The tense gaze was directed toward Fulda: What will be the results of the plenary assembly of the German Bishops' Conference?? The chairman, Reinhard Cardinal Marx, appeared before the camera and summarized the results.
The Catholic bishops have reaffirmed their will to continue along the "synodal path". "There are no stop signs from Rome for the synodal path and we will therefore continue," Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the German Bishops' Conference, told reporters in Fulda on Thursday. One will inform Rome continuously. The number of forums will not be expanded.
The "synodal journey" is to begin on 1. December, the 1. Advent, to begin in Frankfurt. Bishops and Catholic laity to discuss consequences of abuse scandal, clerical abuse of power, questions of Catholic sexual morality and the role of women in the church in an agreed structure.
Before the fall assembly, the Vatican had objected to a first draft of the statutes. Marx, meanwhile, had made it clear at the beginning of the bishops' plenary meeting that there was "no stop sign from Rome". In a next step, the Central Committee of German Catholics must approve the statutes.
While not all bishops had approved the statute, all had indicated in a second vote that they wanted to go along with the "synodal path," Marx said. The "synodal way" is exactly the right place to deal with differences. The purpose of this new institution is to listen to each other and to talk to each other. "How I long for this to finally happen," Marx stressed.
Woelki and Voderholzer against the statute
Earlier it had become known that Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of Cologne voted against the statute of the reform project "synodal way": "I could not agree to the statute in this form, but I do not want to refuse the conversation," he wrote on Twitter on Thursday."Let us try together to renew the church. But this must be a renewal in faith, a renewal of our relationship with Christ!"
Regensburg Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer had already declared on Wednesday evening that he had voted no and would only participate in the "synodal way" with reservations.
Voderholzer had stressed in his statement that the thematic orientation of the "synodal way" misses the reality of the crisis of faith in Germany. At the cradle of this process, moreover, was a "dishonesty". To conclude from the cases of sexual abuse that renewal must be about the topics of "celibacy," "abuse of power," "women in the church," and "sexual morality" is "pseudo-scientific.". Comparative studies with other institutions were missing for this.
The Regensburg bishop had also expressed his regret once again that the alternative draft presented by him and Woelki had not found a majority among the German bishops. The bishop added that he would nevertheless participate in the process because he did not want to be accused of refusing to engage in dialogue.
However, he did not expect much and reserved "after the first experiences, if necessary, to drop out completely".
The president of the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), Thomas Sternberg, welcomed the confession of the bishops' conference. "The decision, taken with an overwhelming majority of all bishops, to approve the statutes, which were drawn up in close consultation with the ZdK, is an important prerequisite for the further synodal path," he said. "It confirms us in our decision to have accepted the invitation of the bishops to walk the synodal path together with us."
Total amount of abuse compensation still open
The total amount of compensation to be paid by the Catholic Church in Germany to victims of abuse has not yet been determined. Cardinal Reinhard Marx stressed calculations, after which 3.000 victims 300.000 euros in compensation would be received, and thus a total of almost one billion euros would have to be paid out, are not yet verifiable at this time.
It was decided to change the system to a comprehensive compensation for victims, which would then be unique in Germany in terms of type and amount, the Munich archbishop added. In order to determine what sums will ultimately be paid, the bishops would still have to clarify numerous questions in detail.
Catholic bishops defend rescue at sea
The German Bishops' Conference continues its commitment to refugees and intends to further support sea rescue operations. The report published Thursday in Fulda at the end of the bishops' fall plenary session said Europe's border "must not be a border of death". European states were obliged to "organize effective sea rescue – combined with a refugee policy that opens safe routes".
If states do not fulfill their obligation to rescue at sea, civil society action is urgently needed, it said. Appropriate initiatives should not be defamed, but should be supported. The goal of all, they said, must be to "end the dying on the Mediterranean". The bishops praised the announcement by the German government that it would take in some of the rescued refugees in Germany.
According to the bishops, the Catholic Church's overall spending on refugee work declined slightly, but remains at a high level. As the chairman of the Bishops' Conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, announced, the Catholic Church is currently committed to 5.100 full-time staff and 51.000 volunteers for refugees. In 2017, the Catholic Church recorded 6.400 full-time and around 63.000 volunteers.
Dioceses and church aid agencies spent 125.5 million euros on refugee aid last year; that is 21.5 million euros less than in 2017. 83.5 million euros (2017: 77.6 million euros) were spent on refugees abroad and 42.0 million (69.4 million euros) in Germany, including benefits in kind.
According to Marx, the reason for the decline is that existing structures in refugee work are increasingly taking hold and projects to create housing have been completed.
Against amption of costs for blood tests for pregnant women
The Catholic bishops also criticize the decision of the Joint Federal Committee of physicians, health insurers and clinics on prenatal blood tests. It creates the impression that the use is harmless and normalizes non-invasive tests as part of prenatal diagnostics, the bishops said in Fulda. "This belies the difficult ethical and personal ies and societal consequences of these tests."
The Bishops' Conference fears that the health insurance system will promote an expansion of non-invasive prenatal diagnostics to include other genetic disorders and undesirable traits. The dividing line between diagnostics and eugenics in prenatal diagnostics is thus becoming increasingly blurred. "Consequently, every pregnancy would be preceded by an examination in which the possibility of abortion is always considered."
The bishops consider the use of tests before the 12 as particularly problematic. Pregnancy Week. This increases the risk of an "abortion mechanism". "We firmly reject this because of the worthiness of protection of unborn life and the life of people with disabilities," stressed the conference chairman, Cardinal Reinhard Marx.
Last week, the Federal Joint Committee decided that the costs for the blood test should only be covered by the health insurance companies in the case of special risks or for clarifying abnormalities. Prerequisite is a medical consultation.
In favor of consent solution for organ donation
In the dispute over a new regulation of organ donation, the Catholic bishops insist on a voluntary and conscious decision of the donor. "Organ donation must always be based on a voluntary decision," the German Bishops' Conference further explained.
"A basic social decision that every person is to be considered an organ donor in principle, as long as he or she does not expressly object, does not correspond to the Christian image of the self-determined human being, who has to make decisions about his or her life and body in freedom and at the same time in responsibility before God and his or her fellow human beings."
At the same time, the bishops welcome measures to remedy the structural and organizational problems in the transplantation process, to confront people more with the question of organ donation. Regaining lost trust in transplant medicine is also an important aspect, she said.
The bishops thus support the draft law submitted by a group around the Green Party leader Annalena Baerbock and Hermann Grohe (CDU) as well as other members of parliament. Politicians want to maintain that only those who have expressly consented to this during their lifetime should become organ donors. At the same time, citizens should be asked to make a decision more often.
In contrast, German Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU), SPD health expert Karl Lauterbach and other members of parliament are seeking a fundamental change: In the future, everyone should be considered a potential organ donor, unless they have expressly objected to this during their lifetime.
Hoping for progress in ecumenism
The German Bishops' Conference has cautiously welcomed the recent push by Protestant and Catholic theologians for communion in the Lord's Supper and Eucharist between Catholics and Protestants. In the final report of their autumn plenary assembly in Fulda, it says: "The closer we come to each other on the ecumenical path of rapprochement, the stronger the hope for a community at the Lord's table will become. As we approach the third Ecumenical Kirchentag, this desire will be articulated even more strongly."
In this perspective, the bishop who was elected on 11. September 2019 published text of the Ecumenical Working Group of Protestant and Catholic Theologians entitled "Together at the Lord's Table", which argues for a reciprocal invitation and participation of Protestant and Catholic Christians in the Eucharist and the Lord's Supper and presents this as theologically well founded.
The Bishops' Conference states: "This vote is a source of much discussion and encourages us to continue to work intensively on the ie and to seek viable solutions."
Concern over conflict within Orthodoxy
The Catholic bishops in Germany have also expressed concern about the current conflict within the Orthodox churches over Ukraine. At the conclusion of their fall plenary session, the bishops said, "It is with great concern that we view the ongoing intra-Orthodox conflict between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Moscow Patriarchate, which was triggered by the situation in Ukraine. We hope and pray that ways of resolution will be found."The German Bishops' Conference is "in the best possible contact with all Orthodox churches represented in Germany".
Tensions between the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople and the Patriarch of Moscow had intensified in recent months after Constantinople (Istanbul) recognized a separate patriarchate for Ukraine against Moscow's wishes. Since then, a church split has loomed between the two patriarchates.