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German ‘Synodal Path’ set back by lack of quorum [News/Analysis]

October 04, 2021

News/analysis by Phil Lawler

After adopting several statements that challenge Catholic doctrine, a plenary session of the German bishops’ “Synodal Path” was closed unexpectedly on October 2 when Bishop Georg Bätzing, the president of the episcopal conference, found that the meeting lacked a quorum.

The synod meeting had already approved a dozen statements, including a call for the blessing of same-sex unions (in a clear rejection of Vatican warnings) and a statement that seems to question the necessity for an ordained priesthood.

The voting on proposed statements ended when Bishop Bätzing found that, with many participants heading home before the three-day meeting formally closed, the necessary two-thirds representation was not available to continue business.

Bishop Bätzing then announced that the time-line for the Synodal Path would again be extended. Originally scheduled to conclude this month, the process—which began in December 2019—had already been extended to early 2022 because of the Covid epidemic. It will now continue into 2023.

The German bishops’ embrace of the Synodal Path has caused acute tensions both within the episcopal conference (because a minority of German bishops have strongly resisted radical initiatives) and in the universal Church (because the German support for radical change in Catholic doctrine and practice raises the prospect of outright schism).

The leaders of the German hierarchy have said that the Synodal Path is a necessary step to reinvigorate the Church after the devastation caused by the sex-abuse scandal. Critics of the Synodal Path, on the other hand, have argued that the German hierarchy is ill equipped to provide leadership for the universal Church—an argument buttressed by the statistics that show more than 700,000 German Catholics have left the faith in the past three years.

There is a keen irony, then, in the way the German bishops’ quest for dramatic reforms has been thrown off schedule. For years now, German Catholic leaders have watched a mass exodus from the pews, as lay Catholics by the hundreds of thousands have drifted away from the Church. Now they have been forced to extend their deadline for the Synodal Path, because dozens of Church insiders drifted away from the synodal assembly.


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  • Posted by: adalco9489 - Oct. 07, 2021 11:13 AM ET USA

    First it was Martin Luther and now it is the German bishops who seemed hell-bent on splitting up Christendom.

  • Posted by: feedback - Oct. 06, 2021 2:36 AM ET USA

    "Bätzing... found that the meeting lacked a quorum" - Perhaps the smarter ones realized that they would be cutting off the very branch they have been seating on, and that the likelihood of the next pope being enthusiastic about their "synodal path" isn't particularly high?

  • Posted by: BobJ70777069 - Oct. 05, 2021 5:50 PM ET USA

    How much of that is to escape the tax that declared members of a church must pay to the government?