The synodal way goes online

The synodal way goes online

Once again the Synodal Way enters new territory because of Corona – this time in the form of a two-day video conference. This one could be exciting. The talks enter a new round at the beginning of February.

A year ago, the Synodal Way to the Future of the Catholic Church in Germany began with a plenary assembly in Frankfurt. After months in which mainly the coronavirus dictated the rhythm of public life, the event seems almost unreal in retrospect. 230 synod members, church representatives from neighboring countries and a host of journalists actually met there in the flesh. Already the meeting in early fall was split into five regional conferences because of the pandemic. Now the Synodal Way goes online.

No resolutions for the time being

On two days, on 4. and 5. February, the synods want to exchange views on the state of affairs. As with the regional conferences, they will not pass any resolutions. That will be left to the regular plenary assembly, which, according to current plans, will not meet again until the fall, also in Frankfurt. Nevertheless, observers expect that the further route for the reform dialogue will now be mapped out.

Four forums will deal with preliminary work on the central themes of the project launched by the bishops and the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK): power, the priestly way of life, sexual morality and the role of women. It can be amed that they used the video conference as a "mood test" for some basic papers and draft resolutions that had already been prepared.

Controversial discussions

Preparations for this have progressed to varying degrees. In the forum on power there is a document of about 50 pages. As expected, the discussion in the forum on sexual morality was very controversial. Cologne Auxiliary Bishop Dominikus Schwaderlapp left the forum very soon because the line taken by the majority there was aimed at changing church doctrine. It could find imitators. Various proposals are currently circulating in the forum, and it is difficult to find common ground among them.

The church's handling of sexual abuse, which was at the beginning of the Synodal Way, is pushing back with force onto the agenda. One example is what happened in a children's home run by the Niederbronn Sisters in Speyer during the 1960s and 1970s, where there are allegations of promoting prostitution.

Batzing insists on more speed

Against this background, is the prere for reform growing?? Hard to say. It is striking that the chairman of the German Bishops' Conference, Georg Batzing, is cautiously but persistently pressing for more speed. It is becoming increasingly difficult to justify the ban on women being ordained deacons and priests, the Bishop of Limburg told "Herder Korrespondenz" at the turn of the year. For talks on parish reforms at the Vatican, where German discussions are being watched warily, Batzing pushed through lay participation.

Most recently, Pope Francis officially allowed women to serve as lectors and communion assistants; girls now allowed to be altar servers. At the same time, he reaffirmed his predecessors' no to the ordination of women to the priesthood. Some participants in the Synodal Way may feel reminded of the Echternach Spring Procession: two steps forward, one step back.

Books about church reforms are booming

Despite all the obstacles, the synodal journey has not completely lost its way. A look at the book market shows that. Synod members Michaela Labudda and Marcus Leitschuh recently offered impressions from the "engine room" of the reform process, religious Philippa Rath lets in "…because God wills it" women tell of their vocation to be deacons or priests. And from the late theologian Eberhard Schockenhoff, now already sorely missed by some, appears shortly before the video conference "The Art of Loving. 'On the way to a new sexual ethic'. A legacy that points the way to the future.

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