German Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki warned of potentially “dramatic consequences” of the Synodal Path enacted by the German bishops, arguing that “right and wrong are mixed up.”
Issues being discussed during meetings of the Synodal Path include female ordination, approval of homosexuality, and other changes to the Church’s teaching on sexual morality. The Synodal Path, officially launched last year, is a collaboration of the German Bishops’ Conference and the Central Committee of German Catholics, the umbrella organization for Catholic laity in Germany. Faithful lay Catholics generally emphasize that they aren’t represented by the Central Committee.
“Perhaps, then, the answer to many questions that arise from our realities of life is that our realities of life should be shaped much more by the Word of God than our understanding of the Word of God by our realities of life,” Woelki said during a speech at the meeting of the Ratzinger Circle of Alumni (Ratzinger Schülerkreis) in Rome last Saturday.
“In the current discussions, there is always talk of a further development of Church doctrine,” Woelki pointed out. “However, further development in the sense of Dei Verbum and Verbum Domini can only mean that what is true from eternity is being reinterpreted in our time. Ratzinger also calls this relecture.”
“Further development … cannot mean that the supposed tradition contradicts itself, for example by being in complete opposition to the previous ecclesiastical teaching authority,” Woelki said.
The cardinal specifically criticized a document created for the Synodal Path focusing on the role of women in the Church and implicitly advocating for female ordination by claiming that Jesus Christ didn’t ordain anyone. “I cannot even go into the one-sided quotations and the omissions, which is how extensive this matter would be,” he said.
“I would like to say that the tradition in the Church is merely put in second place in the document,” he continued. “De facto, however, it must be said that the bulwark of tradition in the Church, which protects the Bible from being interpreted in a fundamentalist or ideological way, does not exist.”
If tradition was seen as the Second Vatican Council had explained, it would “quickly become apparent that the tradition of the Church does not recognize the ordination of women.”
The Second Vatican Council had pointed out, “Sacred theology rests on the written word of God, together with sacred tradition, as its primary and perpetual foundation.”
Additionally, the Council fathers stated, “It is clear, therefore, that sacred tradition, Sacred Scripture and the teaching authority of the Church, in accord with God’s most wise design, are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others, and that all together and each in its own way under the action of the one Holy Spirit contribute effectively to the salvation of souls.”
Speaking of the Synodal Path, Woelki commented, “Now the question arises: why do we not want to listen to the Word of God that is revealed in the tradition?”
An answer must be found to today’s realities of life, Woelki admitted, “but not against revelation. I would also like to remind you that the original reality of life that led to the Synodal Path was the loss of credibility of the Good News and the Church through sexual abuse by clergy.”
“If only a marginal paragraph is devoted to this problem” in the document on the role of women in the Church, “I cannot hide the suspicion that this reality of life seems to be only a vehicle to make long cherished wishes come true.”
Woelki signaled his openness to dialog about the realities of life but cautioned, “I am not prepared to do so against the living tradition of the Church. This distorts the Word of God. This makes the dialog with God impossible, which should lead us to our actual happiness and to true joy.”
Regensburg Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer said in a recent interview, “A whole series of demands made by members of the Synodal Path, which were intensified and intensified in the media, have become the subject of high expectations. But they are clearly contrary to the teaching of the Church and therefore contain the danger of schism.”
Cardinal Woelki himself had warned of a German “national church” just a few weeks ago.
“The worst result would be if the Synodal Path leads to division and thus out of the Church, out of communion with the universal Church. That would be the worst, if some kind of German national church were to emerge here.”