Synodality: the German reform

By Isabelle de Gaulmyn, 18 March 2023
Image: Pixabay.


Catholics in Germany have taken the risk of debate, reminding us of a tradition that has permeated the Church from the very beginning

The result of the Synodal Path in Germany must not be reduced to merely the Catholic Church becoming more welcoming of same-sex couples, because the process the German bishops and lay leaders launched goes far beyond that. They have succeeded, in the span of three years, in conducting a profound debate about what can and cannot change in their way of proclaiming the Gospel.

Driven by a catastrophic internal situation (loss of confidence following sexual abuse findings), German Catholics have indeed felt that they must respond to the demands of the people of our times. As Cardinal Marx said, “We have to promote a morality that is useful for life, that places God’s love for humankind at the level of the present world.” Indeed, it is in this context that the possibility of blessing same-sex couples must be understood.

The Germans have taken the risk of debate, reminding us of a tradition that has permeated the Church since the very beginning; we need only read the Acts of the Apostles. Their debate in Germany did not always avoid falling into political confrontations (progressives/conservatives), but in the end it obtained a strong consensus.

However, it also raised the question of the unity of Catholicism: how far can on part of the Church go it alone? The German Church has realized that its approach could irritate even the pope, by this way of seeming to hold the truth. But what is good for Germany is not necessarily good for others.

The conclusions of the Synodal Path, which delegates overwhelmingly approved last Saturday at their final assembly in Frankfurt, are ultimately cautious. They refer the doctrinal questions (female diaconate, priestly celibacy) to Rome, urging that these points be examined.

This is a challenge for Pope Francis, who has always wanted to favor local initiatives, but whose mission is precisely to preserve the unity of the universal Church.

Isabelle de Gaulmyn is a senior editor at La Croix and a former Vatican correspondent.

Reproduced with permission from La Croix International.


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