COLOGNE, Germany, June 5, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, the head of the Archdiocese of Cologne in Germany, has called on the Church in Germany to strengthen its identity as part of the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church.
“The Catholic Church must remain Catholic,” he said in an interview with Catholic newspaper Die Tagespost on June 4.
According to Woelki, “the problem” with the “synodal path” in Germany “is that for many people, it is not an open-ended path at all, but a project whose only satisfying result has to be the abolition of obligatory celibacy, women deacons, and the reduction of Catholic sexual morality to the sentence: Between adults, voluntary sexual relations of whatever kind are not to be objected to.”
The cardinal, who in the past has criticized the project of the synodal path, which began at the end of 2019 and is set to last until 2022, pointed out that any outcome “falling below this target will be frustrating for these people.”
One of Cardinal Woelki’s auxiliary bishops, Dominik Schwaderlapp, had recently resigned from the forum of the synodal path discussing sexual morality. There are several other forums focusing on issues like celibacy and the role of women in the Church.
Woelki, in turn, argued, “We must all work together respectfully for unity.”
“It will be important, however, that positions that are derived from the tradition of the Church, for example those that refer to Pope St. John Paul II, are not excluded,” he said. “I have nothing against Church politics, but if Church politics is understood in such a way that the majority simply pushes out the ‘opposition,’ then it has not been understood that the Second Vatican Council sees the Church as communio and not as parliament.”
“I am curious to see if we Germans will be able to recognize that Pope Francis has set clear milestones for at least two of the four themes of the synodal path,” the archbishop of Cologne emphasized. “Against all expectations, after the Amazon Synod, he did not even abolish celibacy for such a difficult region, and he de facto rejected the ordination of women.”
“Whoever now wants to take these two questions to Rome once again, so that he can receive the same response in German, runs the risk of making himself ridiculous,” he added.
Following the first synodal assembly earlier this year, Woelki had told the news website of the German bishops that all his worries about the synodal path in Germany have come true. He also warned that he believes that “many arguments put forward at the first synodal assembly are incompatible with the faith and teaching of the universal Church.”
“My great concern that, due to the way this event was conceived and constituted, a Protestant church parliament is being implemented here, so to speak, has proved to be justified,” he said. “My impression is that much of what belongs to the theological body of knowledge is no longer shared by many of us here.”
Instead, the archbishop went on, some believe “that you can shape the Church in a completely new and different way. The view according to the tradition of the Church no longer plays a major role.”
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During his most recent interview with Die Tagespost, Woelki appeared to defend the president of the German Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg.
Woelki claimed that Bätzing did not advocate for a blessing of homosexual relationships, admitting, however, that Bätzing “did advocate for a development that will undoubtedly lead to this.”
Bishop Bätzing, during his Easter interview, had effectively called for changing the Church’s official teaching on “practiced homosexuality” by “jumping over trenches.”
“Here the statement of the Catechism is first of all that these people are to be met with esteem and respect,” Bätzing said at the time. “But every single sexual act is seen as evidence of a disordered sexual life. This is something that many people no longer want or can understand.”
Bätzing claimed that in moral theology, “we have long since moved towards saying” that if “true love and faithfulness are lived,” even among same-sex partners, “we must acknowledge that.”
Asked about Bätzing’s alleged refusal to accept the line drawn by Pope John Paul II regarding the ordination of women to the priesthood, Woelki first said, “That’s not quite true. He expressly says that several popes have presented the question as ‘closed.’”
Woelki continued that Bätzing’s words, in fact, “then give the impression that the Germans have to teach the Romans, the universal Church, the pope, a better lesson in this question.”
The cardinal agreed with Bätzing on having more women in leadership roles within the Church. Woelki said that as archbishop of Berlin, and then as archbishop of Cologne, he did “everything to relieve priests of bureaucracy.”
“If priests can once again see themselves more as pastors and not so much as ‘rulers’ and ‘managers,’ perhaps the question of women’s ordination could also be defused,” he mused.
Even when asked about Bätzing’s endorsement of Protestants participating in Catholic Masses and receiving Holy Communion, Woelki did not condemn the head of the German bishops.
Instead, Woelki only said, “The bishop of Limburg is of course free to take a bold position. But as president of the bishops’ conference, he weakens his moderating position when he represents party positions and publicly makes proposals that his confreres then hear about in the press.”