Autumn General Assembly: Bätzing sees a clear majority for reforms among bishops

At the beginning of the autumn plenary assembly of the German Bishops' Conference in Fulda, the chairman Georg Bätzing swore the Catholic pastors to liberal reforms.

Autumn General Assembly: Bätzing sees a clear majority for reforms among bishops

At the beginning of the autumn plenary assembly of the German Bishops' Conference in Fulda, the chairman Georg Bätzing swore the Catholic pastors to liberal reforms.

"Always voting no is certainly not the right way," said the Limburg bishop on Monday, referring to the failure of an important reform initiative on Catholic sexual morals. At the fourth synodal assembly of German Catholics earlier this month in Frankfurt/Main, the basic text failed to get the necessary two-thirds majority from the bishops.

Bishop Stefan Oster, who belongs to the conservative camp, then explained in the "Passauer Bistumsblatt" that the different positions on the intended reforms seemed to him "hardly reconcilable". Bätzing said: "Unreconciled" - I'll say it again: When Bishop Oster says that - everyone has to grab their own hair and say: "Where can I approach others?"

Bätzing: "Reforms are needed"

Bätzing admitted that there is a conservative minority among the 69 bishops who do not support the reforms. "These differences go back much further. This is nothing new." However, a "very clear majority" of two thirds to three quarters of the bishops support the reform course. This majority says explicitly: "We have to move. Reforms are needed, and these reforms must not stop at teaching."

In this context, Bätzing also criticized traditionalists in the Vatican, who would accuse the German reformers of only chasing a liberal zeitgeist. Also in view of the shift to the right in the parliamentary elections in Italy - for Bätzing "a real danger for cohesion in Europe" - he wonders whether this is really still the zeitgeist: "Is that even liberality, diversity, plurality that we are getting closer to as a church, or aren't there other signs that stand for a spirit of the times that we have to defend against? I name authoritarian behavior, autocratic governance, criticism of democracy and even hostility to democracy. That's apparently the spirit of the times that is today comes up. And when I hear some voices from Rome, then I think they should take care of this zeitgeist."

Synodal path reform process

With the Synodal Path reform process, which has been running since 2019, German Catholics are striving for reforms in the areas of Catholic sexual morality, the position of women in the church, dealing with power and priestly celibacy. The Vatican follows these attempts at renewal extremely critically and made it clear some time ago that the Germans are "not authorized" to change the leadership structures or even the teachings of the church.

Bätzing said that the failure of the text on Catholic sexual morality is currently receiving a lot of public attention. So far, however, this is the only text that did not receive a two-thirds majority of the bishops at the synodal assembly. "All other recommendations that have been made have found this majority to date."

Bätzing also announced that the further processing of the scandal of multiple sexual abuse in the Catholic Church should be placed on a broader basis. For this one is looking for "more participation beyond the expertise of the German Bishops' Conference" - those affected should be involved as much as experts. The previous abuse officer, Bishop Stephan Ackermann of Trier, has announced that he intends to give up his office after twelve years.

The reorientation also includes "that we find people from the bishops' conference who are now following Stephan Ackermann for this topic," said Bätzing. Ackermann deserves “the greatest respect for what he has achieved over the past twelve years” under enormous pressure.

The reform movement "We are Church" appealed to the bishops on Monday not to remain closed to reforms. "Are the German bishops and auxiliary bishops aware that through their actions or inactions they bear a significant responsibility for the continued existence of Christianity in our country and in our culture?" asked "We are Church" spokesman Christian Weisner. In the past year alone, 359,338 Catholics in Germany turned their backs on their church, more than ever before.

Interview with Bishop Oster in the Passauer bistumsblatt

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