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Reinhard Cardinal Marx told reporters last March that “We are not a subsidiary of Rome. The Synod cannot prescribe in detail what we should do in Germany.”Lisa Bourne / LifeSiteNews

MUNICH, December 17, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – A Catholic cardinal with great influence on Pope Francis addressed a conference earlier this month where around 200 theologians issued a declaration calling for fundamental changes to the Church – in the interest, they claimed, of fully implementing the Second Vatican Council.

Cardinal Reinhard Marx’s Archdiocese of Munich played host to the December 6-8 conference, which was called “To Open Up the Council – Theology and Church in Light of the Second Vatican Council.” The conference also heard an address from Cardinal Karl Lehmann, a former head of the German bishops’ conference.

The conference’s Declaration, referring to the ongoing “impulses of the Second Vatican Council,” proposed reforms to be carried out in many areas of the Church:

  • “As long as the freedom of conscience, the freedom of expression, and the rights of participation of the laity are not fully recognized within the Catholic Church, the character of the Faith as an act of the free will is not fully taken into account.”
  • Therefore, Human Rights still have to be fully implemented within the Catholic Church.
  • Theology needs to be able to claim full freedom.
  • Theology – parallel to the Magisterium of the Bishops – is now also to become “in the sense of tradition, an indispensable academic magisterium in the Church.”
  • “The Second Vatican Council had implemented, in an exemplary way, the task of a pastorally defined Magisterium of the Bishops to moderate the process of interpreting Tradition and the [living] experience of the Faith. Theology plays an important role in this process, which itself implies a self-relativization [sic] – to include the courage to revise Magisterial statements.”
  • The discourse between the Bishops' Magisterium and theology – which entails a certain tension – concerning the interpretation of the Faith has to be “conducted in a way that is open as to what the outcome of the discourse may be.”
  • The voice of the People of God, in its variety, has to be heard.
  • In view of a “hermeneutic which is attentive to Human Rights,” the image of a “Church as the People of God” and “Collegiality” both have to be put back into the center of attention. Moreover, “Synodality has to become again the principle of structuring within the Church.” This synodality “has to be legally implemented and reliably enforceable, and it also has to be practiced on all ecclesiastical levels.” (Here an explicit reference is also made to Pope Francis' 17 October Speech on De-centralizing the Church.)
  • The Second Vatican Council has made astonishing developments with regard to ecumenism. The Church has thereby opened herself up to dialogue with other “churches,” “after she gave up her exclusivistic self-conception.” “This awareness has also implemented itself, in that it is not about establishing a unity [among the “churches”], but, rather, about preserving the split.” Confessional differences “do not play an important role any more.”
  • The ecumenical opening also has to influence Liturgy and Canon Law more fully.
  • The Conference explicitly distances itself “from any form of fundamentalism or religious self-isolation.”
  • A living Liturgy demands “a strong participation of the local Churches” as well as “a continuous reflection with the help of an inculturated theology.”

Among the signatories of this lengthy Declaration, there are to be found several names which will already be likely known to the readers of LifeSiteNews: Professor Eva-Maria Faber of Chur, Switzerland – a speaker at the controversial May 25 “Shadow Council” at the Gregorian University in Rome; Professor Eberhard Schockenhoff of Freiburg, Germany – another participant of the “Shadow Council”; and the German Professor Michael Sievernich, S.J., who was a special papal appointee at the recent 2015 Synod of Bishops on the Family and who has defended the idea of admitting “remarried” divorcees to Holy Communion. One of the organizers of the Conference was Professor Stephan Goertz who has made news by publicly stating that a homosexual relationship should even be considered as having a sacramental character.

While the signatories are all professional theologians, Cardinal Lehmann served as the honorary president of the Conference. In his speech, the cardinal praised Pope Francis himself for giving back a greater freedom to the Synod of Bishops, according to a report on the German bishops’ website. He said the implementation and expansion of the principle of synodality are now more important than a Third Vatican Council. According to the National Catholic Reporter, Lehmann told the conference that one of the Church’s greatest failings in recent decades was “that we didn't take the societal changes that occurred after Vatican II, most particularly those of 1968, and the deep effect they had on people, seriously enough.” It might be helpful to remember that Cardinal Lehmann was himself a leading member of the “Sankt Gallen Group,” which regularly met in the 1990s and 2000s and which is known for its desire for moral and doctrinal changes in the Church.

Cardinal Marx, the current president of the German bishops’ conference, said in a sermon that the Council’s texts should be an “impulse” for Church reform. “They are an impulse to think further and to pick up the thread anew,” he said, according to the National Catholic Reporter.

“When we look back at the council texts, at the spirit of the council and the theological debates that took place, we must of course be deeply grateful but we must not stop there. … The council gave us the gift of new departures which we can and must take up in a new way today,” he said.

“The church is not only a teaching but a learning church. It is open to history and to the signs of the times,” he added.

Cardinal Marx is a member of the Council of Nine Cardinals which was founded by Pope Francis to assist him in his proposed reforms of the Church.

Steve Jalsevac, co-founder of LifeSiteNews, drew an illuminating connection in a blog post Wednesday between current developments in the Church and some of the earlier reformist and revolutionary movements of the 1980s. These movements then had also tried to alter fundamentally the Church's moral and doctrinal positions. Jalsevac quotes, for example, the candid words of one such reformer and activist, and they still sound very familiar, indeed, especially in the context of the above-quoted Declaration of the conference in Munich:

  • “I detest and fear dogma.”
  • “Dogma is the enemy of human freedom.”
  • “An organizer working in and for an open society is in an ideological dilemma. To begin with, he does not have a fixed truth – truth to him is relative and changing; everything to him is relative and changing…He must constantly examine life, including his own, to get some idea of what it is about…Irreverence, essential to questioning, is a requisite.”