“None of us wants to replace the pope, annul canon law or rewrite the dogma of the Church. What we want is to ask questions, debate, move the discussion forward.” Cardinal Marx, one of the most trusted cardinals of the Pope, summed up the step forward – for the ultraconservatives, a full-fledged schism – taken by the German Synodal Way (Synodaler Weg) to modify some key aspects of the ecclesiastical doctrine on issues such as sexual morality, homosexuality or the access of gays and women to the priesthood.
The synodal path is a kind of assembly in which theological and organizational questions of the Church are discussed, and it is made up of religious and laity. The proposals were approved by a very large majority by the assembly members. However, in the case of the reform in sexual morality – to stop defining homosexual practice, premarital relationships as sins or recognize marriages between people of the same sex or divorced and remarried – the initiatives were blocked by a minority of bishops (more than two thirds of all the estates were needed and, while the assembly as a whole approved the text with 82% support, among the bishops it only reached 61%). However, after a thorough discussion, it was decided to send the text to Rome. Even more: explain it to the Pope, with whom the leadership of the Episcopal Conference of the country will meet in November.
Both in Germany and in the Vatican (and in the ultra-Catholic think tanks in Europe and North America) they are aware of the weight of the German position when it comes to exporting proposals to the rest of the Church. “No one will pay attention to spanish proposals, but Germany has always been, and continues to be, an essential theological and reform engine”, admits to elDiario.es a member of the Vatican commission that is receiving proposals from all over the world. In October the continental discussion will start, and next year a world synod will take place, from which reforms could emerge that, for some, would represent a historic advance and, for others, a rupture similar to the one that, now half a millennium ago, caused another German, Martin Luther.
What does the German Church propose? Ask the Pope for a revision of the doctrine that opens the possibility of priesthood for women, study the modification of the canons of the Catechism that condemn homosexuality or lift the prohibition of the priestly ordination of homosexual men.
The approval of the text that requests the change in the Catechism had 92% support, and 71% (more than two thirds) among the bishops, something unthinkable in countries like Spain, where no prelate (and very few of the Catholics who participate in the daily life of the Church) would defend stopping considering homosexual practices as a sin.
"Since the homosexual orientation belongs to the human being as it has been created by God, it should not be ethically judged differently, in principle, from the heterosexual orientation," reads the approved text, which maintains that homosexuality " also performed in sexual acts is not a sin that separates from God”. And, since it is not a sin, a homosexual could perfectly well be a priest.
As for women, the unanimity seems almost astonishing: 92% of all the delegates, and 81% of the bishops, approved requesting that women also be admitted to the priesthood. The only change in the original document was to change the tone: the first text spoke of "require", while in the amended one the term "request" appears. In any case, it is the first time in history that an episcopal conference formally asks the Vatican to review the doctrine of the priesthood to include women.
The approved document denounces that "it is not the participation of women in all the ministries and positions of the Church that requires justification, but the exclusion of women from the sacramental ministry", and argues: "There is no line of uninterrupted tradition " in the history of the Church to exclude women from ministry.
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