LIMBURG, Germany (LifeSiteNews) – The head of the German bishops’ conference (DBK) responded to the 70 bishops and cardinals who recently criticized the so-called German “Synodal Path,” expressing his support for the controversial movement.
Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg, president of the German bishops’ conference, responded Thursday to an April 11 letter from over 70 bishops and cardinals who had warned German bishops that the controversial “Synodal Path” will lead the Church into schism.
In response to the 74 signatories of the letter who had argued, among other things, that the Synodal Path was greatly undermining “the credibility of Church authority” with its insistence on more participation from the laity, Bätzing argued that “the participation of the faithful in decision-making at all levels of ecclesiastical action will in no way damage the authority of the hierarchical office, [and] will give it a newly founded acceptance among the people of God.”
Bätzing referred to the Orientation Text published on the Synodal Path’s website, claiming that the movement “is not oriented to short-lived sociological theories or secular ideologies, but to the central sources of knowledge of the faith: Scripture and Tradition, the magisterium and theology, as well as the sense of faith of the believers and the signs of the Gospel interpreted in the light of the Gospel.”
“For this reason, no one can say that the Catholic Church in Germany is in danger of schism,” he said.
The 61-year-old German bishop also referred to a 2019 letter by Pope Francis in support of the movement, where Francis characterized the “Synodal Path” as following in the footsteps of the Second Vatican Council, lauding the lengthy process as a true expression of synodality.
“I was able to speak several times with the Holy Father about the Synodal Path. In his Letter to the pilgrim people of God in Germany, he has asked us explicitly to walk on this path as on a search for ‘a frank response to the present situation’ and at the same time, as on a spiritual journey under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This we take very seriously,” Bätzing said.
This is not the first time that the head of the German bishops’ conference has come out in defense of the movement.
In February, he responded to a 3,000-word letter by Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, Poland’s most senior bishop and president of the Polish Bishops’ Conference who had expressed “fraternal concern” that “the Gospel is not always the basis for reflection” in the Synodal Path’s agenda.
In response, Bätzing defended the movement as a method of addressing the clerical sex abuse crisis in Germany.
“Only if we address the systemic causes of the unspeakable suffering brought upon people by representatives of the Church, mostly priests, will it be possible at all to reopen the space in which a proclamation of the Good News meets with open ears,” the DBK chairman wrote.
And again last month, Bätzing defended the Synodal Path, after the Nordic Bishops’ Conference wrote to him raising concerns in a March 9 letter on what they called the “impoverishment of the content of our faith” regarding the fruits of the “synodal way.”
Describing the process as a “capitulation to the Zeitgeist,” the Nordic bishops said that “the orientation, method, and content of the Synodal Path of the Church in Germany fill us with worry” while strongly criticizing challenges to the role of women in the Church and human sexuality in the Catholic tradition.
The highly controversial German Synodal Path, also referred to in English as “Synodal Way” (Synodale Weg in German), was launched by the German bishops in 2019. Clear, unchangeable Church teaching on homosexuality and LGBT issues has been consistently ignored by its participants, and recently an overwhelming majority of participants voted in early February to approve Synodal draft documents calling for “blessing” of same-sex couples and the ordination of women.