their own, possibly normative sources of knowledge of teaching, in which the will of God can be recognized. In the end, this confirms the undoubtedly authentic interpretation that Bishop Georg Bätzing, in the dispute with Cardinal Koch, gave in the orientation text. The way it is formulated here clearly conflicts with the statement that revelation is complete in Jesus Christ (DV 4, cf. 2).

By the dissolution of the connection between scripture, magisterium, and tradition, scripture and tradition become ambiguous, which is also clearly stated in the orientation text. The binding determination of their meaning shifts from the magisterium to theology in the text. The question „Quis judicat?“ is answered more or less openly with reference to academic theology. For the latter is also an interpreter of the sense of the faithful and the signs of the times.

In the entire text, the testifying function of the magisterium appears almost exclusively; its ability to make binding, magisterial decisions (e.g., in the event of a conflict) systematically plays no role, nor does the idea of a binding form of teaching based on judgements, which is the starting point and point of reference for any legitimate development and deepening.

This is another indication of the pragmatics of the text: It is about the preparation of the revision of Christian teaching, which does not deepen the previous form of teaching, but negates it (anthropology, sexual ethics, and the teaching of marriage and the teaching of the episcopate are to be mentioned as examples).

Quotations from the original text (following the number of paragraphs in the German version)

(10) Among the most important „places“ of theology include the Holy Scripture and tradition, the signs of the times and the sense of the faith of the people of God, the magisterium, and theology. No place can substitute the other places; they all need mutual distinction and connection. All these “places” need to be rediscovered and always relinked anew so that God’s faithfulness to His promise has the power to renew the Church’s faith from one generation to the next. Each place has a surplus of promise at any time, which cannot be reduced by other “places” and other “times” but strengthened.

(30) “Reforms are an integral part of the tradition: Worship is changing; the doctrine develops; Caritas unfolds. In its dynamics, tradition is the process of examining the current form of the Church and the faith to receive and shape it ever anew as a gift from God. The tradition of the Church is open to the context of new discoveries, new insights, and new experiences that challenge traditional faith and call for new responses that testify more deeply the revealed truth of God, serve the growth of the Church, the proclamation of the Gospel and communion with all people to whom God’s grace applies. The philosophy and wisdom of the peoples, science and the arts, the life of the people, and the social work of the Church were and are inspiring factors for the further development and ever-new unfolding of the tradition. Prophetic voices are found not only within but also outside the Church. People’s living conditions and attitudes change over time; these changes are shaped by tradition and help shape it.”

Bishop Bätzing’s interpretation of this: “But the orientation text, together with a series of magisterial texts such as the conciliar constitution Gaudium et spes and the encyclical Pacem in terris of St. Pope John XXIII, assumes that God, the creator and sustainer of the world, reveals himself again and again in this world and human history, that his work and his nature can be recognized in a concentrated form through events in history… With this in mind, they are not just “background of comprehension” but genuine sources for the reflection of faith. Something about God’s will for people and his Church can be learned not only from Scripture and tradition, theology, magisterium, and the sense of the faithful but also from contemporary events and developments in history, through which the people of God are on a pilgrimage.”

Link zu Bätzings statement:

https://www.dbk.de/presse/aktuelles/meldung/bischof-baetzing-stellungnahme-zur-antwort-von-kardinal-kurt-koch-vom-29-september-2022

(35) “The signs of the times indicate in which direction the tradition must be further developed. In their sense of the faith, the people of God recognize, by the Spirit, where the paths of faith run: what to preserve from the past and what to discard, what to develop further, and what new things to integrate. Theology reflects what tradition is, what has been considered tradition, and what may be considered tradition.”

(43) “The sign of the times, which the outcry of the victims of sexualized violence is marking powerfully, does not remain without consequences. It brings into focus further questions of the life of the Church, some of which have been open for a long time: the question of power and the desire for a separation of powers; the sustainability of priestly ways of life; the desire for equal access for all genders to ministries and offices of the Church; the reception of current research findings on sexual morals of the Church. They, too, could prove themselves to be signs of the times. They also want to be interpreted on the trail of God’s presence and His counsel. The following also applies to them: „Do not quench the Spirit! Do not despise prophecies! Test everything and hold fast what is good!” (1 Thessalonians 5:19-21).”

(48) “No personal judgment of conscience could stand if it were to close itself to the pros and cons of common considerations with others. […] It is no coincidence that the word conscience refers to knowing together, to con-scientia, to syn-eidesis (1 Cor 10:28). But in the end, it always appeals to one’s own insight, to one’s own judgement, to one’s own decision. The highly personal, conscientious final decision about one’s own way of life is binding – even if it turns out that it was made in error. To ignore conscience, to control it from the outside, to eliminate it, or even to neglect it would mean to negate the personal center of human beings and their dignity created by God. The conscience, for its part, finds orientation in the light of faith.[…]“

(49) “Not least, the conscience of the faithful uses the findings of different sciences. But this also shows: The sense of faith does not justify an exclusive claim of ownership by a single faithful. The sense of the faithful insists on a consensus, on a shared sense – even if such a consensus is not always reached, and the community of the faithful then must live with dissent for a certain time. The Church is not only a community of remembrance but also a community of dialogue.”

(62) “Thus theology also has the task of countering fundamentalist temptations when positions of individuals or groups are to be made absolute in a manner incapable of dialogue and are to be withdrawn from any debate. There is a self-correction in the scientific community of theology through critical scientific discourse. A critical counterpart is also required for both dialogue partners in the dialogue with the magisterium.”

(68) “The question of the appropriate participation of the entire people of God in the deliberations and decisions in the Church arises worldwide and demands new responses. Above all, those affected and survivors of abuse must be heard. Their experiences, their indignation, and lamentations must find an echo in the teaching and practice of the Church. Even in Holy Scripture, human experience and the proclamation of the Word of God are inseparable. Nobody may tear them apart.”

Link to the original document:

https://www.synodalerweg.de/fileadmin/Synodalerweg/dokumente_Reden_Beitraege/SV-III_1.1NEU_Synodalpraesidium-Orientationstext-Beschluss.pdf

Synodal Forum I Power and Separation of Powers in the Church

(Foundational text of the 2nd Reading at the 3rd Synodal Assembly February 3rd-5th, 2022)

The constant problem of the foundational text is that the “spiritual power” of Scripture is exchanged for the concept of worldly power, which is widely discussed in contemporary society. The discourse on power is then opened with the abuse of power – fixated exclusively on the Catholic Church. Systemic causes are projected solely onto clerical structures, with each hierarchical structure being suspected of abuse of power. Further reversals follow from this one failed hermeneutic approach.

In the text, the complex unity (cf. Lumen Gentium No. 8 “one complex reality”) of the spiritual reality of the Church and the social fabric falls apart. The two aspects are only juxtaposed additively. This misses the sacramentality of the Church, which is fundamental for the Council and in which this unity occurs. But with it also the basic structure of the ecclesiology taught bindingly by the Council. This fundamental, missed course determines the text as a whole.

Correspondingly, the complex dialectic of spiritual authority and humble service in the sacramental ministry of the Church, which is based on the mission, is understood exclusively in terms of its possibility of abuse. Indeed, anthropologically and sociologically, it is reduced to the concept of the order of power and thus misses its true theological essence. Ultimately, the text fundamentally identifies the spiritual authority of the magisterium in the Church, as it has been understood canonically and dogmatically, with a systemic cause of abuse. In this way, the theological foundations, as developed by LG, are withdrawn from the episcopate.

The practical consequence is the attempt to solve the problem of abuse of power in the Church by “neutralizing” the episcopal authority in long-term (pseudo-)synodal committees. Walter Cardinal Kasper pointed out that such permanent synodal committees have no place in the theological constitution of the Church. They are also ultimately based on models of secular political concepts (parliament, separation of powers, „checks and balances“, etc.). The complexity of the relationships between the political order and the sacramental order of the communion of the Church is only insufficiently perceived. Just as little is the relationship between pastoral responsibility and participation recognized. The „power problem“ that can only be solved spiritually is ultimately only postponed to committees. Through the intended neutralization of episcopal responsibility, the substance of the episcopate is damaged.

In Forum 1, the course setting of the orientation text also has an effect. The text expressly claims the possibility of a plurality of the teaching of the Church, which extends to direct contradiction in essential questions.

With the detachment of the social structure from the spiritual nature of the Church and the claim of the possibility of a contradictory form of teaching, the pragmatics of the text becomes clear. As in the orientation text, it is about the preparation of the revision of hitherto binding teaching up to the point of negation.

Original quotes from the text:

(8-12): “The Catholic Church is in a deep crisis. However, she can only fulfill her mission if she recognizes the character, causes, and dimensions of this crisis, faces the crisis, and makes a serious effort to find solutions. This applies above all to the systemic causes of the abuse of power and sexualized and spiritual violence.”

(22-26): “The conversion and the renewal of the Church especially concern her order of power. Because according to Lumen Gentium 8, the Church is a spiritual entity, but it is also a society constituted in this world, because only in this way can she serve it.”

(31-42): “The abuse scandal confronts the Catholic Church with the question of which spirit she is guided by. Only the entire people of God can answer this question. The sense of faith of all the baptized, therefore, calls for greater shared responsibility, cooperative action, and enforceable participation rights. Finally, shared responsibility creates transparency in using Church power. The MHG study has shown convincingly and in disturbing variety that sexualized violence committed by clergy against children and young people, the covering-up of offenses, and the protection of offenders are caused not only by individual psychological factors but also systemic ones.”

(61-73): “A change in the Church’s power structure is necessary for the interest of successful inculturation into a free, democratically shaped society based on the rule of law. It is not about uncritically adopting social practices, for the Church also always has a prophetic-critical mission toward her social partners. But in many instances, the democratic society can no longer understand and comprehend the Church’s order of power. Yes: The Church is publicly suspected of using her own legal system to discriminate against people, undermine democratic standards, and immunize herself against critical questions about her teachings and organizational structures.”

(272-281): “The Second Vatican Council emphasized the faithful and their discernment in matters of faith (cf. Lumen Gentium 12) and the ’signs of the times‘ (Gaudium et Spes 4) as ‚places of theology‘: This includes the significance of externally-gained knowledge for a deeper understanding of the Gospel as well as a contemporary shaping of the Church’s structures (cf. Gaudium et Spes 44). This also includes the dialogical interpretation of the Word of God by ‚lay‘ believers, scientific theology, and the Church’s magisterium. Determining this structure in a differentiated manner has consequences for understanding power and the separation of powers in the mission of the Church, which will be explained in the following.”

(287-290): “God’s revelation has been handed down once and for all – but its reception and interpretation humanly take place, i.e., within the framework of historically and culturally determined processes of understanding. This was already the case in the Bible.”

(329-333): “We want to learn to live theological diversity in unity of the Church. Plurality as a legitimate variety of different core beliefs – also within the Church. Church and theology were and are plural, which is neither weakness of the Church nor a failure of leadership on the part of those responsible.”

(343-359): “That does not release us from constantly searching for this truth of salvation history in the diversity of times, cultural forms, and concrete social challenges. We can honestly speak of the one truth entrusted to us only if we are aware of the complexity of such approaches and open up the discursive space for this without restrictions. Such ambiguity-sensitive handling of complexity is due to the historical character of the truth of salvation. At the same time, it is the essential signature of contemporary intellectual society, especially today. It is, therefore, a requirement of today’s theology. For them, there is not one central perspective, not one truth of religious, moral, and political worldview, and not one way of thinking that can lay claim to ultimate authority. In the Church, too, legitimate views and ways of life can compete with one another, even in terms of core beliefs. They can simultaneously raise the theologically justified claim to truth, accuracy, comprehensibility, and honesty and still contradict each other in the statement or the language.

(199-200): “A sacrament must have a signal effect! Concerning the Church, this means: Significance and credibility must be expressed in the structure (Lumen Gentium 8). The Church’s order and exercise of power must prove worthy of the trust of the faithful. … the legal culture of the Church [must] be aligned with fundamental and human rights […].”

(490-496): “The ecclesiological task that must be performed today is to redefine the relationship between the common priesthood of all and the ministerial priesthood, both in the understanding of sacramental ministry and in the understanding and practice of leadership functions. The communion structure of the Church must find a social and legal form that makes one-sided power relations impossible and makes the opportunity for all to participate binding.”

Link to text:

https://www.synodalerweg.de/fileadmin/Synodalerweg/dokumente_Reden_Beitraege/SV-III_1.2NEU_Synodalforum-I_Grundtext-Beschluss.pdf

Forum I Implementation text Joint consultation and decision-making

(Text for the 2nd Reading submitted, not yet voted on)

The self-commitment of the bishop and parish priest to two-thirds decisions is the introduction of parliamentary practices into the communion structure of the Church. Members dominate the „head“; the communion becomes a consilium (parliament).

Structurally, this self-commitment is reinforced by a bishop who resists must submit to a second vote.

If he still resists, the arbitration will be convened, the composition of which he probably does not influence on.

Original quote from the text:

“If no legally effective decision comes about because the bishop disagrees, a new consultation takes place. If no agreement is reached here, the council can contradict the bishop’s vote with a two-thirds majority. Suppose no agreement can be reached because the bishop also objects to this decision. In that case, an arbitration proceeding is opened, the conditions of which have been set in advance and to which all parties involved undertake to adhere. Bishops and synods from other dioceses can be involved in this proceeding.”

Link to the text:

https://www.synodalerweg.de/fileadmin/Synodalerweg/dokumente_Reden_Beitraege/SV-IV/SV-IV_Synodalforum-I-Handlungstext.GemeinsamBeratenUndEnthrend-Lesung2.pdf

Forum I Implementation text “Sustainable strengthening of Synodality: A Synodal Council for the Catholic Church in Germany

(Text for the 2nd Reading at the 4th Synodal Assembly September 8th-10th, 2022. Vote: 170 yes, 4 no, 15 abstentions / 59 bishops present and eligible to vote: 43 yes, 6 no, 10 abstentions)

Here the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZDK) is placed on the same level as bishops. However, it was initially founded as a lay representation to defend Church interests against state assaults. Now one gets the impression that it is intended to defend “national Church concerns” against Roman and universal Church assaults.

Through the parliamentary structures already adopted in the implementation text „Joint consultation and decision-making”, bishops who are already oriented towards the local Church, Roman or universal Church are disciplined.

Original quote from the text:

(23-36): “The Synodal Assembly resolves to set up a Synodal Council. It shall be established based on the can. 127 and can. 129 CIC. The Synodal Assembly appoints a Synodal Committee to prepare the Synodal Council. The Synodal Committee consists of 27 diocesan bishops, 27 members elected by the Central Committee of German Catholics, and 10 jointly selected by them. This committee is supported jointly by the German Bishops‘ Conference (DBK) and the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZDK). It is headed by the president of the DBK and the president of the Central Committee of German Catholics.”

Link to the text:

https://www.synodalerweg.de/fileadmin/Synodalerweg/dokumente_Reden_Beitraege/SV-IV/T1NEU3_SV-IV_1_Synodalforum_I-HandlungstextSynodalitaetNachhaltigStaerken_Synodaler_Rat.pdf

Synodal Forum II

Foundational text „Priestly existence today“

(2nd Reading at the Synodal Assembly September 8th-10th, 2022)


Implementation text „Breaking with taboos and normalization – votes on the situation of non-heterosexual priests“ (Resolved version of September 10th, 2022)

Implementation text „Celibacy of priests – encouragement and opening“

(2nd Reading at the Synodal Assembly September 8th-10th, 2022)

The passed texts of the forum are unclear, often incomprehensible, and sometimes even contradictory. On the one hand, there are quite traditional formulations on the priesthood, comments, mostly added later after objections, and quotes from popes and councils. On the other hand, anyone familiar with the situation in German theology will find the liberal agenda for the abolition of the ordained priesthood reflected in the texts. In contrast to the Council, most participants want to bring about a breach and a Protestant conception of the priesthood.

(Foundational text, No.1): “Questions about priestly existence have been asked for 50 years and have not been satisfactorily answered. In this context, the priestly ministry is questioned in all its dimensions.” 

(Foundational text, No.1): “A priesthood theoretically reserved for heterosexual men only seems questionable and incompatible with actual practice. The exclusion of women from admission to the priesthood creates a lack of understanding, and its review is clearly demanded. The justification for the priests‘ celibacy as an obligatory way of life is broadly no longer accepted.
There are loud-voiced calls for the opportunity for homosexuality to be discussed, also among priests.

According to the text, the reality of people’s lives is considered a source of theological knowledge: Accordingly, a statement of faith or theological information is obsolete when it is no longer understood or shared: Only what can be communicated or what is received is true. However, things are portrayed differently with the communication to the outside and Rome. The leading voices among the German bishops appease: We are not taking anything away from anyone; the teachings are not being changed at all; they are just accentuated and further developed.

The original texts speak a different language: Firstly, the agenda is spelled out in the so-called implementation texts. Secondly, the traditional terms are used ambiguously and are constantly being relativized. Two examples:

„Sacramentality“ could, in some places, be understood in terms of the classical definition of a sign that effectuates what it stands for. But that is never said and can only be meant analogously in all places: „sacramental“ only in the sense of a symbolic representation that lets the faithful „experience“ something, „makes something clear“ to them, or that can disappear:

(Implementation text Celibacy, a): “A yes to the sacramental priesthood, which is just as constitutive for our Catholic Church as the common priesthood of all the baptized, at the service of which the sacramental priesthood stands. A yes to the fact that people can experience priests who promise them salvation at the junction points of human existence and in its ups and downs and make it tangible. A yes to the fact that the priestly ministry allows the abiding presence and working of Jesus Christ to be experienced amid the world in various ways.” 

(Foundational text, No. 5.4): “However, there is a danger that the celibate way of life will marginalize if the symbolic nature is no longer supported by large parts of the people of God. In addition, sacramentality is at stake when celibacy is neither understood spiritually nor lived concretely and credibly and is tacitly and collectively undermined in a double life tolerated by the Church’s leadership.”

How a layperson represents Christ is little distinguished from the priest’s „representation of Christ.“ On the one hand, the latter is understood as a symbol of grace and salvation that come to us „extra nos“ undeservedly from God; on the other hand, this is immediately relativized:

(Foundational text, No. 4): According to the Catholic tradition, in the Church, the ordained official constitutively keeps the substantial counterpart of the divine promise and claim present in the community.”

(Foundational text, No. 5.2):Every baptized person represents Christ, the only ‚high priest after the order of Melchizedek‘ (Hebrews 5:10), who has made His Church into a kingdom of ‚priests to his God and Father‘ (Rev 1:6).

[…] This must be distinguished from the priest’s representation of Christ in the administration of the sacraments reserved for him, especially the celebration of the Eucharist. In magisterial texts, it becomes clear that the ‚repraesentatio Christi‘ by the priest is not limited solely to the sacramental celebration or the presiding over the Eucharist but concerns the entire priestly existence. This raises the question of how the priest’s representation of Christ outside of the celebration of the Eucharist relates to the representation of Christ by all the faithful. 

Outside his sacramental acts, the priestly existence does not differ from that of all the faithful. The fact that the priest’s ’sacramental representation‘ shapes his whole life does not mean that he is different in everyday life.”

The special participation of the ordained priesthood in the priesthood of Christ and the configuration as „imago Christi“ for the offering of Christ’s sacrifice „in persona Christi“, the remission of sins, and his task of administering the priestly ministry publicly before the people in Christ’s name is acknowledged with a quote from Presbyterorum ordinis (PO) in footnote 30. But the justification for the priest’s offering of his life, with the obligation to be celibate to take on Jesus’ way of life, is not seen.

The pastoral love (Pastores dabo vobis) associated with Jesus‘ pastoral mission does not appear anywhere. Also, the difference, not just in degree but in substance, between special and common priesthood is, after Lumen Gentium (LG 10) quoted in reduced form. But the manner of speaking is dismissed as ontological Aristotelianism incomprehensible today; and the specific difference of the priest expressed there, to exercise the three „munera Christi“ by his sacred power, is reduced horizontally and then reversed, as follows:

(Foundational text, No. 5.3): “… the essential difference consists in the sacramental service for the unity of the community and congregation. The priest also fulfills the described service for unity in his leadership ministry. […] Leadership ministry is a broad and open term. Leadership essentially enables the participation of many in the various tasks of the Church. Leadership seeks the gifts of the Spirit and allows them to be realized in the ministry for the unity of the Church.

[…] Priestly leadership […] is rather to be understood in theological terms as a teaching ministry. Proclaiming the Gospel is the primary task of leadership ministry.”

The need for the consecration of priests is not justified by the „extra nos“ of the grace bestowed on Christians from the incarnation, cross, and resurrection of Christ, which no one can simply take and which no one can produce, because only a sacrament enables one to administer the sacraments of Christ. Instead, the substantial difference that the consecration justifies, considering the widespread doubt, is only explained in an anti-Donatist way:

(Foundational text, No. 4): “The sacramental necessity of the priesthood is in question. Also, in parishes, the specific ministry of the priest is no longer plausible. Considering the current lack and the foreseeable striking decrease of ordained officials, many parishes are looking for and finding pragmatic ways of shaping Church life without priests. 

(Foundational text, footnote 41): “If the Lord works grace and salvation in the Church through the sacraments, then the effectiveness of the sacramental priestly ministry must be given independently of the moral disposition of the official. But that could only be expressed in ontological categories.” 

The tendency of the whole text is clear: The specific difference of the ordained priesthood is to be leveled out. However, no christological or vocation-theological or ecclesiological justification is sought for the priesthood and celibacy. So, there is a lack of insight that the apostles were first called and appointed before anyone was baptized; that they, in turn, appointed men by laying on hands to celebrate the Lord’s Supper and administer other sacraments, and preside over the communities. Therefore, the following conclusion is drawn:

(Foundational text, No.1):The biblical testimony is definite in a thematic context. In the strict and proper sense, there is only one (high) priest, Jesus Christ. And it speaks of the priestly people who received redemption (cf. 1 Pet 2:9).”

In addition, the texts are closely related to the other synodal forums regarding modern exegesis and uncritical adoption of the hypothetical statements and research suggestions of an abuse study (MHG study). It is claimed: The outdated theology of the priesthood, clericalism, obligatory celibacy, and the refusal to ordain women and homosexuals as priests have encouraged sexual abuse. Who does not favor the change of sexual morality in the Catechism of the Church, which Forum 4 demands, i.e., the legitimacy of not-heterosexual genital sex of all possible genders with each other, discriminates; and:

(Implementation text „Breaking with the taboos“, No. 3.): “Anyone who exhibits discriminatory attitudes cannot hold positions of responsibility and leadership. To help raise awareness, the Catholic Church in Germany is working with Church, governmental and civil society anti-discrimination agencies. 

According to the accepted amendment of the last Synodal Assembly, this is „definitely not enough.“ Therefore, it should say in addition:

(Implementation text „Breaking with taboos“, No. 3): Discriminatory behavior is principally to be condemned and even penalized, if necessary.“

Link to the foundational text Priestly Existence:

https://www.synodalerweg.de/fileadmin/Synodalerweg/dokumente_Reden_Beitraege/SV-IV/SV-IV-Synodalforum-II-Grundtext-Lesung2.pdf

Link to the implementation text „Breaking with taboos and normalization – votes on the situation of non-heterosexual priests“:

https://www.synodalerweg.de/fileadmin/Synodalerweg/dokumente_Reden_Beitraege/SV-IV/T2NEU_SV-IV_6_Synodalforum_II-HandlungstextEnttabuisierungsUndNormalisierungs-Voten-zur-Situation_ni.pdf

Link to the implementation text The celibacy of the priests – encouragement and opening„:

https://www.synodalerweg.de/fileadmin/Synodalerweg/dokumente_Reden_Beitraege/SV-IV/SV-IV_Synodalforum-II-Handlungstext.DerZoelibatDerPriester-Lesung2.pdf

Synodal Forum IV „Life in successful relationships – The principles of a renewed sexual ethics“ Foundational Text

(2nd Reading at the 4th Synodal Assembly from September 8th-10th, 2022: Decided with Yes: 159, No: 33, Abstention: 4; Text nevertheless rejected by the valid blocking minority of one third (21 votes) of the bishops in the assembly)

Everything revolves around the topic of „homosexuality“, – not about the legitimate concern of a new pastoral approach to those affected. The factual disorder in the world of the sexes (Romans 1) is supposed to be relabeled by interpretation as a part of the divine order. Here, the fact of rarely occurring inter- and transsexuality is used as a stepping stone to understand the diversity of „sexual orientations“ gender theoretically as created gender identities.

The requirement „that from the beginning the Creator made them male and female“ (Mt 19:4) is undermined; „Non-binary“ genders as „sexual norm variants“ and „good creative gift of God“ are to be established in moral theology: Since God created human beings in this way, their sexual identity and orientation are good in themselves and must/may be lived out.

The unconditional connection between monotheism and monogamy is denied: The authentic place of sexual union is not only the lifelong marriage of man and woman; legitimate sex should be available on various occasions. To this end, the unanimous rejection of Scripture and tradition is ignored, reinterpreted, declared „discrimination“, and even blamed for sexual abuse in the Church. The fundamental „no“ of the Church, moderated by mercy, to the diversity of premarital, illegitimate, outside-marriage, after marital and autosexual self-fulfillment is supposed to be dropped.

In individual ethics that invalidates the commandments, „morality“ should primarily focus on the non-violent agreement, symmetry, and „love“ during sex. The solidarity with the goals of the general sexual revolution is justified by alleged knowledge of humanistic sciences that are not presented and which – where they are given – are hypothetical or false, at least not scientific consensus.

Original quotations from the foundational text:

(Preamble): “We see today that the Church’s sexual ethics also facilitated crimes of sexualized violence in the Church.”

(Preamble): We commit ourselves, each in his or her responsibility, to ensure that everyone, respecting the knowledge of the human sciences and in the realization of Jesus‘ message of God’s love for all human beings, will ensure that changes are made in the doctrine and practice of the Church in dealing with human sexuality. … In particular, the teaching that considers sexual intercourse to be ethically legitimate only in the context of a lawful marriage and only in the permanent openness to the procreation of children, has caused a wide rift to open up between the magisterium and the faithful.”

(B.7.2.): Self-stimulating sexuality is not a form of pure self-infatuation, but another important form of human sexuality alongside interpersonal relationships.”

(B.8.9.): “Acts of blessing for same-sex couples are controversial in the Church. Therefore, forms of life other than marriage-independent rituals and acts of blessing can and must be found – despite the negative judgement of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of March 15th, 2021.”

(B.8.5): “The second civil marriage sparks a new covenant for life for the persons concerned.”

(A.1.): “… that „homosexuality (…) [is] not a risk factor for sexual abuse and thus demonstrates the need to change the Church’s teaching on partner hood and sexuality.”

(A.2.1.): “Too many faithful … feel… an irreparable disconnect between the interpretations and norms of the Church’s sexual teaching on the one hand and their own sexual experiences on the other. They, too, experience how the Christian faith enables joyful and liberating relationships – even in constellations that the magisterium currently still describes as illegitimate …”

(A.2.3.): “Leading lives self-responsibly today corresponds to people’s attitude to life and their aspirations, and it is their right. In doing so, they know that they conform with the biblical tradition and the Church’s teaching, which underline the great importance of living a self-determined and self-responsible life … This also includes self-determination in the area of his or her sexuality.”

(A.2.5.): “In the opinion of many faithful, the Church’s sexual morality is used as an instrument to exercise subtle or overt power over people’s way of life…”

(B.1.5. Principle 1): “Dignity includes the right to sexual self-determination … as is respecting sexual identity – regardless of age or sexual orientation.”

(B.2.2.): “What is usually referred to as biological gender identity, which is usually determined as „female“ or „male“ „at first glance“ based on a person’s external gender characteristics, is owed to a complex process in which genetic and epigenetic factors already interact and produces variants of the biological gender identity. In doing so, they lay the foundation for multifaceted biopsychosocial gender identity, the potential spectrum of which goes beyond the interpretation variants „male“ and „female“. … As a Church, we must respect the individual self-perception of each person’s sexual identity as an inviolable part of his or her unique image of God (Isaiah 43:7).”

(B.2.3.): “There is an urgent need to recognize the equivalence and legitimacy of non-heterosexual orientations, their practices and relationship, … and in connection with this to eliminate discrimination based on sexual orientation. …

Seen in this way, it is not only normal to be different, but also different, to be normal.”

(B.4.5.): Humanae vitae (1968) … Devaluation, even delegitimization, of all sexual acts that cannot beget children on their own. This does not only apply to sexuality between homosexual persons. It also affects people with (physical) impairments or all married couples whose age has long since exceeded the limit of their biological fertility.”

Link to the original document:

https://www.synodalerweg.de/fileadmin/Synodalerweg/Dokumente_Reden_Beitraege/SV-IV/SV-IV_Synodalforum-IV-Grundtext-Lesung2.pdf

Synodal Forum IV Implementation text: „Magisterial revaluation of homosexuality“

(Decided September 9th, 2022; Yes: 170 votes, No: 14, Abstentions: 9)

Original quotations from the implementation text (incl. marginal numbers):


(24-26):
“Every human person is inseparable from their sexual orientation. It is not chosen by yourself and cannot be changed. Since a homosexual orientation is a part of being a human as created by God, this orientation is not to be judged differently in ethical terms than a heterosexual orientation.”

(34-42): Responsible genital sexuality in relationships with another person is guided by respect for dignity and self-determination, love and fidelity, responsibility for one other and the specific dimensions of fertility. It takes place in relationships that are intended to be exclusive and permanent. Same-sex sexuality – also practiced in sexual acts – is thus not a sin that separates a person from God, and it is not to be judged as bad in itself. Rather, it is to be measured by the realization of those values.”

(84-92): “The status in the human sciences is: Homosexuality and bisexuality are neither diseases nor disorders nor something that can be chosen. Rather, they represent natural minority variants of people’s sexual preference structures. These sexual preferences … are… not changeable. … Homosexuality… is a variant of the norm and not a minus of this variant“ (foundational text A 2.3). As a normal case, it belongs to God’s good creation.”

(128-133): “The taboos and apprehension regarding sexuality in general, and homosexuality in particular, that have arisen from the Church’s sexual teaching are systemic causes of the abuse crimes that have been committed in the Church since they have impeded the development of mature sexuality in many cases or prevented it altogether. This development is hindered by the fact that homosexuality has been considered an obstacle to ordination in the past.”

Link to the original document:

https://www.synodalerweg.de/fileadmin/Synodalerweg/Dokumente_Reden_Beitraege/SV-IV/T9NEU_SVIV_13_Synodalforum-IV-Handlungstext_LehramtlicheNeubewertungVonHomosexualitaet-2.Lesung.pdf

Synodal Forum IV Implementation Text „Basic Order of Church Service“

(Decided September 9th, 2022; Yes: 175, No: 8, Abstentions: 13)

Original quotations from the implementation text:

(65-69): “A non-discrimination clause should be inserted into the basic order prohibiting church employers from failing to recruit a person based on his or her gender identity or choice of a legal form of partnership, or from dismissing a church employee on such grounds.”

(151-158): “This Synodal Assembly also evaluates remarriage, intersexuality and transsexuality, homosexuality, and thus same-sex partnerships, differently than previous official texts of the Church (foundational text B.2.2-5, B.5.1-5, B.8.5-7). In line with this view, the adaptation of the basic order and the practices followed in granting the Missio canonica and the Nihil obstat is a necessary consequence that will brook no further delay.”

Link to the original document:

https://www.synodalerweg.de/fileadmin/Synodalerweg/Dokumente_Reden_Beitraege/SV-IV/T8NEU_SVIV_12_Synodalforum-IV-Handlungstext_GrundordnungDesKirchlichenDienstes-2.Lesung.pdf

Synodal Forum IV Implementation Text „Dealing with gender diversity“

(1st Reading, decided September 10th, 2022; Yes: 155, No: 9, Abstentions: 12)

Original quotations from the implementation text:

(Introduction): “With recourse to the biblical creation narratives and with the accusation of „gender ideology“, intersex and transgender (but also homosexual) people are increasingly being excluded, pathologized and disparaged. The… magisterium only recognizes bisexuality exclusively in the form of man and woman, as identified by physical criteria. In doing so, the magisterium largely ignores or disregards knowledge from psychology, medicine, and anthropology, according to which gender also knows non-binary variants …”

(Application 2.1.): The normative gender anthropology based on natural law and its legitimacy through recourse to biblical creation narratives requires verification with the knowledge of modern biblical studies and theology.”

(Application 2.2.): “Catholic institutions, responsible persons of the Church, and Catholic politicians must not continue to disdain our transgender and intersex (but also homosexual and bisexual) brothers and sisters in the faith, especially under the blanket accusation of „gender ideology“ or the „LGBTIQ agenda“. In this way, images of the enemy have been created and fueled in the past, which in some cases even lead to human rights violations …”

Link to the original document:

https://www.synodalerweg.de/fileadmin/Synodalerweg/Dokumente_Reden_Beitraege/SV-IV/SV_IV_-_Synodalforum_IV_-_Handlungstext.UmgangMitGeschlechtlicherVielfalt_-_Lesung1.pdf

Synodal Forum III: „Women in Ministries and Offices in the Church“ Foundational Text

(2nd Reading, Decision of September 9th, 2022)

In anthropology, according to Catholic doctrine, two convictions exist at the same time without contradicting each other:

  1. Man and woman have the same dignity as equal human beings.
  2. Man and woman have different gender-specific vocations, which does not result in discrimination.

This core of Catholic anthropology is consistently denied in the text under the slogan „gender equality“. Although this term could be understood in the sense of Catholic doctrine, it is used according to gender theory (variety of sexual identities). The binary gender system is to be dissolved due to rare intersex deviations. The supplementation of man and woman is negatively connoted. Therefore, people should only be considered gender-neutral according to their talents. Thus, Jesus‘ manhood has no significance for a vocation to the priesthood.

The symbolic power of physical sexuality is ignored: as a woman who can be a bride and mother (receiving life, carrying life within herself, feeding a child from her body); as a man who can be a groom and father (beget life, protect and promote life). As a result, the clear anthropological orientation-giving frame for the sacraments of priestly ordination and marriage is dissolved.

The special priesthood is no longer substantial but only gradually distinguished from the common priesthood of all the faithful, i.a., by mixing the ministries of the „common priesthood“ with those of the „ministerial“ priesthood:  Ministries of the

  1. a) evangelization/proclamation,
    b) charitable works; and
    c) the liturgy/as head of the Eucharist.

Overall, the hierarchy is to be dissolved.

For the sacrament of the Eucharist, no natural resemblance to the manhood of Jesus is required. The sacerdotal-cultic understanding of the office must be overcome since the essential purpose of the Eucharistic celebration is not the holy sacrifice of the Mass but the proclamation of the Gospel.

Although Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (May 22nd, 1994) is considered an infallible doctrine (answer to the Dubium with a comment on October 28th,1995, further explanation on May 29th, 2018), the ordination of women to the priesthood is regarded as an open question of discussion by 45 German bishops. This questions the authority of the Magisterium.

Original quotations from the foundational text (marginal numbers from the original German version)

(57-64): „This absolutely must include reflecting on the different theological positions from the perspective of gender equality, entering into a close exchange with the social sciences, cultural studies, and human sciences, and taking up their reflections on gender theory constructively. In this context, it should also be borne in mind that there are people in the Roman Catholic Church who do not find their gender identity adequately preserved in the distinction between man and woman .“

(187-191): „Gender equality is achieved if every person in the respective social context regardless of their gender or identity has equal rights and opportunities for participation in goods and access to positions and thus can lead a self-determined life.“

(223): „Gender is, therefore – in the sense of gender theory – to be seen multidimensionally.“
(1117-21): “Here the shared humanity of man and woman is denied: „Those who consider the undisputed biological gender of Jesus as a man to be significant in this theological context run the risk of questioning the redemption of women by God since only those whom God has accepted in his human nature are redeemed.”

(15-18): „Because all are „one in Christ Jesus“, the non-admission of women to ordained ministries of the Church urgently requires renewed theological and anthropological revision in light of the current signs of the times.“

(1393-1396): „In the future, it should no longer be the gender that decides on the allocation of ministries, but the vocation, abilities, and skills that serve the proclamation of the Gospel in our time.”

(319-320): „The Church takes on Her visible form above all in liturgical celebrations, catechesis, and diakonia.“

(1192f): „Jesus Christ represents those who care for the poorest of the poor.

(1224-1229): „The question arises as to whether it should be the fact that a minister is a man, his physical body, that qualifies him to represent Jesus Christ in the celebration of the Eucharist adequately. Any spiritual glorification of the difference between the genders for the purpose of role assignments within the Church must be critically questioned in a highly fundamental sense, especially in the context of the theology of ministry.“

(1162-1164): “This overcomes a sacerdotal-cultic understanding of the office which led to a new interpretation of the priesthood in late Antiquity and scholasticism, where the latter established its most important task, consisting in the offering of the holy sacrifice of the Mass.”

(45-52): The Synodal Forum III asks „the highest authority in the Church (Pope and Council) whether the doctrine of Ordinatio sacerdotalis does not need to be revisioned after all.”

(1264-1267): „At the same time, the question arises as to what it means when individual bishops today regard the question as open-ended and call for more in-depth argumentations under the theological research.“

Link to the original document:

https://www.synodalerweg.de/fileadmin/Synodalerweg/Dokumente_Reden_Beitraege/englisch-SV-IV/ENGL_SV-IV-Synodal-Forum-III-Foundational-text_Second-reading.pdf

Synodal Forum III Implementation text „Proclamation of the Gospel by Women in Word and Sacrament“

(Decision of September 10th, 2022)

The implementation text is based on a functional understanding of consecration and Pelagian ecclesiology. For pragmatic reasons, for example, the administration of a sacrament should be entrusted to the catechist. There is a lack of a clear distinction and appropriate definition of the relations between ordo and charisma. Canons of the CIC, which contain exceptions, are intended to serve as a basis for general cases. The text reveals the desire for the clericalization of the Church by opening up the sacramental functions reserved for consecrated ministers to laypersons (baptism, homily, assisting at marriages, anointing of the sick, confession). This contradicts the desire to strengthen the lay apostolate, as already the II. Vaticanum and Pope Francis put into practice by opening up the ministry of lectors and acolytes to all the faithful and by reviving the catechist ministry.

Original quotes from the document:

(89-93): „[The German bishops] stand up for a particular norm in addition to can. 766 CIC 1983, through which theologically and homiletically qualified non-ordained pastoral workers are commissioned as preachers of the Gospel to the permanent preaching ministry in the local Church in accordance with the pastoral needs recognized by the local ordinary in all the forms of divine worship.“

(115-118): „In the committees of the German Bishops‘ Conference, taking into account existing documents in individual German dioceses and the universal Church, a framework for the commissioning of lay people to lead the celebration of baptism and to assist at marriage is being developed.“

(132-135): „Possibilities for the revival of lay confession in the context of spiritual accompaniment are also discussed. The importance of the blessing and anointing of the sick regarding all pastoral workers, who are active in the accompaniment of the sick, is also considered.“

Link to the original document in German:

https://www.synodalerweg.de/fileadmin/Synodalerweg/Dokumente_Reden_Beitraege/SV-IV/T3NEU_SV-IV_9_Synodalforum_III-HandlungstextVerkuendigungDesEvangeliumsDurchFrauen.pdf

Synodal Forum III Implementation text „Measures against Abuse of Women in the Church“

(version of the 1st Reading)

The main weakness of the text is that the term „spiritual abuse“ remains indefinite. The lack of terminological sharpening could pave the way for denunciations of clergy with unpopular views and an inhibiting threshold to offer spiritual accompaniment. The text also does not separate different forms of abuse, e.g., in proposals for prevention programs.

Quote: „It has been known for years that many adults, especially adult women, are victims of spiritual or sexual abuse in the Catholic Church; at the same time, the legal regulations are insufficient (see explanation below). Sexual and spiritual abuse often go hand in hand in the context of the Church.

Link to the original document:

https://www.synodalerweg.de/fileadmin/Synodalerweg/Dokumente_Reden_Beitraege/englisch-SV-IV/ENGL_SV-IV-Synodalforum-III-Handlungstext.MassnahmenGegenMissbrauchAnFrauenInDerKirche_First-reading.pdf

Synodal Forum III Implementation Text „Presence and Leadership – Women in Church and Theology“

(Version of the 2nd Reading) 

The main criticism is the tendency to partially detach leadership from the sacrament of Holy Orders to transfer to the laypersons, especially women. The required alternative leadership models contradict the instruction „The pastoral conversion of the Parish Community“ (2020) No. 66, which rejects exhaustion of can. 517. There is a lack of clarification on the inclusion of women in priestly formation. A justification based on gender theory is to be rejected, and a critical examination of it is to be welcomed.

Original quotes from the document:

„In pastoral care, new leadership models are being practiced and tested. (…) In addition to the model of the canonical parish priest, which is predominantly applied in the German dioceses, there are various leadership concepts at the parish level in which leadership functions are delegated or carried out by a team of persons who share responsibility. In some dioceses can. 517 § 2 of the CIC applies: Deacons and laypersons can be involved in the “exercise of the pastoral care“, i.e., in the comprehensive pastoral care in parishes. The diocesan bishop can involve full-time and voluntary workers, alone or in a team, at a parish or parish community level, by commissioning them to exercise pastoral care.

„This requires further theological-scientific reflection and the redefinition of the relation between consecration and leadership.“

Link to the original document:

https://www.synodalerweg.de/fileadmin/Synodalerweg/Dokumente_Reden_Beitraege/englisch-SV-IV/ENGL_SV-IV-Synodalforum-III-Handlungstext.PraesenzUndLeitung_Second-reading.pdf