The Vatican is putting the brakes on the progressive German Catholic movement

The Vatican is putting the brakes on the progressive German Catholic movement
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Pope Francis speaks during an exclusive interview with Reuters at the Vatican, July 2, 2022. REUTERS/Remo Casilli/File Photo

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VATICAN CITY, July 21 (Reuters) – The Vatican on Thursday slammed a German progressive movement that aims to give Catholics a say on doctrinal issues such as homosexuality and female priests, saying it could cause a split in the universal church.

The so-called “Synodal Way” cannot presume to have the authority to instruct bishops on doctrine or morals, a brief but stern statement says. The co-chairmen of the movement said that they were not in such a claim and were surprised.

The movement, made up of an equal number of bishops and regular German Catholics, has been outspoken in demanding that the Vatican allow priests to marry, allow women to become priests and that the church bless same-sex relationships.

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The German Church, while far from the largest church in the world, has great influence due to the great wealth it derives from publicly collected church taxes. Its largest diocese, Cologne, is richer than the Vatican.

The movement “does not have the authority to compel bishops and laity to adopt new forms of governance, new approaches to doctrine and morals,” it said, unsigned, but could not be issued without the green light, according to experts. Pope Francis.

“Prior to an agreed understanding at the universal church level, it would not be legitimate to establish new official structures or doctrines in dioceses that would harm ecclesiastical unity and threaten the unity of the Church,” he said.

The move has alarmed conservatives and moderates in Germany and the worldwide Church, who fear it could lead to a mass schism similar to what has occurred in the Anglican and Protestant churches after similar changes were introduced in recent decades.

Bishop Georg Baetzing, chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference, and Irme Stetter-Karp, chairman of the Central Committee of German Catholics, responded jointly, “The Church in Germany will not follow its ‘German way’.” they had an obligation to say what they thought changes were needed.

They expressed their “surprise” at the Vatican’s decision to address them with an “unsigned statement” instead of engaging in dialogue, which they said showed poor communication within the church.

At a congress held in February, 115 clerics of the movement and 115 lay members of the Central Committee of German Catholics also voted in favor of allowing priests to marry and said that same-sex marriage should not be considered a sin.

The Catholic Church teaches that priests must be celibate, women cannot be priests, because Jesus chose only men as his apostles, and same-sex attraction is not sinful, but homosexual acts are.

The German Synodal Way also says that the laity should have a greater say in the appointment of bishops – a sensitive demand in a country where many believers are frustrated by the clumsy handling of clerical sexual abuse by church officials.

If national churches go their own way, they risk “weakening, decaying and dying,” the statement said.

Any final changes must be part of the universal church’s own synodal process, the statement said, citing consultations currently underway around the world ahead of a meeting of bishops in Rome next year. The German movement said in its statement that they will make a presentation in this regard.

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Thomas Escritt reported from Berlin; Edited by Alison Williams and Jonathan Oatis

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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