BONN, Germany (LifeSiteNews) – A German theologian has resigned from a forum on sexual morality for the heterodox German “Synodal Way,” citing issues with the forum’s work.
Katherina Westerhorstmann, a professor at the Franciscan University of Steubenville’s Austria campus, told K-TV, a German Catholic television station, that she resigned “not only because of time constraints, but also because of the concrete work in the synod forum itself.” Westerhorstmann will still be able to speak at debates at plenary assemblies of the Synodal Way, Catholic News Agency reported.
Westerhorstmann also stated that the path of the Synodal Way was uncertain from its outset, and said that amendments to synodal documents she proposed “were highlighted in color because they did not fit the predetermined direction” of the initiative.
Westerhorstmann’s accusations were contradicted by Hendrik Johannemann, an open homosexual and a member of the synodal forum on sexual morality. Johannemann, speaking to katholische.de, the German Bishops Conference (DBK) website, claimed that “all amendments that were not along the lines of the original text” were highlighted and that highlighted amendments were either “significantly more progressive” or conservative when compared with the original text.
Westerhorstmann proposed her amendments to synodal forum documents with Bishop Stefan Oster of Passau in Bavaria, in an attempt to “explain more precisely our view of man, which corresponds to the current teaching of the Church.” Westerhorstmann previously called for a halt to the Synodal Way in favor of the upcoming Synod of Synodality that will take place in Rome next year.
The German Synodal Way, initiated in 2019, has garnered controversy over its heterodox documents and fears that it may lead to schism.
A document called “Celebration of blessings for couples who love each other” calls for bishops to bless unions, including same-sex relationships, in which the partners either cannot be sacramentally married or wish not to be.
“The synod assembly calls on the bishops to officially allow in their diocese celebrations of blessings for couples who love each other and want to commit, but to whom sacramental marriage is not available or who do not want to enter into it. This also applies to same-sex couples on the basis of a re-evaluation of homosexuality as a normative variant of human sexuality,” the document states.
The Vatican released a responsum ad dubium last year that affirmed that the Church does not have the authority to bless same-sex unions.
Another document, called “Magisterial reassessment of homosexuality,” calls for a change to Catholic teaching and claims that sexual orientation is “is not self-selected, and it cannot be changed.” The document also demands that changes be made to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which states that homosexuality is a grave evil and inherently disordered.
In April, over 70 bishops signed an open letter to the German bishops warning them that the Synodal Way would “inevitably” cause schism. Signers of the letter include Cardinals George Pell and Raymond Burke and Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver and Archbishop Emeritus of Philadelphia Charles Chaput.
Bishop Georg Bätzing, head of the DBK, responded to the letter claiming 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 also claimed that Pope Francis supports the Synodal Path, referring to a 2019 letter from the Pope. “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,” Bätzing said.
Last June, Bätzing claimed that Pope Francis encouraged him in a private audience to continue on the Synodal Way. “Pope Francis encouraged us to continue on the Synodal Way, to discuss the questions at hand openly and honestly, and to come up with recommendations for a change in the way the Church acts,” Bätzing said. “At the same time, he called for the Church in Germany to help shape the path of synodality he proclaimed toward the Synod of Bishops in 2023.”
Bätzing suggested last month that immutable Church teaching must change with regard to homosexual unions and female ordination.