Germany: Revolt of the Laity Against the Synodal Path

January 29, 2023
Neuer Anfang or New Start Logo

While the Holy See has just expressed its opposition to the plan for a German Synodal Council – which would be nothing more than a permanent “Path” – a movement of German lay people is stepping up to denounce the “open schism” into which they see the Church in Germany entering.

The president of the German Bishops' Conference (DBK) may look gloomy in January 2023, but not because of bad weather.

While Bishop Georg Bätzing defended the “deep authentic renewal” of the Synodal Path during his ad limina visit to Rome on November 18, 2022, affirming that it would lead to “an understanding of the dignity of all the baptized” and a “broader co-responsibility of the faithful,” it is these same faithful who are denouncing the “schismatic” process at work.

“The so-called ‘Synodal Path’ in Germany does not meet the conditions for real reform. Obsessed with the [hierarchical] structure of the Church, it misses the heart of the crisis; it violates the peace of the congregations, abandons the path of unity with the universal Church, harms the Church in the substance of its faith, and opens the way to schism.”

A statement published in the open letter posted online at the beginning of the year by Neuer Anfang – literally “new start” –, a group of lay people worried about the excesses of the current Synodal Path, and who deplore the coexistence of “two magisteria” across the Rhine: “The Roman Catholic magisterium is confined like a dog to its kennel, and the heterodox magisterium of the Synodal Path is pushed into the media by lay and ecclesiastical lobbies.”

Although the synodal proposals are not – in theory at least – binding, Neuer Anfang expects a “de facto application of the erroneous ideas to become widespread in the greater part of the German dioceses.”

And this even if the texts did not receive the approval of the qualified majority of the participants. Did not Bishop Bätzing promise in front of the media that he would take care to apply in his diocese of Limburg, a text promoting a heterodox vision of sexuality, a text that did not however gather two-thirds of the votes of the episcopate during its vote? A promise already kept by the way.

By which we can see that the champions of synodality know very well how to find the path to authoritarianism when the collegial mechanics escape them.

For her part, Birgit Kelle, recognized writer and spokesperson for Neuer Anfang, denounces the significant pressure currently exerted on the Synodal Path, and which would come from #OutInChurch, a group from the LGBT nebula, whose goal is to normalize in the Church behavior contrary to its teachings.

She adds that “measures aimed at nipping in the bud any hint of resistance are already included in the texts proposed by the Synodal Path.” There is in fact a provision that anyone who does not accept the heterodox vision of the Church and of sexuality promoted by the Synodal Path “should not be able to occupy positions of responsibility and leadership” within the dioceses—a  decision that particularly applies to bishops and seminary professors.

If the Synodal Path continues its mad race, Neuer Anfang warns of the short-term consequences of open schism for Christians of good will. “Catholics faithful to the magisterium of the universal Church will be forced to leave their parishes and their dioceses in order to form a sort of underground Church” –a sense of deja vu, for Catholics faithful to Tradition.

But it is still possible to avoid the worst for Neuer Anfang: “Rome would have to act resolutely by demanding, for example, a profession of faith and an oath of loyalty for all those who occupy a governing or teaching position,” or by “removing” the bishops who refused to obey.

But will they dare, in Rome, to go that far, when they know the weight – especially economic – that the powerful Church in Germany carries in relation to the universal Church?

In this respect, the recent rejection by the Holy See of the constitution of a German Synodal Council marks a start of firmness that must be welcomed. However, to stop there will not be enough to avoid the worst. Moreover, the German bishops have already made it known that this will not prevent them from convening this Synodal Council.