June 24, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) – Today, Bishop Georg Bätzing, the head of the German bishops' conference, met with Pope Francis in a private audience, the second audience since his election as head of the German bishops. Right after this meeting, the German bishops published a statement by Bätzing, in which he states that the Pope “encourages” the German Synodal Path and even asks the Germans to “help shape” the three-year work of the Synod of Bishops on Synodality that the Pope announced.
Cardinal Gerhard Müller, in a statement requested by LifeSite (see full statement below), criticizes this new press release of the German bishops, calling it a “well-sophisticated self-praise.” He points out “that the agenda of the Synodal Path is diametrically opposed to the Catholic faith in form and content.”
Bishop Bätzing, in his official statement after his meeting with the Pope, explains that he has “extensively informed” Francis about the “state of the Synodal Path” and that he told him that “insinuations, according to which the Church in Germany is intending to enter independent, particular paths [‘Sonderwege’] are made up out of thin air.”
“The Pope encouraged us to continue the to walk the Synodal Path as chosen by us, to discuss openly and honestly the open questions and to come to recommendations for another conduct of the Church,” the German bishops adds.
“At the same time,” Bätzing says, “he invited the Church in Germany to help shape the Path of Synodality that will lead to the Synod of Bishops in 2023, as announced by him [Pope Francis].”
Unless Pope Francis issues a correction of this official German statement within a very short time – which is highly improbable – one may conclude from this meeting and message that which many concerned observers were worried about for years now: namely, that Pope Francis supports the German Synodal Path. And that Synodal Path is currently questioning many of the Church's irreformable doctrines (such as on an all-male priesthood, the clerical governance of the Church, and the ban on blessings of homosexual couples, cohabitation, and contraception).
Only last month, a strange event took place: Cardinal Reinhard Marx offered his resignation as archbishop of Munich-Freising to Pope Francis, saying that he sees the Church at a “dead end” with regard to the sexual abuse crisis and the lack of reform. The Pope had met with Marx, discussed the matter with him, yet still allowed him to publish his letter offering his resignation which the Pope then rejected only a few days later.
As many observers said at the time: this very much seemed like a staged event that would give Pope Francis the chance to give Cardinal Marx an official approval for having started, in 2019, the controversial Synodal Path that has rocked the Catholic Church in Germany ever since.
Should anyone have had doubts as to where Pope Francis stood with regard to the German path of heterodoxy and worse, his approval of Marx, as well as his own decision to start an international Synodal Path for the entire Catholic Church – after starting a Synodal Path in Italy – should put any doubts to rest. No one, after seeing the recklessness of the German proposals for reform (including the blessing of homosexual couples, which provoked a statement from the Vatican rejecting it), would ever dare opening up more of those paths within the Church.
Since Vatican News itself also reported on the Baetzing statement – quoting the same passages as we have done here – one can even further conclude that they accurately depict the Pope’s words to Bishop Baetzing.
This new international Synodal Path, which will be multi-staged, was announced last month by Mario Grech, the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops. The bishops’ gathering will begin in Rome in October of this year, followed by six months of meetings at the diocesan level, next at the national level, and then at the continental level. These meetings will take in the opinions of religious communities, lay associations, and Catholic universities.
Should Pope Francis ever have been seriously concerned that the Synodal Path of the Catholic Church in Germany is proclaiming heretical ideas and practices, he would have had the moral duty of the Supreme Shepherd to stop them, for the good of the souls. And he certainly would not ask them to help “shape” the Church's international Synodal Path.
There are many aspects of the Catholic faith at stake. As Cardinal Müller in today's statement points out, “the agenda of the Synodal Path is diametrically opposed to the Catholic faith in form and content,” and he reminds us that the German Synodal Path is “on a collision course with the Catholic Faith.” Furthermore, the German prelates reminds us of the hierarchical-sacramental structure of the Catholic Church and also of an all-male priesthood.
“The threefold Sacrament of Holy Orders presupposes, among other criteria, the male gender of its recipient. This truth is definitive teaching of the Church and must not be secularized in the logic of prestige and power,” he explains.
Cardinal Müller also rejects the German Synodal Path's claim that celibacy is one of the root problems of the current clerical sex abuse crisis. Finally, he calls for a genuine Catholic life and good shepherds, which is the only way for regaining strength and conviction in the Catholic Church.
Below is the full statement by Cardinal Gerhard Müller:
The press release of the German Bishops' Conference (DBK) of June 24, 2021 on the visit of its chairman Bishop Bätzing to the Pope contains in diplomatic phrases well-sophisticated self-praise. It intends nothing other than the well-known tactic of appeasing the critics of the Synodal Way and concealing its anti-Catholic agenda. As always, one feels highly encouraged by the Pope and fully encouraged to continue on the previous path until the (blessed or bitter) end. Summa summarum: Much ado about nothing and all excitement in vain! For the Bishop of Limburg has finally “made it clear” to the successor of Peter, “whom Christ placed at the head of the Apostles and in him instituted a perpetual and visible principle and foundation of unity of faith and communion” (Lumen gentium 18), that circulated attributions according to which the Church in Germany wants to go down particular paths are made up out of thin air.”
So the warnings of a confrontational course concerning the unity of the Church and its revealed doctrine of the faith can only have been invented by devious or incompetent cardinals, bishops and theologians from all over the world in order to worry the Pope in Rome or even to instrumentalize him for a Catholicism that does not want to take note of the realities of life today?
But only those who enjoy the gift of infinite naiveté still believe in the fairy tale of the good, forward-pushing Pope and his evil, slowing-down collaborators (Ladaria, Koch and even Kasper). Does this mean that they just wanted to test how far they could go, or has the realization grown that the agenda of the Synodal Path is diametrically opposed to the Catholic faith in form and content? What is Catholic does not result from the combined majority of subjective opinions, but objectively from the binding doctrinal documents of the Catholic Church guided by the Pope and the bishops in communion with him (Lumen gentium 8).
In order that communion of the faithful may not “depart from the path of faith,” the bishops, as successors of the apostles, must “preserve the good entrusted to them” (1 Tim 6:20), i.e., remain in the “teaching of the Apostles.” (Acts 2:42). With regard to the agenda of the Synodal Path, which is on a collision course with the Catholic Faith, its most important points are mentioned once again for the sake of clarity:
- The informal assembly of German bishops with representatives of lay organizations, called Synodal Way, has no teaching authority in matters of Catholic faith and is not above the sacramental (=hierarchical) constitution of the Church. (“Hierarchy” here is only the equivalent of sacramentality and has nothing to do with a political-sociological super- and subordination in a secular ruling body).
- It is untruthful and dishonorable to attribute the sexual offenses of individual persons (clergy and laity in church service) causally to the celibacy of priests, the vows of religious orders and the sexual ethics of the Church rooted in the Christian image of man of the Commandments of God. Since the evangelical counsels are gifts of the Holy Spirit, the materialistic thesis of the irresistibility of the sexual instinct or its automatic discharge in perversions would mean that God himself would have to be declared the author of sin. The believer, however, is enabled by the grace of God to fulfill the Commandments of God in free will and to fulfill the promise of abstinence.
- The apostolic authority of the pope, bishops and priests to teach, guide and sanctify the faithful does not come from a claim to power in the secular sense, but has been conferred upon them by Jesus as a participation in His Messianic Authority and mission. Priests and laity are united in Christ the High Priest and work together in building up the Body of Christ, the Church.
- The threefold Sacrament of Holy Orders presupposes, among other criteria, the male gender of its recipient. This truth is definitive teaching of the Church and must not be secularized in the logic of prestige and power.
- The Church can regain her credibility only through a genuinely Christian life of Catholics. The apostolic ministry becomes a witness to Christ when priests see themselves as good shepherds and live according to the example of Jesus, who gave his life for his sheep.