Both the blessing of same-sex unions and the sermons of the laity were given the green light. Rome is on the move
The raised finger from the Vatican only partially worked. The Church in Germany continues on its way.
Chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference Georg Bätzing and head of the Central Committee of German Catholics Irme Stetterová-Karpová on March 9, 2023, in Frankfurt.
Pope Francis received a “gift” from Germany on the tenth anniversary of his pontificate. Over the weekend, the local church finished the fifth and last session of the so-called German synodal journey (different from the worldwide synod on synodality), which has been causing controversy and controversy for the past three years.
Pope Francis also addressed the German Synod critically and ironically, saying that there is a very good evangelical church in Germany and we don’t need two.
The reform of the Catholic Church in Germany from Thursday to Saturday in Frankfurt am Main by 210 delegates, including German bishops and representatives of the Central Committee of German Catholics and other delegates appointed by these bodies. About 20 foreign observers were also present at the conference center.
The leaders of the process are the Bishop of Limburg and the Chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference, Georg Bätzing, and the Chairman of the Central Committee of German Catholics, Irme Stetter-Karp.
The assembly voted on several sensitive issues, and although it did not cross the “red line” that was clearly defined by the Vatican in the area of approving the so-called synodal council, some other agreed steps are clear proof that the German Catholics did not back down. Vice versa.
As reported by the Austrian Catholic agency Kathpress, the synodal assembly in Frankfurt spoke in favor of the Pope re-examining the mandatory celibacy of priests. In other topics, the assembly decided on specific reforms for the area of the German Bishops’ Conference.
For example, women and non-ordained men should be able to preach at Catholic services in the future. Blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples were given the green light, and in the church, the behavior of people who consider themselves transgender or who do not consider themselves male or female should be more respected.
It was also decided to further tighten the standards for dealing with perpetrators of sexual abuse and for the prevention of such crimes.
The last text adopted was a vote calling for the opening of the diaconate to women throughout the Catholic Church.
Blessing of homosexual unions: opposed by nine out of 58 bishops
Delegates in Frankfurt approved that the Catholic Church in Germany will officially bless the unions of same-sex couples from March 2026.
According to the DPA agency, out of 202 members of the synodal assembly, 176 voted for the proposal, 14 were against and 12 abstained. The necessary two-thirds majority was thus achieved, while according to the participants, a clear distinction must be made between blessing and marriage. The liturgical format of the ceremony with the participation of the bishops is to be worked out in three years from the time the change takes effect.
Only nine out of 58 bishops were against the proposal, while 11 bishops abstained. During the discussion, Bishop Stefan Oster of Passau, Bishop Gregor Maria Hanke of Eichstätt, and Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg, a close friend of the late Pope Benedict XVI, spoke.
Members of the KFD group, which represents Catholic women in Germany, protest before the start of the fifth synod session in Frankfurt am Main. They demand equal rights for women in the Catholic Church.
Bishop Bonny and other bishops in Belgium introduced the blessing of same-sex couples as early as September 2022. The bishop of Antwerp told synod delegates in Frankfurt that during the Belgian bishops’ ad limina visit in November 2022, Pope Francis neither approved nor rejected the blessing, but said he was going for the pastoral domain of the Flemish bishops, as long as they are all united.
The Vatican Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith declared in 2021 that the blessing of homosexual partnerships is not permitted.
How to understand the latest position of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which once again caused stormy reactions in the world.
Transgender resolution: seven bishops against
The other approved text is titled Addressing Gender Diversity and was approved with the support of 96 percent of the 197 voting delegates. It was also supported by 38 bishops and only seven members of the episcopate were against it. Thirteen bishops abstained from voting.
The approved material calls for “specific improvements for intersex and transsexual believers,” including changing baptismal records to match a person’s self-determined gender, banning gender identity in pastoral roles, and mandatory training for priests and church staff to “deal with the topic of gender diversity’.
The text also prohibits “external sexual characteristics” from being used as a criterion for “accepting a man as a candidate for the priesthood,” which could open the door to attempts to ordain women.
Catholic News Agency (CNA) reports that during the debate, a minority of bishops spoke out against the measure, stressing that the church should improve its pastoral care for people who identify as transgender.
Auxiliary Bishop Stefan Zekorn of the Bistum Münster diocese said he could not support a text based on gender ideology, while Paso Bishop Stefen Oster said the document did not emphasize that a Christian’s primary identity should be rooted in Jesus Christ.
According to Julianna Eckstein, professor of theology at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, the book of Genesis is an insufficient basis for the questions of sexual anthropology.
And Viola Kohlberger, a young woman from Augsburg, told the audience that there is no “norm” for gender and that the tradition of the Catholic Church is holding back progress. “And I would like to break it today,” she said.
When the vote on the transgender resolution passed, delegates stood and applauded, while some hoisted rainbow flags, the German news agency CNA added.
Lay people can preach, celibacy is to be “reconsidered” by the Pope
Only ten of the 58 bishops voted against the measure, which calls on German bishops to promote the issue of women’s sacramental ordination at the continental and universal level of the church.
The proposal adopted by the assembly replaced the call to establish a “sacramental diaconate of women” with a call to “open the sacramental diaconate to women”. According to the CNA, the difference clearly shows that the German synodal path promotes the inclusion of women in already existing sacraments, an idea that the church has repeatedly affirmed as impossible.
People living in same-sex unions, as well as those who left the church, will be able to work for church organizations in Germany.
Delegates in Frankfurt also adopted another proposal that adjusted priorities regarding the all-male priesthood and called for the practice to simply be reviewed at the universal level of the church, rather than ended.
Munich Cardinal Reinhard Marx said the proposal was necessary to “reach consensus” for changes in the church’s dogmatic teaching on the priesthood.
Several female delegates were seen in tears after the vote, saddened that the text did not more explicitly require that priests be also women. “Discrimination against someone because of their gender must end in the Catholic Church,” CNA quoted delegate Susanne Schumacher-Godemann as saying.
In the adopted text entitled Proclaiming the Gospel to the Laity in Word and Sacrament, the Frankfurt Assembly states that bishops “entrust pastoral workers with preaching during the Eucharistic celebration” as part of their ecclesiastical mission “so that they can exercise their preaching ministry officially and in the name of the church”.
In the future, lay people – women and men – should be able to preach at Catholic services.
The “German Synod” also approved a measure asking Pope Francis to “reevaluate the connection between the granting of priestly ordinations and the obligation to observe celibacy.”
The measure was supported by 44 out of 60 bishops, eleven abstained and only five members of the episcopate voted against it.
The warning from the Vatican took effect. Partially
In addition to agreeing on the aforementioned controversial issues, the German assembly did not cross the “red line” defined by the Vatican.
It is about the establishment of the so-called synodal councils at the national, diocesan, and parishlevelsl. According to the Vatican, such a model of synodal councils, which includes the joint management of the church by bishops and lay people, is not by Catholic ecclesiology.
As NCR explains, in the German proposal the laity could even override the bishop, or the bishops at the national level, with a two-thirds majority.
Even before the synod meeting in Frankfurt, the church in Germany received a kind of warning. Apostolic Nuncio Nikola Eterović reminded German pastors at the plenary meeting of bishops in Dresden (which preceded the Frankfurt event) that they are not authorized to establish synodal councils.
Subsequently, the president of the bishops’ conference, Bishop Bätzing, wrote a letter to the three curial cardinals – Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith Luis Ladario, and Prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops Marc Ouellet. They wrote to Germany back in January, and Bätzing assures them in his reply that the German bishops take the “concerns” of the Holy See seriously.
At the same time, he states that as soon as possible after the synodal meeting in Frankfurt, he wants to go to Rome to talk about the dispute about the “German synodal road”. As reported by the Italian ACI Stampa, in a letter to the cardinals, the bishop of Limburg spoke about the project, which could last for another three years.
very interesting, but nothing sensible
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