Ukrainian priest defends fraternal correction of German bishops’ liberal ‘synodal path’
February 11, 2020 (Polonia Christiana) — The Church under no circumstances discriminates against people who have some kind of disorder in the sphere of sexual identity because these disorders could be either a result of some kind of trauma or the effect of unhealthy relationships, etc. At the same time the Church reveals truth to all people, including the truth that acting out on such inclinations is a sin which destroys a human being. As long as the teaching of the Church in such delicate moral cases is clear and unambiguous, such people, who want to be faithful to their Christian vocation, struggle to lead a life of chastity. In such cases they can take advantage of either spiritual or therapeutic help — said Father Roman Laba, a Pauline monk, the director of the Ukrainian office for the pastoral care of the family at the Episcopal Conference of Ukraine.
Why did the Ukrainian bishops decide to take such a bold step as the fraternal correction of the German bishops?
I’ll begin by stating that the letter is one by the Commission for the pastoral care of families at the Episcopate of the Ukraine addressed to the similar Commission of the Episcopate of Germany. Our commission is led by Bp Radosław Zmitrowicz and Bp Jan Niemiec. The initiative of the Commission was supported by the President of the Episcopate Bp Bronisław Bernacki and vice-president Abp Mieczysław Mokrzycki.
The reason for writing this letter is the Gospel and the sense of responsibility for the Church. The letter quotes St. Paul’s words about the Church as the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, If one member suffers, all suffer together with it (1 Cor 12.26). Therefore, what happens in the German Church has an effect on the whole Body of the Church. In the early centuries of Christianity, such a sense of responsibility for the Church was very strong. For example, St. Ignatius of Antioch on his way to Rome, where he was to die as a martyr, wrote letters to the churches in Ephesus, Magnesia, Tralles, Rome, Philadelphia and Smyrna, and wrote to the local churches that had their own bishops; as well Ignatius, the bishop of Atnioch, also felt obliged to spiritually care for them and for the whole Church.
It seems that there is a lack of a similar attitude today. Many Christians live convinced that what’s happening in Germany maybe is not right, but it’s the Germans’ problem. This isn’t the case!
It is a problem for the Church. The main responsibility of the bishops is to guard the deposit of Faith and take care of the Body of the Church. And if it is ill in some part, the other can’t say, Is it our business? St. John Chrysostom, commenting on St. Paul’s words about the Mystical Body, says that when a man’s foot steps on a thorn or a prickle, the head bends so that the hands could remove the thorn. Remaining silent to what is happening in the Church in Germany is as if the eye said to the hand, I have no need of you, or the head to the feet, I have no need of you (cf. 1 Cor 12.21). I think that the same Spirit which inspired Paul the Apostle has inspired our Bishops to be responsible for the pastoral care of the family in Ukraine.
The Ukrainian bishops used some very interesting arguments. They say, for example, that because of “the new paths of the German Church” the souls of the Ukrainian Catholics are in danger, especially those who suffer from homosexual inclinations. How to understand that?
The Church under no circumstances discriminates against people who have some kind of disorder in the sphere of sexual identity because these disorders could be either a result of some kind of trauma or the effect of unhealthy relationships, etc. At the same time the Church reveals truth to all people, including the truth that acting out on such inclinations is a sin which destroys a human being. As long as the teaching of the Church in such delicate moral cases is clear and unambiguous, such people, who want to be faithful to their Christian vocation, struggle to lead a life of chastity. In such cases they can take advantage of either spiritual or therapeutic help.
A few days after the Commission for the family at the German Episcopate had written that homosexuality belonged to “normal types of sexual predispositions”, the news got into the Ukrainian media, particularly different leftist websites and wreaked much havoc in the heads of our faithful. How is it possible that the issues, which the Holy Scripture unambiguously judges as negative and sinful (meaning the acts), German Pastors and experts of their commission deemed “a normal predisposition”?! Such statements are contradictory to the Bible and magisterial documents, in particular to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Especially those Catholics felt betrayed, who carry a burden of homosexual inclinations and struggle for their own chastity. So far, they had received hope and courage from the Church.
However, when they heard that some pastors of the German Church preached something different, this undermined their faith a lot. Some of them asked us to explain the issue. This is why the letter was presented, and in the nearest future another letter will be addressed to the faithful of the Ukraine, which will remind them that the doctrine of the Church in these issues remains the same, because Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Heb 13.8).
It was also pointed out in the fraternal correction that the German bishops reach out to… promoters of LGBT ideology or gender ideology, which was strongly condemned by Pope Francis. What did the authors of these charges mean?
The Ukrainian leftist media, which supports gender ideology and LGBT circles, started taking the stance of the German Episcopate as a revolutionary change, as an example for the whole Church and not differentiating between the Commission and the Episcopate. At the same time, the same media showed the Church in Ukraine as a church which was backward and discriminated against people from LGBT circles. For example, “Our World” (from Kiev), an LGBT center for legal aid, published the following message on their website, “At the same time when Ukrainian Churches with zealous hatred fight for their sacred right to discriminate against and promote enmity towards LGBT people, the German Catholic Episcopate Conference has decided to re-examine the doctrine of the Church on the issue of homosexuality, sexual morality as such and the sacrament of Holy Orders, as well as the sacrament of Matrimony. After last week’s consultations in Berlin, the President of the Commission for marriage and the family of the German Bishops’ Conference announced that the bishops agreed with the statement that homosexuality was “a natural form of man’s identity”.
Do Catholics in the Ukraine follow the process of the so-called Synodal Path in Germany? What else, apart from the sphere of sexual morality, might raise their concern?
Some people do follow the process of the Synodal Path. Most often these are people who are involved in the life of the Church, who belong to different movements and communities. There are other topics that raise concern other than the issues in the sphere of sexual morality. Firstly, there is the process of a certain revision to the way power is exercised in the Church and there could be a temptation to change from the hierarchical system towards a democracy, which is typical of Protestant communities.
The process of the Synodal Path is itself happening in a way detached from the Church. This danger was emphasized by Cardinal Marc Ouellet and Pope Francis himself. Discussions on abolishing celibacy are disturbing, although this is not a dogmatic issue, but a very important sign of priestly commitment. Even more disturbing are discussions on female deaconates and a female priesthood. Heedless of the fact that the Magisterium of the Church expressed its own opinion on the subject, this issue was among those discussed in the Synodal Path.
Do you think that the admonition from the Ukrainian episcopate will be noticed in Germany? That it will provoke reflection?
It seems that the Church in Germany, including its shepherds, is under the strong influence of neo-Marxism. In the Ukraine (I mean also Poland) we have a vaccine against it because we had whole decades when we could see Marxism in its most brutal, totalitarian form. We pray for the Church in Germany, because we’ve received a lot of material support from their Catholics. Thanks to their support we’ve been able to build many churches and pastoral houses.
We haven’t forgotten that and apart from our prayers we thanked them for that support in our letter. However, we cannot be silent, because otherwise we’d be guilty of corruption. It’s hard to say if this letter will be noticed. Surely, it will be in some way. But I have little optimism in this case. I hope that our letter will bring courage and uplift the bishops who are faithful to the Revelation and who have raised the alarm. Certainly, among such hierarchs would be Card. Gerhard Müller, Card. Rainer Maria Woelki from Cologne and Bp. Rudolf Voderholzer from Regensburg. I hope that the letter will raise concerns about the Universal Church in some other Episcopates. I pray that they have discernment and the courage to defend the Faith.
We know that on December 17 Catholics and members of the Orthodox Church gathered in front of the Supreme Council of the Ukraine in Kiev to protest against LGBT ideology. It was a reaction to the parliamentary voting on “Bill 0931”, also called “The Bill to Prevent Discrimination” which was scheduled for that day and which, according to Ukrainian Christians, supposedly struck at the constitutional right to the freedom of expression. What was the reaction of the Roman Catholic bishops to that fact?
The bishops supported the initiative of the lay Catholics who went not only to protest in front of the Parliament but also to pray. Our shepherds also participated in improving that bill. The Ukrainian Council of Churches, which was presided over by Witalij Krywicki, the ordinary of the Diocese of Kiev-Zhytomyr, consulted extensively with lawyers and sent back their proposals to the parliament. Generally, the idea is that the Church could have its say on the issues mentioned in the bill (e.g., homosexuality) not only at church services and catechesis (this is not banned by the legislation), but also during public debates and would be able to preach the Gospel while not being accused of discrimination.
Please, from me personally and from the editorial staff and our readers, accept our cordial gratitude and expressions of special solidarity and, please, pass them along also to the Ukrainian bishops. What they did is an act of particular courage and fidelity to the teaching of the Church in our days.
Thank you very much.
Transl. Jan J. Franczak
Published with permission from Polonia Christiana.