June 22, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) — The German bishops conference joined the country’s most influential lay Catholic organization last week in hosting an event to hear testimonies from “different forms of family,” including a cohabiting couple and an open homosexual, to help the Church “question herself in a self-critical manner” in advance of October’s Synod.
The June 18 event, titled “Listen! What Families Say,” was co-hosted by the Commission for Marriage and the Family of the German Bishops' Conference and the Central Committee of German Catholics (Zentralkomitee der Deutschen Katholiken, ZdK).
The very notion that Catholic teaching allows for diverse “forms” of family was recently criticized by German author and critic Mathias von Gersdorff. “According to the Catholic understanding, the foundation for the family is the marriage (between a man and a woman). A marriage and its offspring together form a family. Therefore, there do not exist many forms of family,” he said.
Both the German Bishops’ Conference and ZdK are known for their liberalizing attitude toward the Catholic Church's moral teaching, so much so that some critics have warned that they could could go into schism.
The official press release from the German Bishops' Conference on the June 18 event stated:
The forms in which people live together and take up responsibility for one another have become today manifold. “The task of the Church today is to accompany people on their personal path through life. In order to be able to live up to this expectation, the Church has to listen, understand, and question herself in a self-critical manner,” said Bishop Dr. Heiner Koch [the newly appointed Archbishop of Berlin], the President of the Commission for Marriage and the Family of the German Bishops' Conference, and Alois Glueck, President of the ZdK, in the letter of invitation for the Conference.
In order to prepare better for the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the Family in October in Rome, the two organizations did not this time seek the counsel of the usual experts, but, rather, sought the views of the people in general, “each one of whom lives in a certain form of family day by day.” Among these people who were giving presentations at this Conference were, for example:
A young woman who has, together with her boyfriend, three children and who makes compromises every day in order to raise her children within her own Faith and within the Agnosticism of her partner [sic], and who receives much support for it from her parish; a man who is a remarried divorcee and who often feels ostracized for it and who is challenged to live his Faith – for example, at the First Holy Communions of the children; the woman who reports on the advantages and disadvantages of a “commuting marriage,” inasmuch as her husband can only be with his family on the weekends, due to his job; a man who needed much courage as a young adolescent, in order to “out” himself in his own eyes and then also before his own Catholic family, because he had earlier learned that homosexuality is a sin and even a disgrace; a young man who explains his views upon the teachings of the Church and who describes, from his viewpoint, the discrepancy between the Catholic teaching and the lived reality.
This representative summary of the different people who presented their points of view at this recent Conference makes already clear what the position of the hosts of this event likely is: namely, moral relativism and an underlying Nominalism.
This orienting attitude also comes through clearly in the letter of invitation to this Conference, in which the organizers ask the following sort of tendentious questions:
Do the ideas of the Church have still anything to do with the life of the families? Are the statements of the Church concerning marriage and the family too narrow, too outmoded, or too rigorous? Can one still see in them, what it is all about?
Bishop Heiner Koch, whom Pope Francis recently appointed to be the Archbishop of Berlin, also stated publicly after the Conference: “We are not dealing with a detached sexuality, but with man and his sexuality as it is integrated into his personality.”
These questionable statements and presentations at the Conference make clear, once more, that the major ecclesiastical and lay organizations in Germany are favoring a liberalizing (or defecting) attitude concerning the Catholic Church's traditional moral teaching. Furthermore, these bold affirmations and requests come shortly after the additionally troubling May 2015 “Shadow Council” in Rome at the Gregorian University – hosted then by the three Presidents of the German, Swiss and French Bishops' Conferences – which collectively also promoted a liberal agenda and which even seemed to interpret sexual activity outside of the Sacrament of Marriage as acceptable and allowable conduct. There seems to be an accumulation here – as well as some momentum and some strategic co-ordination.
In support of this opinion, there are two other reports to be considered. First, Catholic News Agency now reports on one European source who states that a common and public statement from this earlier May “Shadow Council” in Rome is planned for September, just before the beginning of the upcoming October Synod of Bishops on the Family in Rome. Secondly, the Swiss Bishops' Conference has now already announced on its own official website that it will host – on August 31, 2015 – a Conference for its own members which is to be a follow up to the discussions conducted at the May 2015 “Shadow Council,” which was especially criticized for its “lack of transparency,” and even for its “secrecy.”
The influence of such astute and energetic Bishops' Conferences (and their lay supporters) should not be underestimated, nor unattended to.