Is the German Synodal Path actually a general rehearsal for the Synod on Synodality? In a bout of confusion that was not difficult to anticipate, a public confrontation is emerging among the various currents animating the German bishops and theologians.
Taking advantage of the opening press conference of the traditional autumn plenary assembly of the German episcopate in Fulda, the president of the Episcopal Conference, Bishop Georg Bätzing, declared that the Synodal Path was approaching the final phase.
He admitted that the bishops were very distant from each other on some important points, but said that he was confident that the Synodal Path will lead to clear signs of change.
The bishop of Limburg was reassuring about the criticisms voiced by a group of members of the Synodal Path, gathered around Msgr. Rudolf Voderholzer, bishop of Regensburg, saying that the process was not endangered.
In fact, at the beginning of September, Bishop Voderholzer launched an Internet site offering alternative texts to the forums of the Synodal Path and strongly attacked the theological level of the official texts.
Bishop Bätzing ended by explaining that the German Synodal Path could “mark the way” for the synodal process initiated by Pope Francis. The Church in Germany could bring its experience to the world process.
During a conference on the crisis of the Church and the necessary reforms, German Cardinal Walter Kasper said that the alternative text clearly analyzes the existing problems, argues in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, and proposes effective and achievable reform measures.
That is why he said he explicitly supported the alternative text “Authority and Responsibility” on power in the Church, against that of the Synod Forum.
On the other hand, the president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity sees in the official text, which must be presented exclusively at the Synodal Forum, an attempt “to reinvent the Church, so to speak, to the help of a learned theoretical theological edifice,” upon reading which many wonder “if all this is still Catholic.”
One of the authors of the alternative text is the Dean of the City of Bonn and Pastor of the Cathedral, Wolfgang Picken. He considers that Cardinal Kasper's statements confirm the view that “the official Forum text is in part based on untenable theological assumptions and is therefore in danger of failing at the level of the world Church.”
Cardinal Kasper also underlined how important it is, on the Synodal Path, to find solutions that everyone can accept. He thus supports the demand for a controversial debate. Unfortunately, those responsible for the Synodal Path refuse to do so.
Indeed, the presidents of the Synodal Forum rejected the request to discuss the alternative text. The cardinal adds: “I see this as an indictment of a Forum that is interested in power, separation of powers and participation. …This openly and directly contradicts the meaning of synodality and everything that Pope Francis has set before the next World Synod.”