Members of the German synodal path support the permanent “synodal council”

A turbulent three-day meeting of Germany’s “synodal way” ended on Saturday with the adoption of a controversial proposal to create a permanent body made up of lay people and bishops to oversee the local church.

The Synodal Way is a multi-year gathering of bishops and laity to discuss four main topics: power, priesthood, women in the Church and sexuality in the wake of a devastating abuse crisis and amid mass exodus of German Catholics.

Participants at the Frankfurt meeting – known as the Fourth Synodal Assembly – voted Sept. 10 to establish an “advisory and decision-making body”, known as the Synodal Council, to “advise on major developments in the Church and in society.

He will also make “fundamental decisions of supra-diocesan importance on pastoral planning, future prospects and budgetary matters of the Church which are not decided at the level of the dioceses”.

The vote follows a statement by the Vatican in July that the synodal way does not have the power “to compel bishops and the faithful to adopt new modes of governance and new approaches to doctrine and morals.” .

“Prior to an agreement at the level of the universal Church, it would not be permitted to initiate new structures or official doctrines in the dioceses, which would represent a wound to ecclesial communion and a threat to the unity of the Church. “, he added. said.

The Frankfurt assembly almost went off the rails on the first day, when a document calling for changes in Catholic sexual ethics failed to secure the necessary two-thirds majority among bishops. The vote was followed by protests and walkouts. The meeting schedule was temporarily suspended while bishops and lay delegates attended separate crisis meetings.

The organizers have changed the rules of the meeting so that votes are no longer cast anonymously but by name. They also increased speaking time in debates before votes from one minute to two minutes. Over the next two days, all remaining texts were approved by lay delegates and bishops.

A total of 14 texts were to be discussed at the assembly, nine of them having their second reading. But only eight texts were finally examined and only four passed their second reading. When approved in second reading, the draft documents become official resolutions of the synodal way.


⚡ How they voted: Power

✔️ Creation of a permanent synodal council: Delegates approved a two-page document document entitled “Sustainable strengthening of synodality: a synodal council for the Catholic Church in Germany” in second reading. Ninety-three percent of the more than 200 synodal path members present endorsed the document, including 88% bishops.

The document was strongly criticized by the theologian Cardinal Walter Kasperwho said he was threatening to destroy the structure “which Christ wanted for his Church”.


⛪ How they voted: Priesthood

✔️ ‘Non-heterosexual priests’: More … than 90% of participants approved a five-page text, currently only in German, titled “Removal of taboos and normalization – votes on the situation of non-heterosexual priests”. He was facing his first reading.

“The synodal assembly is aware of the partly precarious situation of non-heterosexual priests and wants to contribute to lifting taboos and normalizing their situation,” the document states.

“The objective is a Church in which everywhere and at all levels, it is not sexual orientation – whether revealed or not – but human and professional aptitude which determines access to and retention in the office of ‘Church”.


How They Voted: Women in the Church

✔️ Women in ministries: The participants approved a text on the role of women in the Church which challenges “the exclusion of women from sacramental ministry”. Almost 92% of members voted in favor of a 31-page document document entitled “Women in the Ministries and Offices of the Church”, which was the subject of a second reading.

The text does not directly call for the ordination of women deacons and priests. But he claims that “for generations many women have known that they have been called by God to be deaconesses or priestesses.”

He proposes that “in the future, it will no longer be sex that decides the allocation of ministries, but the vocation, the abilities and the skills that serve to proclaim the Gospel in our time”.

✔️ Proclaim the Gospel: A seven-page text, currently only available in German and entitled “Proclamation of the Gospel by Women in Word and Sacrament”, passed its first reading, approved by 93% of delegates. The text calls for greater opportunities for women to preach the Gospel, including at Masses.


How They Voted: Sexuality

✔️ Genre: Almost 95% of delegates supported a four-page document, currently available only in German, titled “Dealing with Gender Diversity”. The text, which was facing its first reading, challenges “the normative anthropology of the gender of natural law”.

“Catholic institutions, Church leaders and Catholic politicians must not continue to denigrate our trans and intersex brothers and sisters in faith, especially under the general accusation of ‘gender ideology’ or ‘genderism’. ‘LGBTIQ agenda’,” reads the text, which has faced its first reading.

✔️ Church Labor Law Changes: Delegates vote by 95% in favor of the four pages text known as the “Basic Order of Church Service”. The document, which passed its second reading, calls for a reform of the labor law of the German Catholic Church, the country’s second largest employer after the state.

It argues that the law of ecclesiastical labor, set out in a document called the “Basic Order of Ecclesiastical Service in Church Employment Relationships”, is “discriminatory against employees who live contrary to the Church’s traditional sexual morality”.

✔️ Modification of the catechism: A four page document calling for “a reassessment of homosexuality in the Magisterium” was endorsed by a total of 92% of delegates and 83% of bishops.

The text, which was facing its second reading, says that “the paragraphs 2357-2359 as good as 2396 (homosexuality and chastity), among others, of the Catechism of the Catholic Church should be revised as part of this reassessment of homosexuality.

He adds that “the Church should confess that it has caused people to suffer and violated their dignity in many places by its teaching and practice in matters of homosexuality”.

Revise sexual ethics: The assembly failed to pass a text calling for a change in the Church’s approach to sexual ethics, after the resolution failed to gain enough support from the bishops.

The 30 pages documenttitled “Life in Successive Relationships – Principles of a Renewed Sexual Ethics”, argues that “it will not be possible to reorient pastoral care without significantly redefining the emphasis on the sexual teaching of the ‘Church”.

The text, which was facing its second reading, adds that there is an “urgent need to overcome some of the restrictions on sexuality, for reasons of sexual science as well as theology”.


And after?

The Frankfurt assembly will be followed by smaller meetings of the members of the four “synodal forums” of the initiative, devoted respectively to power, the priesthood, women in the Church and sexuality.

The German bishops will do their ad limina visit in Rome in November. The president of the episcopal conference, Bishop Georg Bätzing, said he would raise the conclusions of the rejected document on sexual ethics with Vatican officials during the trip.

All members of the synodal path will meet again in Frankfurt from March 9-11 for final votes on the remaining documents of the initiative, before the meeting of world bishops in Rome on synodality in October 2023.

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