German Catholic bishops pledged on Saturday to pursue reforms criticized by the Vatican.
The progressive Catholic movement of the synodal path seeks to authorize blessings for same-sex couples, married priests and the ordination of women as deacons. The Vatican has pushed back on the move, arguing that the Church risks a schism if it implements reforms.
The church launched the reform movement amid record numbers of Germans leaving their congregation and sex abuse scandals involving the church.
What did the German bishops say?
Bishop Georg Bätzing, head of the German Bishops’ Conference (DBK), told reporters following a series of meetings with Pope Francis and other figures in the Vatican hierarchy that they seek to be “Catholics of ‘a different way’ by implementing reforms.
“We are Catholics,” Bätzing told a press conference. “But we want to be Catholic in a different way.”
Bätzing assured the Vatican that the German Catholic Church “would not make any decisions that would only be possible in the context of the universal Church,” including changes to fundamental doctrine.
“However, the Church in Germany wants and must provide answers to the questions posed by the faithful,” he insisted.
Faced with criticism from the Vatican, Bätzing said reform issues are not “closed”.
“Regarding the ordination of women, for example, the (Vatican) point of view is very clear, that the question is closed. But the question exists and it must be worked out and discussed,” the bishop said. . “All these issues are on the table and all attempts [to] canceling them will not succeed.”
Bätzing proposed that German secular representatives engage in roundtables with Vatican officials as part of the reform process.
The Central Committee of German Catholics said that “it is not a solution to see the responsibility for the reform process solely in Rome”. Committee chairwoman Irme Stetter-Karp said there were no longer “God’s patient people”, in response to a Vatican statement that the faithful should be patient.
The situation of Cardinal Woelki “unbearable”
One issue raised by Bätzing in discussions with Pope Francis was that of Cologne Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, who has come under fire for his handling of sexual abuse cases.
Woelki offered to step down in March, which Pope Francis did not follow up on. Last year, the Vatican granted the cardinal a “spiritual time-out.”
Bätzing said the status quo was “unbearable for both the archbishop and the faithful.”
sdi/kb (AP, Reuters)