German "Synodal Committee" continues to defy the Vatican

Almost all the German bishops participated in the last meeting of the German "Synodal Committee" before the summer in which three "commissions" have been constituted, one of which will be in charge of preparing the so-called "Synodal Council", repeatedly forbidden by the Vatican.

José M. García Pelegrín-June 17, 2024-Reading time: 3 minutes

Last Friday and Saturday, the so-called German "Synodal Committee" met in Mainz. It is composed of 74 members: the 27 titular bishops, 27 representatives of the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK) and 20 other members elected by the plenary assembly of the "Synodal Way"; resolutions are approved by a simple two-thirds majority.

However, of the 27 titular bishops, four -Cardinal Rainer Woelki (Cologne) and Bishops Gregor Maria Hanke OSB (Eichstätt), Stefan Oster SDB (Passau) and Rudolf Voderholzer (Regensburg) - decided not to participate. According to the organizers, of these 74 members, 64 were present in Mainz.

The Vatican has repeatedly questioned the "authority that the Bishops' Conference (DBK) would have to approve the statutes" of such a Committee, since neither the Code of Canon Law nor the DBK Statute "provide a basis for it."

As will be recalled, both in a letter of January 16, 2023 as in another of the February 16, 2024the principal cardinals of the Holy See recalled that a Synodal Council "is not foreseen by current canon law and, therefore, a resolution in this sense by the DBK would be invalid, with the corresponding juridical consequences".

For this reason, the German bishops declared that they would submit their work in the "Synodal Committee" to the approval of the Holy See and that meetings would continue to be held in the Vatican. The date of the next visit of German bishops to Rome has yet to be fixed.

However, at the initial press conference, DBK President Bishop Georg Bätzing stated that "the Synodal Committee is counting on the go [approval] of the Cardinal Secretary of State and the Cardinals involved."

This statement has been questioned by the lay initiative "New Beginnings", which for years has been criticizing the drift of the "Synodal Way" and now of the "Synodal Committee". Last week they sent a formal question to the Vatican Dicastery for Bishops about the legality of these activities of the DBK and the ZdK.

Furthermore, during the meeting of the "Synodal Committee," the Tübingen canonist Bernhard Sven Anuth - presented as a "constructive critic" of the Synodal Way - exposed the canonical situation or, in the words of Dorothea Schmidt in the Catholic weekly "Die Tagespost," that "which cardinals of the curia, canonists and the Pope have been trying to make the Catholic Church in Germany understand since 2019." if Rome has said that "neither the Synodal Way, nor a body appointed by it, nor an episcopal conference has the authority to establish the 'Synodal Council' at the national, diocesan or parish level," then any attempt to do so would also be "invalid according to canon law." Thomas Schüller, a canonist from Münster and member of the "Synodal Committee", agreed with him: "in the end, it is the bishop and the Pope who decide".

Although this intervention by Bernhard Anuth made it clear that there would be no "co-decision of the laity" and that Vatican approval of a "supposed parity" between bishops and laity is ruled out, many members of the "Committee" spoke in favor of "being courageous and exploring or even going beyond the limits of canon law".

The "Synodal Committee" - in the words of the DBK president - will implement and further develop "the rich fruits of the five synodal assemblies". To this end, three working groups, the so-called commissions, were formed on Saturday: one of them will be dedicated to the initiatives of the "Synodal Way" which, due to time constraints, could not be dealt with in the Synodal Way, such as "the new sexual morality" or "the decision-making rights of the laity"; a second commission will evaluate the resolutions approved in the Synodal Way and the third will prepare the Synodal Council. Each of the commissions is made up of ten members of the "Synodal Committee". The next meeting of the Synodal Committee is scheduled for mid-December in Wiesbaden.

A new meeting of DBK representatives with Vatican dicasteries, agreed upon during the last visit of German bishops to Rome in March, has no date yet, but it is rumored that it could be before the end of this month of June.

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