(LifeSiteNews) – Over 70 cardinals, archbishops, and bishops have written an open letter to Germany’s Catholic hierarchy, warning that the country’s Synodal Way will “inevitably” lead to “schism.”
The “fraternal open letter,” released April 12 on Catholic News Agency (CNA), is addressed to “our brother bishops in Germany,” and warns that Germany’s “Synodal Path” is not limited to one country, but will have “implications for the Church worldwide.”
Based on this very nature of the Church, the signatories noted that “events in Germany compel us to express our growing concern about the nature of the entire German ‘Synodal Path’ process and the content of its various documents.”
Synodal Path risks leading to a ‘dead end’
Germany’s Synodal Path is a highly controversial movement within the German Catholic Church which was launched by the bishops in 2019. Clear, unchangeable Church teaching on homosexuality and LGBT issues has been consistently ignored by its participants, as well as by Germany’s Bishops’ Conference, 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.
A number of high-ranking prelates have spoken out against the Synodal Path, but seemingly to no avail. Now, the 74 signatories of the fraternal letter warn of “the confusion that the Synodal Path has already caused and continues to cause, and the potential for schism in the life of the Church that will inevitably result.”
The prelates – including prominent cardinals including Cardinals Raymond Burke, Francis Arinze, and George Pell (full list below) – noted the ancient need for “reform and renewal.” However, they warned that “Christian history is littered with well-intended efforts that lost their grounding in the Word of God, in a faithful encounter with Jesus Christ, in a true listening to the Holy Spirit, and in the submission of our wills to the will of the Father.”
Such failures “ignored the unity, experience, and accumulated wisdom of the Gospel and the Church,” wrote the signatories.
Rejecting the words of Christ, these efforts “were fruitless and damaged both the unity and the evangelical vitality of the Church.” “Germany’s Synodal Path risks leading to precisely such a dead end,” wrote the 74 prelates.
Seven key problems – ‘submission’ to ‘world’ instead of Christ
While noting that the letter was only a brief summary of the many issues, the signatories highlighted seven key problems with the Synodal Path. First they noted the Synodal Path’s actions “undermine the credibility of Church authority; including that of,” as well as Catholic “sexual morality” and even the “reliability of Scripture.”
Secondly, the prelates condemned the Synodal Path documents as “largely inspired not by Scripture and Tradition,” even though the documents displayed a “patina of religious ideas and vocabulary.” Instead, the documents were guided by “sociological analysis and contemporary political, including gender, ideologies,” stated the prelates. “They look at the Church and her mission through the lens of the world rather than through the lens of the truths revealed in Scripture and the Church’s authoritative Tradition.”
Troublesome also to the 74 signatories is the manner in which the Synodal Path “seems to reinterpret, and thus diminish, the meaning of Christian freedom.” Gone is the “Christian” understanding of freedom as the “unhampered ability to do what is right,” which is replaced by a basic notion of “autonomy.”
The Synodal Path “displays more submission and obedience to the world and ideologies than to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior,” wrote the signatories. It is marked by being “bureaucracy-heavy, obsessively critical, and inward-looking,” and “becomes anti-evangelical in tone.”
Synodal Path’s ‘spirit’ is ‘fundamentally at odds’ with the ‘Christian life’
Continuing their forthright tone, the signatories noted how “the Synodal Path’s focus on ‘power’ in the Church suggests a spirit fundamentally at odds with the real nature of Christian life.”
The members of the Synodal Path appeared to be demanding structural change, rather than “conversion of hearts,” added the letter.
The “destructive example” of the Synodal Path could lead bishops and would certainly lead “many otherwise faithful laypeople, to distrust the very idea of ‘synodality’,” warned the signatories. They added how such an event would prevent the Church’s mission of “converting and sanctifying the world.” “In a time of confusion, the last thing our community of faith needs is more of the same.”
By all accounts, Bishop Daniel Fernández Torres' diocese of Arecibo in Puerto Rico is flourishing because of his adherence to the perennial teachings of the Church.
But, without any formal proceedings, Bishop Fernández Torres has been summarily 'relieved' of his episcopal duties allegedly because he championed conscience rights in the face of a Church vaccine mandate in Puerto Rico.
Please SIGN this urgent petition to Pope Francis urging him to reinstate Bishop Fernández Torres now.
To be clear, COVID-19 is a serious disease, oftentimes with debilitating consequences, or worse, for those who contract it.
However, all coronavirus vaccines currently authorized for use in the U.S. and Puerto Rico have been tested on or produced with cell lines of aborted babies. And, the vaccines have been linked to serious side effects, while none has yet completed long-term testing.
Given the complexity of this issue, the Church has determined that getting vaccinated is a matter of personal discernment which each individual must make after informing his or her conscience.
As such, the Church teaches that there is no moral obligation to be vaccinated. Indeed, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), the Church's teaching authority where faith and moral are concerned, issued a statement to that effect in December, 2020.
Specifically, the CDF's, “Note on the Morality of Using Some Anti-COVID-19 Vaccines,” of December 17, 2020, n. 5 states: “At the same time, practical reason makes evident that vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation and that, therefore, it must be voluntary.”
Therefore, it would appear that for simply restating the current teaching of the CDF and for opposing his brother bishops in Puerto Rico on this seminal matter of conscientious objection, Rome is now attempting to "cancel" Bishop Fernández Torres.
This is wrong, unfair and discriminatory!
And, Bishop Fernández Torres is hardly the first bishop to defend Church teaching on conscientious objection on the issue of mandatory vaccination. Both the Colorado and South Dakota bishops' conferences released similar statements, and like Bishop Fernández Torres, they also offered to validate religious exemptions for member of their flock who asked to be exempted from vaccination.
Please SIGN and SHARE this urgent petition to Pope Francis urging him to reinstate Bishop Fernández Torres.
For his part, Bishop Fernández Torres, 57, a staunch defender of life and family, protested his removal as "totally unjust" in a statement released Wednesday (3/9/2022).
The bishop, who led his diocese for nearly 12 years, noted that Pope Francis’ apostolic delegate to Puerto Rico verbally requested that he resign, but said that he refused to do so, as he "did not want to become an accomplice of a totally unjust action."
"No process has been made against me," Bishop Fernández Torres wrote, "nor have I been formally accused of anything, and simply one day the apostolic delegate verbally communicated to me that Rome was asking me to resign."
“A successor of the apostles is now being replaced without even undertaking what would be a due canonical process to remove a parish priest,” the bishop added.
“I was informed that I had committed no crime but that I supposedly ‘had not been obedient to the pope nor had I been in sufficient communion with my brother bishops of Puerto Rico,’” he said. “It was suggested to me that if I resigned from the diocese I would remain at the service of the Church in case at some time I was needed in some other position; an offer that in fact proves my innocence.”
Please SIGN and SHARE this urgent petition to Pope Francis urging him to reinstate Bishop Fernández Torres. Thank you!
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
'Pope Francis abruptly removes faithful bishop who opposed COVID vaccine mandates' - https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/pope-francis-abruptly-removes-faithful-bishop-who-opposed-covid-vaccine-mandates/
'Puerto Rico bishop supports conscience objections to COVID vaccines, allows priests to sign exemptions' - https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/puerto-rico-bishop-supports-conscience-objections-to-covid-vaccines-allows-priests-to-sign-exemptions/
**Photo Credit: Diocese of Arecibo
Signatories double down, call for more bishops to join
The majority of the prelates who signed the letter are from the U.S., including figures such as Cardinal Burke; Denver’s Archbishop Samuel Aquila; San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone; Archbishop Joseph Naumann, recent former chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities; Bishop Kevin Rhoades, the recent former head of the USCCB Committee on doctrine; and Tyler, Texas’ Bishop Joseph Strickland.
The signatories also numbered bishops from Africa, particularly Tanzania, along with Nigeria’s Cardinal Francis Arinze, the former Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, and the archbishop emeritus of Durban, Cardinal Wilfred Napier.
Bishop Paprocki, himself a signatory, told CNA that “the German Synodal Way has strayed far from the path of authentic synodality and has placed itself in opposition to the truths of our Catholic faith as taught over the centuries from Scripture and Tradition. In fraternal correction and in union with bishops from around the world, I encourage the Bishops of Germany to return to the true deposit of faith as handed on to us by Jesus Christ.”
“As successors of the Apostles, we’ve got something of a duty to bear witness to the truth,” Cardinal Pell told the National Catholic Register. Pell has previously described the Synodal Path as a “rupture, not compatible with the ancient teaching of Scripture and the Magisterium, not compatible with any legitimate doctrinal developments.”
The signatories have provided an email address, [email protected], for fellow bishops to write regarding adding their name to the open letter.
Meanwhile Bishop Strickland, a well-known name on LifeSiteNews, called for more bishops to join in “calling our German brothers to return to the Truth of Jesus Christ. Let us pray for a renewal of faith during this Holy Week.”
Thank you to all the bishops who signed this letter. I hope many more will join our voices calling our German brothers to return to the Truth of Jesus Christ. Let us pray for a renewal of faith during this Holy Week. https://t.co/FIdjgI4PNF
— Bishop J. Strickland (@Bishopoftyler) April 12, 2022
The full text of the open letter and list of signatories is found below:
A FRATERNAL OPEN LETTER TO OUR BROTHER BISHOPS IN GERMANY
April 11, 2022
In an age of rapid global communication, events in one nation inevitably impact ecclesial life elsewhere. Thus the “Synodal Path” process, as currently pursued by Catholics in Germany, has implications for the Church worldwide. This includes the local Churches which we pastor and the many faithful Catholics for whom we are responsible.
In that light, events in Germany compel us to express our growing concern about the nature of the entire German “Synodal Path” process and the content of its various documents. Our comments here are deliberately brief. They warrant, and we strongly encourage, more elaboration (as, for example, Archbishop Samuel Aquila’s An Open Letter to the Catholic Bishops of the World) from individual bishops. Nonetheless, the urgency of our joint remarks is rooted in Romans 12, and especially Paul’s caution: Do not be conformed to this world. And their seriousness flows from the confusion that the Synodal Path has already caused and continues to cause, and the potential for schism in the life of the Church that will inevitably result.
The need for reform and renewal is as old as the Church herself. At its root, this impulse is admirable and should never be feared. Many of those involved in the Synodal Path process are doubtless people of outstanding character. Yet Christian history is littered with well-intended efforts that lost their grounding in the Word of God, in a faithful encounter with Jesus Christ, in a true listening to the Holy Spirit, and in the submission of our wills to the will of the Father. These failed efforts ignored the unity, experience, and accumulated wisdom of the Gospel and the Church. Because they failed to heed the words of Jesus, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn 15: 5), they were fruitless and damaged both the unity and the evangelical vitality of the Church. Germany’s Synodal Path risks leading to precisely such a dead end.
As your brother bishops, our concerns include but are not limited to the following:
1. Failing to listen to the Holy Spirit and the Gospel, the Synodal Path’s actions undermine the credibility of Church authority, including that of Pope Francis; Christian anthropology and sexual morality; and the reliability of Scripture.
2. While they display a patina of religious ideas and vocabulary, the German Synodal Path documents seem largely inspired not by Scripture and Tradition — which, for the Second Vatican Council, are “a single sacred deposit of the Word of God” — but by sociological analysis and contemporary political, including gender, ideologies. They look at the Church and her mission through the lens of the world rather than through the lens of the truths revealed in Scripture and the Church’s authoritative Tradition.
3. Synodal Path content also seems to reinterpret, and thus diminish, the meaning of Christian freedom. For the Christian, freedom is the knowledge, the willingness, and the unhampered ability to do what is right. Freedom is not “autonomy.” Authentic freedom, as the Church teaches, is tethered to truth and ordered to goodness and, ultimately, beatitude. Conscience does not create truth, nor is conscience a matter of personal preference or self-assertion. A properly formed Christian conscience remains subject to the truth about human nature and the norms of righteous living revealed by God and taught by Christ’s Church. Jesus is the truth, who sets us free (Jn 8).
4. The joy of the Gospel — essential to Christian life, as Pope Francis so often stresses — seems utterly absent from Synodal Path discussions and texts, a telling flaw for an effort that seeks personal and ecclesial renewal.
5. The Synodal Path process, at nearly every step, is the work of experts and committees: bureaucracy-heavy, obsessively critical, and inward-looking. It thus itself reflects a widespread form of Church sclerosis and, ironically, becomes anti-evangelical in tone. In its effect, the Synodal Path displays more submission and obedience to the world and ideologies than to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
6. The Synodal Path’s focus on “power” in the Church suggests a spirit fundamentally at odds with the real nature of Christian life. Ultimately the Church is not merely an “institution” but an organic community; not egalitarian but familial, complementary, and hierarchical — a people sealed together by love of Jesus Christ and love for each other in his name. The reform of structures is not at all the same thing as the conversion of hearts. The encounter with Jesus, as seen in the Gospel and in the lives of the saints throughout history, changes hearts and minds, brings healing, turns one away from a life of sin and unhappiness, and demonstrates the power of the Gospel.
7. The last and most distressingly immediate problem with Germany’s Synodal Path is terribly ironic. By its destructive example, it may lead some bishops, and will lead many otherwise faithful laypeople, to distrust the very idea of “synodality,” thus further impeding the Church’s necessary conversation about fulfilling the mission of converting and sanctifying the world.
In a time of confusion, the last thing our community of faith needs is more of the same. As you discern the Lord’s will for the Church in Germany, be assured of our prayers for you.
- Cardinal Francis Arinze (Onitsha, Nigeria)
- Cardinal Raymond Burke (archbishop emeritus of St. Louis, Missouri, USA)
- Cardinal Wilfred Napier (archbishop emeritus of Durban, South Africa)
- Cardinal George Pell (archbishop emeritus of Sydney, Australia)
- Archbishop Samuel Aquila (Denver, Colorado, USA)
- Archbishop Emeritus Charles Chaput (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA)
- Archbishop Paul Coakley (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA)
- Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone (San Francisco, California, USA)
- Archbishop Damian Dallu (Songea, Tanzania)
- Archbishop Emeritus Joseph Kurtz (Louisville, Kentucky, USA)
- Archbishop J. Michael Miller (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada)
- Archbishop Joseph Naumann (Kansas City, Kansas, USA)
- Archbishop Andrew Nkea (Bamenda, Cameroon)
- Archbishop Renatus Nkwande (Mwanza, Tanzania)
- Archbishop Gervas Nyaisonga (Mbeya, Tanzania)
- Archbishop Gabriel Palmer-Buckle (Cape Coast, Ghana)
- Archbishop Emeritus Terrence Prendergast (Ottawa-Cornwall, Ontario, Canada)
- Archbishop Jude Thaddaeus Ruwaichi (Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania)
- Archbishop Alexander Sample (Portland, Oregon, USA)
- Bishop Joseph Afrifah-Agyekum (Koforidua, Ghana)
- Bishop Michael Barber (Oakland, California, USA)
- Bishop Emeritus Herbert Bevard (St. Thomas, American Virgin Islands)
- Bishop Earl Boyea (Lansing, Michigan, USA)
- Bishop Neal Buckon (Auxiliary, Military Services, USA)
- Bishop William Callahan (La Crosse, Wisconsin, USA)
- Bishop Emeritus Massimo Camisasca (Reggio Emilia-Guastalla, Italy)
- Bishop Liam Cary (Baker, Oregon, USA)
- Bishop Peter Christensen (Boise, Idaho, USA)
- Bishop Joseph Coffey (Auxiliary, Military Services, USA)
- Bishop James Conley (Lincoln, Nebraska, USA)
- Bishop Thomas Daly (Spokane, Washington, USA)
- Bishop John Doerfler (Marquette, Michigan, USA)
- Bishop Timothy Freyer (Auxiliary, Orange, California, USA)
- Bishop Donald Hying (Madison, Wisconsin, USA)
- Bishop Emeritus Daniel Jenky (Peoria, Illinois, USA)
- Bishop Stephen Jensen (Prince George, British Columbia, Canada)
- Bishop William Joensen (Des Moines, Iowa, USA)
- Bishop James Johnston (Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri, USA)
- Bishop David Kagan (Bismarck, North Dakota, USA)
- Bishop Flavian Kassala (Geita, Tanzania)
- Bishop Carl Kemme (Wichita, Kansas, USA)
- Bishop Rogatus Kimaryo (Same, Tanzania)
- Bishop Anthony Lagwen (Mbulu, Tanzania)
- Bishop David Malloy (Rockford, Illinois, USA)
- Bishop Gregory Mansour (Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn, New York, USA)
- Bishop Simon Masondole (Bunda, Tanzania)
- Bishop Robert McManus (Worcester, Massachusetts, USA)
- Bishop Bernadin Mfumbusa (Kondoa, Tanzania)
- Bishop Filbert Mhasi (Tunduru-Masasi, Tanzania)
- Bishop Lazarus Msimbe (Morogoro, Tanzania)
- Bishop Daniel Mueggenborg (Reno, Nevada, USA)
- Bishop William Muhm (Auxiliary, Military Services, USA)
- Bishop Thanh Thai Nguyen (Auxiliary, Orange, California, USA)
- Bishop Walker Nickless (Sioux City, Iowa, USA)
- Bishop Eusebius Nzigilwa (Mpanda, Tanzania)
- Bishop Thomas Olmsted (Phoenix, Arizona, USA)
- Bishop Thomas Paprocki (Springfield, Illinois, USA)
- Bishop Kevin Rhoades (Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, USA)
- Bishop David Ricken (Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA)
- Bishop Almachius Rweyongeza (Kayanga, Tanzania)
- Bishop James Scheuerman (Auxiliary, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA)
- Bishop Augustine Shao (Zanzibar, Tanzania)
- Bishop Joseph Siegel (Evansville, Indiana, USA)
- Bishop Frank Spencer (Auxiliary, Military Services, USA)
- Bishop Joseph Strickland (Tyler, Texas, USA)
- Bishop Paul Terrio (St. Paul in Alberta, Canada)
- Bishop Thomas Tobin (Providence, Rhode Island, USA)
- Bishop Kevin Vann (Orange, California, USA)
- Bishop Robert Vasa (Santa Rosa, California, USA)
- Bishop David Walkowiak (Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA)
- Bishop James Wall (Gallup, New Mexico, USA)
- Bishop William Waltersheid (Auxiliary, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA)
- Bishop Michael Warfel (Great Falls-Billings, Montana, USA)
- Bishop Chad Zielinski (Fairbanks, Alaska, USA)