Vatican Warning: Germany's "Synodal Way" Poses "threat to the unity of the Church"

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The Vatican has issued another warning of a new schism from Germany coming out of the “Synodal Way."

“The ‘Synodal Way’ in Germany does not have the power to compel bishops and the faithful to adopt new forms of governance and new orientations of doctrine and morals,” the Vatican said in an official statement published in Italian and German on Thursday.

The Holy See said it seemed “necessary to clarify” this, in order to “safeguard the freedom of the People of God and the exercise of the episcopal ministry." 

The Vatican warned: “It would not be permissible to introduce new official structures or doctrines in dioceses before an agreement had been reached at the level of the universal Church, which would constitute a violation of ecclesial communion and a threat to the unity of the Church.”

The “Synodal Way” — Synodaler Weg in German, sometimes translated as “Synodal Path” — is a controversial process initiated by Cardinal Reinhard Marx. Organized by the German Bishops' Conference together with the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), its aim is to discuss four main topics: the way power is exercised in the Church; the priesthood; the role of women, and sexual morality.


Writing about the process, Pope Francis warned of disunity in his letter to German Catholics in 2019.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, a German theologian considered close to Pope Francis, in June 2022 warned that the German process is at risk of “breaking its own neck” if it does not heed the objections raised by a growing number of bishops around the world.

In April, more than 100 cardinals and bishops from around the world released a "fraternal open letter" to Germany's bishops, warning that sweeping changes to Church teaching advocated by the process may lead to schism.

In March, an open letter from the Nordic bishops expressed alarm at the German process, and in February, a strongly-worded letter from the president of Poland’s Catholic bishops' conference raised serious concerns

The president of the German bishops' conference, Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg, has repeatedly rejected any and all concerns, instead expressing disappointment in Pope Francis in May 2022.  

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More recently, another organizer of the German process said the “Synodal Way” wanted to change the Church’s teaching on homosexuality by proposing “a conscious statement against the current Catholic catechism."

He pointed to a text which not only contained comments about changing views on homosexuality but also about masturbation, marriage, sexual lust, and other related topics pertinent to Catholic doctrine.

In the statement published Thursday, the Vatican repeated a passage from the pope’s letter published in 2019, wherein Francis had warned — in German — of particular Churches being “separated from the universal Church," adding that in such instances “they would weaken, perish and die.”

The Holy See said proposals from Germany should rather “flow into the synodal process of the universal Church, in order to contribute to mutual enrichment and to give witness to the unity with which the Body of the Church manifests its fidelity to Christ the Lord.”