The planned dialogue on the future of the Catholic Church in Germany has taken an important hurdle. This Tuesday the statute was published. On the path toward the "synodical way".
In the 38. Week the child will probably come into the world. The pregnancy was anything but uncomplicated. The talk is of the "synodal way" that the German Bishops' Conference decided on in Lingen in March and that is now to be launched on the first weekend of Advent, the beginning of the new church year. This was announced by the Bishops' Conference in Bonn on Tuesday.
At the beginning, everything seemed harmonious: with 62 votes in favor and four abstentions, the bishops voted to follow the "synodal path" together with the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK). Cardinal Reinhard Marx put it in a nutshell: "The abuse study and, in its wake, the demand of many for reforms show: The church in Germany is experiencing a caesura."It is a matter of becoming free "from blockages of thought".
The ZdK agreed. The three topics formulated by the bishops – power, sexual morality and the priestly way of life – became four, after the Zdk put on the agenda the question of the treatment of women, which seemed particularly urgent in Germany. Initial talks began in April, preparatory groups met. Again and again their results had to be discussed in the committees of the ZdK and the bishops. About all this, the enthusiasm of the bishops began to decline.
This was articulated above all in the formal framework, the "statutes", which should in no case be called "statutes". Because this term is connected with a synod, but neither Marx nor ZdK President Thomas Sternberg wanted one because of the canonical fetters connected with it. Both rather want to discuss everything openly.
But what exactly does "synodal" debate mean in order to make "binding" decisions? With which majorities? And whom do the results bind? And is all this allowed at all? In the end, only a letter to Rome? Those involved know that they cannot make national decisions on ies that govern the church worldwide. The resolutions should therefore also have no legal, but a merely moral binding force. Therefore, proponents say, Rome need not approve either the bylaws or the results.
Concerns from the Vatican
What did not stop the Vatican from interfering. Pope Francis wrote a "Letter to the Pilgrim People of God in Germany," unique in this form, which was interpreted differently depending on the interests at stake: The vast majority of bishops, like the ZdK, saw themselves encouraged to continue, a minority discovered formulations that confirmed their concerns.
No room for interpretation was left in September by a letter from the Congregation of Bishops, which warned the Germans against exceeding their authority. In order to discuss the different positions, Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of Cologne and Bishop Felix Genn of Munster presented their views in thoughtful but non-confrontational talks at the fall plenary assembly in Fulda.
Symbolic start to dialogue in new church year
Although the different attitudes remained, the climate of discussion apparently improved: fair and based on mutual respect, many said. There was even talk of a rapprochement. Nor did the bishops leave the statute untouched. The changes reportedly include wording in the preamble to enhance the theme of the crisis of faith and proclamation, as well as greater involvement of the theological faculties. Bishops and ZdK kept details to themselves. Both sides wanted to prevent the drafts and changes to the statute from being compared so that winners and losers could be publicly identified.
After the discussions in Fulda, it was again the turn of the ZdK to approve the amended statutes. The main committee agreed in mid-October. After that it is considered certain that on 22. and 23. November, even the plenary assembly of the lay representation will not be able to bring anything down. Symbolically, the dialogue is to see the light of day on the first weekend of Advent, the beginning of the new church year. At the end of January in Frankfurt, the "synodal way" will then in all likelihood be walked on and marveled at for the first time.