Germany’s Schismatic Synodal Way

An attempt at what can only be called the self-destruction of the Catholic Church in Germany – and  beyond – is being carried out by the country’s bishops, in tandem with the officially recognized national organization of Catholic laity, the Central Committee of German Catholics. Vaticanist Sandro Magister has called attention to this ongoing scandal of the so-called Synodal Way, citing the recommendations, which are better described as non-negotiable demands, in the recently released Fundamental Text entitled “Power and separation of powers in the Church – Common participation and sharing in the mission”.

The German Synodal Way (Der Synodale Weg) aims at wresting power, authority, and control from the pope and bishops and giving it to radical laity and sympathetic clergy and religious. This will happen via a proposed “synodal forum also in the universal Church, an assembly of the universal Church, a new council, in which believers within and outside of ordained ministry deliberate and decide together on questions of theology and pastoral care as well as on the constitution and structure of the Church.”

In this revolutionary assembly, the shepherds would no longer lead the flock but rather would be just one voting block amidst the presumably more numerous laity, who in any case would have selected and empowered their bishops since “governance must always be co-determined by those who are governed, so that an important proposal is that ecclesiastical decision-makers should also be elected and regularly face elections in which the powers granted to them can be confirmed or delegated to others.”

Indeed “the goal is to guarantee the shared responsibility and participation of all the faithful in both deliberative and decision-making processes.” To achieve this goal “it is also necessary to readjust the constitutional structure of the Church in order to strengthen the rights of the faithful in the governance of the Church.”

If one objects that Christ, the chief shepherd, commissioned the apostles and their successors, that, my friends, is yesterday’s news: “The faithful often accepted them as authorities whose assessments and decisions could not be questioned, as ‘shepherds’ by virtue of divine legitimacy whom they had to obey like ‘sheep.’ Time has passed over these models: rightly so because they were not well-founded theologically.”

The hierarchical nature of the Church is thus dismissed as obsolete and unjustified.

Papal and episcopal teaching authority is plainly rejected: “No one has the competence to decide single-handedly on the content of faith and principles of morality; no one has the right to interpret the teachings of faith and morals with the intention of urging others to actions that serve only his interest or correspond to his ideas, but not the convictions of others.”

Do each person’s “convictions” now become the norm of Christian belief and behavior? Absolutely: “A plurality of lifestyles, traditions of piety, and theological positions within the Church is not a threat but an asset that deepens the living unity of the Church. ‘Judge not, lest you be judged’.” (Mt 7:1)”


This comes in a document chockfull of negative judgments of Catholic doctrines “not well founded theologically,” and that trumpets “studies” claiming that the Church has alienated people through “(power) structures that are perceived as regressive or not up to date. . . .especially in the field of gender justice, in the evaluation of queer sexual orientations and in dealing with failure and new beginnings (e.g. marriage after divorce).”

Accountability to the Church for ignoring or denying the teachings of the Gospel is now forbidden because, amazingly, this “contradicts the Gospel”: “The fact that people in the Church are afraid of punishment for behavior that does not ‘conform to the system’ contradicts the Gospel. Denunciation is an evil that must be resolutely fought. The communication of believers both inside and outside the Church must not be monitored or disparaged by Church officials.”

Indeed “[a] handling of complexity that is attentive and sensitive to ambiguity can be regarded as a basic signature of intellectual contemporaneity – and also encompasses today’s theology. For theology, too, there is no one central perspective, no one truth of the religious, moral and political world, and no one form of thought that can lay claim to ultimate authority. In the Church, too, legitimate views and ways of life can compete with each other even in core convictions. Yes, they can even at the same time make the theologically justified claim to truth, correctness, comprehensibility and honesty, and nevertheless be contradictory to each other in their statements or in their language.”

The same “live and let live attitude” will not apply, however, to the decisions voted on by the Synodal Way assembly: “we expect that recommendations and decisions adopted by a majority will also be supported by those who themselves have voted differently. We expect that the implementation of decisions will be thoroughly and transparently examined by all. We expect everyone to help promote the ability of the synodal assembly to act.”

So, the constant and universal teaching of the Church can and should be changed by a majority vote, allowing, for instance, for the ordination of women as deacons, priests, and bishops. Participants in the Synodal Way do not have to “support” and “promote” anything they reject in the Deposit of the Faith, but those who voted against any destructive innovations are told to “support” and “promote” what they have in conscience rejected as offensive to the Faith.

This coercive mandate to “fall in line or else” is revelatory of what this whole process is: a calculated attempt to overthrow Catholicism in the name of conformity to the spirit of our unbelieving age, a spirit that is narcissistically intent on seizing all power in the Church in order to redefine reality and rewrite revelation, promoting self-destructive license and suppressing all reminders of God’s law. This out-in-the-open subversion needs to be stopped now before it does further harm to the Church.

Roman intervention is required – and soon.


*Image: Pope Francis meets with the bishops of Germany during their ad limina visit to the Vatican, Nov. 20, 2015 [Credit: L’Osservatore Romano]

The Rev. Gerald E. Murray, J.C.D. is a canon lawyer and the pastor of Holy Family Church in New York City. His new book (with Diane Montagna), Calming the Storm: Navigating the Crises Facing the Catholic Church and Society, is now available.