A few days after being rejected by the German Bishops' Conference (DBK), the Roman proposal for a moratorium on the German synodal path was made public, in an unusual gesture, by the Vatican. It is a way for the Curia to increase the pressure, pending a possible clear decision from the Sovereign Pontiff.
It was via L'Osservatore Romano on November 24, 2022, that Vatican News through the official information portal of the Holy See that the Roman Curia made public its assessment of the method employed by the German synodal path: a way to respond to the rejection by the DBK of the moratorium proposal recently proposed.
The Vatican press decided to publish the two reports by Cardinals Luis Ladaria Ferrer, prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops, which were read to the German prelates during the inter-dicasterial meeting on November 18, a meeting in which Pope Francis did not participate, contrary to what had been planned by the Holy See press service.
The Prefect of the Dicastery for the Faith, in his communication entitled “Being part of a greater body” listed five “concerns” against the German synodal path:
– the working documents of the synod do not form a “coherent whole” and are based on assertions that are “not fully assured” from the point of view of faith and morals;
– the starting point of the reflection according to which the abuses in the Church are considered to be systemic, is erroneous;
– the German synodal path is wrong to imply that there is “almost nothing to save in sexual morality and that everything must be changed”;
– there is no reason to keep open the debate on the priestly ordination of women, because it has already been settled;
– finally, the conclusions of the synod are “incomplete” with regard to the traditional powers of the bishop in matters of teaching, of faith, and of the sanctification of the faithful.
In conclusion, as if he had the feeling that he was walking on eggs, Cardinal Ladaria said: “The universal Church needs the Church in Germany, just as the Church in Germany needs the universal Church.”
The Prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops then took his turn, beginning – by way of captatio benevolentiae – with a eulogy of the German episcopate, which, in the words of the cardinal, “really took the drama of scandalous abuses in the Church seriously.”
That said, the high Quebec prelate pointed to the danger of an “imminent Latin schism.” How could the agenda of a group of theologians a few decades ago become the majority proposal of the German episcopate? “What happened? Where have we would up?” he wonders.
For Cardinal Ouellet, the synodal path proposals “openly undermine the ecclesiastical community” because they create “doubt” and “confusion.” He sees the work of particular “interest groups” in them, and considers that the German reform project “drove off the road.”
At the end of his speech, the Prefect of the Dicastery of Bishops called his confreres from Germany to a “moratorium,” in the name of “the unity of the Church,” to a “change of method,” all proposals politely rejected by the German Episcopate. Which may explain why Rome decided to communicate in a rather unusual way.
We also know that during the inter-dicasterial meeting of last November 18, the Cardinal Secretary of State, Msgr. Pietro Parolin, spoke, but the content of his intervention was not made public, as specified in the German version of Vatican News.
What now remains is to find out the public position of the Sovereign Pontiff who, so far, has preferred to be relatively discreet and not to put himself forward on the question of the German synod. It must be said that it is not easy to raise the German eagle, especially knowing the contribution to the universal Church of a local church which generated more than six billion euros in tax revenue in 2020.