Catholic Culture Dedication
Catholic Culture Dedication

What do Germans want?

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Apr 13, 2023

Several weeks ago I recommended an an unusually perceptive article by Birgit Kelle in Catholic World Report, sketching out the different possible outcomes of the German Synodal Path. They were, in brief:

  • Reconciliation: in which German Church leaders turn away from their current path and embrace the perennial teachings of the Church. This outcome, Kelle writes, is obviously most desirable but unfortunately least likely.
  • A “dirty schism” in which the German Church effectively breaks from the universal Church, but without any formal rebuke from the Vatican. The result would be a case of conflicting authorities, with the secular government siding with the German rebels against loyal Catholics. This outcome, the author says, is both worst and most likely.
  • Outright schism, in which the German hierarchy renounce ties with Rome, would be disastrous. But at least in that case the situation would be clear.

To that analysis—which I think is right on target—let me add a question: What is it that the German bishops seek to accomplish, by accepting the radical proposals affirmed by their Synodal Path initiative?

The leaders of the German bishops’ conference have claimed that the Synodal Path is a response to the sex-abuse scandal. But as Cardinal Müller has remarked, that is a smokescreen, and in fact an obvious one—as the cardinal put it, “a great instrumentalization of these sad events committed by some priests in order to introduce an agenda that existed before and that has nothing to do with this tragedy.” There is no logical connection between the abuse of children and the proposal to bless same-sex unions, or the ordination of women, or the sharing of Communion with non-Catholics.

So what is it that the German bishops hope to achieve, by taking these steps to satisfy the zeitgeist? Will they make the Catholic Church more popular? That seems to be their goal. But the preliminary results are not promising: a wholesale exodus from the pews of their politically-correct churches. And even if, contrary to that evidence, they did manage to bring Catholics back into the churches, what would they do with them, once they arrived? Having downgraded the importance of the priesthood and the sanctity of the sacraments, what incentive would they offer to returning Catholics? After all, if you want to worship the zeitgeist, you can do that at home.

As it happens, if the goal is to put people in the pews—to evangelize—we have some idea about what works today. The Church is growing apace in Africa, where the ideas approved by the German Synodal Path are, quite rightly, viewed as absurd.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: CorneliusG - Apr. 17, 2023 5:23 AM ET USA

    Their goal is to force these errors on the Universal Church via a complicit Vatican and sympathetic Pope. I don't think they care that much about evangelizing. They don't mind shrunken congregations as long as the few that remain are fellow zeitgeist worshippers. They're quite happy about getting rid of actual Catholics, who are just bothersome to them.

  • Posted by: esalex947010 - Apr. 16, 2023 5:04 PM ET USA

    I actually disagree. I think option number 3 would not be a disaster. In the current set of circumstances it is actually the most desirable. The people who occupy the positions of power in the Catholic Church in Germany, as in very many other places as well, are not actually Catholics. So let them go. We have a great many millstones hanging around our neck and this is one of them. Let it go. Let it all go. We don't need it anymore.

  • Posted by: Fr Eric Lepanto - Apr. 16, 2023 9:25 AM ET USA

    The Church is dead in Germany and other parts of Europe for many reasons. Continued giving over to the spirit of the times will mean that the Synodal path offers nothing. So, correct, there is no incentive to be in the pews, because even when they sit inside of beautiful architecture, they will not hear the truth.

  • Posted by: ewaughok - Apr. 15, 2023 9:54 PM ET USA

    Do you really think they have anything in mind? Other than cowering before the liberal activists in the church bureaucracy? The German bishops have long ago made themselves lackeys of the liberal religious establishment. They’re not the leaders of the Catholic Church in Germany, but simply the followers of an activist political-theological fringe. That became apparent in the Synodal voting. The “dirty schism” is coming about due to the lack of integrity on the part of the bishops.

  • Posted by: dcnmthompson7484 - Apr. 14, 2023 6:14 PM ET USA

    Everywhere I see a move toward tradition and orthodoxy, I see vibrant growth. All the progressive churches, I see stagnation. Sadly, our parish is recovering from a progressive priest...and not doing so well at that.

  • Posted by: DrJazz - Apr. 14, 2023 8:43 AM ET USA

    Absolutely correct. And, as with virtually every situation like this today, whatever is true, good, and beautiful (such as the African approach you describe) will be forcefully countered by the domineering bureaucrats who are in power, whether that power be located in Rome, Washington, or anywhere else. Those who love God and the Church need to strive for personal holiness amidst widespread insanity and evil.