VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) — The fallout continues from Germany’s Synodal Way vote supporting same-sex “blessings,” with the Vatican still yet to make a strong public stance against the German bishops’ rejection of Catholic doctrine, favoring “dialogue” instead.
According to CNA Deutsch, the approved text states that the Catholic Church “offers recognition and accompaniment to couples who are united in love, meet each other in full respect and dignity, and are willing to live their sexuality in the long term in mindfulness for themselves, for each other, and in social responsibility,” euphemistically referring to individuals living in grave sexual sin, including sodomy and adultery.
The German bishops were then instructed by the Synodal Way to prepare a handbook containing the formula for such “blessings,” reported the German bishops’ news outlet, katholisch.de. The bishops must “develop and introduce appropriate liturgical celebrations in a timely manner,” added CNA Deutsch.
But so far, the Vatican has yet to take a firm stance against the open break with the Catholic faith made by the German episcopate. Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin briefly told reporters at an event that the Synodal Way’s decisions “do not correspond exactly to the current doctrine of the Church.”
Parolin stated that the Holy See had “very clearly” spoken on the matter of same-sex “blessings,” but did not issue a condemnation of the German bishops. Instead, he mentioned that the Vatican would look to “dialogue” with the German bishops on the issue.
Roche issues letter but avoids controversy
Such a policy of appeasement looks to be the same line taken by Cardinal Arthur Roche, the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (CDW). The website of the German bishops katholisch.de reported March 30 that Roche had sent a letter objecting to the bishops’ proposals.
However, according to the news report, Roche’s letter did not object to the proposal for liturgical “blessings” of same-sex “unions,” but instead objected to the secondary proposals of the Synodal Way for lay people to deliver homilies and to provide baptisms regularly.
He cited the law stipulating that only clerics are to preach during Mass, while in contrast, “lay members of the Christian faithful are witnesses of the gospel message by word and the example of a Christian life.”
Such a law “is not an exclusion of the laity and, of course, no denial of the right and duty of every baptized person, whether man or woman, to preach the gospel, rather a confirmation of the peculiarity of this form of preaching, which is the homily,” wrote Roche. Should the laity be allowed to preach, “misunderstandings about the form and identity of the priest arise in the consciousness of the Christian community,” he warned.
He noted how offering the Mass and preaching were intimately connected, and thus could not be bestowed to members of the laity: “Word and sacrament are inseparable realities, and insofar as they are not only a formal expression of the exercise of the ‘sacra potestas’ [ ‘spiritual authority’], they are neither separable nor can they be delegated.”
Similarly rejecting the idea of baptism being regularly given by members of the laity, Roche highlighted the select conditions under which a baptism could be administered by a layman.
Canon Law 861 notes that the “ordinary minister” of baptism is a bishop, priest, or deacon. Exceptions to this in a “case of necessity” when anyone with the proper intention can baptize, or when the ordinary minister is “absent or impeded” in which case an officially “designated” person is to administer the baptism.
But Roche stated that in the latter case, a layman can only baptize when an ordinary minister cannot be found in a month. Such a circumstance “does not appear to exist in any diocese in the area of the German Bishops’ Conference if one takes the data of the Pontifical Yearbook on the available clerics as a basis,” said Roche.
The letter reportedly added that during the German bishops’ ad limina, the prelates had not convinced Roche of a need for lay ministers of baptism: “In any case, there were still enough ordained ministers, to cope with the annual number of baptisms in the German dioceses, which is in decline.”
Germans welcome Roche’s letter
However, the cardinal did not address the topic of same-sex “blessings,” despite the German bishops beginning the process of composing a liturgical format for such events. Such was the tone of Roche’s letter that a spokesman for the German bishops welcomed the document.
“We perceive that the Dicastery in the letter represents the current situation on the topics discussed,” said Matthias Kopp. “In the end, we are invited to further dialogue, which we would be happy to accept. It is good that we are talking to Rome like this.”
It was also welcomed by Britta Baas, a spokeswoman for the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZDK) which has played such a key role in the Synodal Way. “In just a few years, no one will be able to seriously resist lay preachers and baptisms by lay people if the Church still wants to be important to the local people. We already have a blatant lack of priests,” she said.
“Talks in Rome are overdue and are in the heart of Catholic civil society in this country,” stated Baas.
Thus, approaching four weeks since the German bishops voted to approve same-sex “blessings,” the Holy See has yet to publicly address the matter. It appears that “dialogue” with the DBK, despite its persistent rejection of Church teaching on the matter, is the Vatican’s chief policy with the German prelates.
Meanwhile, the Vatican is anticipated to issue yet another document restricting the traditional Mass, making the fourth such document since July 2021. The policy of “dialogue” with those labeled as “rigid” by Pope Francis has not been practiced.