May 29, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — Bishop Georg Bätzing, the head of the German Bishops’ Conference, insisted that the rejection of female priests by recent popes is not conclusive and that there needs to be more discussion “because the question is present, in the middle of the Church!”
Other projects mentioned by him are Communion for Protestants and a blessing for those who cannot receive the Sacrament of Matrimony — homosexual couples and divorced and civilly “remarried” couples. He proposes to “transport” the conclusions of the “synodal path” currently taking place in Germany to Rome, “on the level of the Universal Church.”
“What is being developed by way of a synod also needs to be clarified and responded to with the help of a synod,” he stated, “because that is the new element that has become strong under Pope Francis.” This bishop also wishes to change the Church’s Catechism concerning human sexuality.
Speaking with the German online journal Publik-Forum, the bishop of the Diocese of Limburg makes it clear that there is no alternative to the changes started by the German bishops, together with the Catholic lay organization the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK). He has recently been elected as the president of the German Bishops’ Conference, after Cardinal Reinhard Marx, in a surprising move, had declared he would not be available for another term.
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The German synodal path has been under strong criticism for questioning the Church’s teachings on sexuality (to include homosexuality, contraception, and cohabitation), female ordination, and the clerical hierarchy of the Church, as well as priestly celibacy.
Auxiliary bishop Dominik Schwaderlapp, of Cologne, just announced that he withdrew his collaboration from the discussion forum on human sexuality since the majority of its members are against the Church’s teaching in this field. Additionally, Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer, of Regensburg, just publicly criticized the “authoritarian” methods of the leadership of the synodal path — among them Bishop Bätzing — who decided, without consulting with the general assembly, to establish regional discussion meetings, as well as to add a new topic — the corona crisis — to the discussion.
“If you decide to follow a participatory procedure,” Bishop Voderholzer stated, “one should also abide by it and avoid to act in an authoritarian and single-handed way.”
On this background, the new interview of the head of the German Bishops’ Conference receives a special significance.
Speaking with Publik-Forum about the question of female priests, Bishop Bätzing is being confronted with the fact that “several popes have stressed that the question of the admittance of women to the priesthood is a closed question. Pope Francis is here no exception.” He responds by pointing out that “in the Catholic Church, there exists a decision-making authority, with the college of bishops ‘cum Petro and sub Petro.’ But that does not mean that one may not continue to debate the question of female ordination.” He then insisted that “the question is present, in the middle of the Church!”
Bätzing continued by explaining that “among the people of God, the arguments for the ‘no’ to female ordination are often not anymore accepted. That is why I am very much in favor of transporting the insights and decisions which we collect at the synodal path — also concerning women and offices — to Rome, onto the level of the Universal Church.
“What is being developed by way of a synod, also needs to be clarified and responded to with the help of a synod,” he stated, “because that is the new element that has become strong under Pope Francis.”
The head of the German bishops thus proposes that a Synod of Bishops in Rome under Pope Francis discuss the question of female ordination.
Further discussing the topics of the synodal path, the German bishop insisted that many people reject the Church’s teaching on sexuality since “it seems to many people merely to be a morality of interdictions. I hope we will further develop certain formulations as they are now in the Catechism and as they reflect the current state of the doctrine.”
“Indeed,” Bishop Bätzing stated a little later in the May 27 interview, “for quite some time now, there is a tension between the life realities of the people and the life realities of the Church. Many experience a sort of alienation.” He then cautioned, however, not to put too much pressure on the German bishops, because “we might then, under certain circumstances, undercut what we have reached with the synodal path.”
With regard to the question of allowing Protestants to receive Communion, the German prelate told Publik-Forum that changes should take place: “I am a co-signer of the declaration of the Ecumenical Working Group of Protestant and Catholics Theologians, and I am convinced: (female and male) Christians can decide — with good arguments and according to their own consciences — to participate at the celebration of the Eucharist — or of the Last Supper — of the other confession. Because there is by now so much congruence with regard to what we believe and what we celebrate.”
Curial cardinal Kurt Koch, in a recent statement on intercommunion, rejected elements of that very same statement as signed by Bishop Bätzing. In an interview with Vatican News, this prelate said the document is based on an “assumption” he cannot share — “namel,: that the Catholic Eucharistic celebration and the Protestant Last Supper are identical.”
Bishop Bätzing also made it clear that he is in favor of a blessing for homosexual and other irregular couples. He stated that in his diocese of Limburg, discussions started “after the dean of Frankfurt had taken an initiative.” “We have talked with people. Not few are suffering under the fact that their relationship does not receive full ecclesial recognition, for example because they are civilly divorced and remarried people or because they live in a same-sex partnership. They are waiting for signs.” The prelate further explained that he has already set up a diocesan commission in order to further promote the issue. “But we will not look for a ‘Limburg’ solution,” he continued; “we will establish networks with other dioceses. Quite many are on this way. We will also include this debate in the synodal path.”
LifeSite has repeatedly reported on the Diocese of Limburg’s working groups that are already preparing liturgical blessings for couples in objectively sinful situations, such as homosexual couples and “remarried” divorcées.
Some of the additional topics of this new interview with Bätzing are the laicization of the Church and the continuation of God’s Revelation.
This German prelate insisted that “the time of the Catholic milieu is over. At the time, every parish had its own pastor, and there was nothing else but the parish. That was a concentration on the priest which I and many others do not wish to have anymore.” That there are fewer priests now available — he calls it “resource priest” — “must not be damaging to the liveliness of the Church,” Bätzing explained. This change might allow that “it is not anymore only priests and bishops who rule,” but that there are also “other forms of leadership and organization.” He proposed even “more diversity with regard to forms of liturgy.” “I am very much in favor of it!” he exclaimed.
Bätzing himself has already established “pilot projects” with regard to these reforms, which will also be dealt with in the synodal path discussions.
Finally, when asked: “Does Revelation continue?,” this German bishop answered: “Yes, the self-revelation of God continues to take place all the time. But the substance of the Faith does not change. With and in this content, the Church has faced cultural challenges that came to her over the centuries.” Here, he reminded us of Vatican II’s constitution Gaudium et Spes, according to which the Church has the duty to “seek for the signs of the time and to interpret them in light of the Gospels.”
We can conclude that Bishop Bätzing is proposing major changes for the Catholic Church in Germany and that he proposes that Pope Francis pick them up for a Synod of Bishops in Rome.