Germany’s “Synodal Path” is a process that brings together lay people and bishops to discuss four major topics: how power is exercised in the Church; sexual morality; the priesthood; and the role of women. When the German bishops launched the process, they initially said that the deliberations would be “binding” on the Church in Germany, prompting a Vatican intervention that rejected such claims.
In May 2021, Archbishop Aquila wrote that the synodal path’s first text put forward “untenable” proposals for changes to Church teaching. He was among the drafters of an April 11 open letter that warned the synodal path may lead to schism, now signed by more than 100 bishops, six of whom are cardinals. And on May 2 he wrote to Bishop Bätzing reiterating that the synodal path challenges, and even repudiates, the deposit of faith.
In his May 5 response, the Bishop of Limburg maintained that the synodal path is an appropriate response to clerical sex abuse.
“Based on intensive discussions with those affected and intensive scientific studies on the occurrence of abuse of children and young people by clerics in our country, we had to painfully accept that there are multi-dimensional systemic factors in the Catholic Church which favour abuse. Uncovering these and doing our utmost to overcome them is the starting point of the Synodal Path in Germany, and it is reflected in the four priority areas to be worked on,” he wrote.
“Your argumentation that bishops have made mistakes in dealing with abuse and instead of taking responsibility for it, they now want to fundamentally question the doctrine of the Church in Germany, is, from my humble insight, frighteningly one-line and unfortunately does not do justice by far to the complex reality of the structures in the Catholic Church that facilitate abuse,” Bishop Bätzing wrote to Archbishop Aquila.
He added, “I am glad and appreciate the fact that your opinion is by no means shared by all the faithful and bishops, even in the Church in the United States. This is clearly communicated to me again and again.”
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