The German Synodal Path: Here We Go Again

No matter what time period you’re in, there is always an element to the Catholic Church which seems out of step. Prior to Vatican II, it was the Tridentine mass (Latin mass). Now, ideas such as transubstantiation, the church’s teachings on sexuality, women’s ordinations, abortion and the church’s hierarchy are viewed as backward and in need of change. In other words, the firing hairs of the secular world have moved from aesthetics to dogmatic and doctrinal beliefs. 

Don’t take my word for it. Self-described Catholics now run groups such as Catholics for Choice and Call to Action, amongst at least a dozen others, that essentially want to transform the church into a mainstream Protestant sect. These misguided lay reformers lead a crusade absent of biblical truth or magisterial teaching, forsaking thousands of years of faithful adherence.

The most concerning reform movement right now does not come from discontent laymen. It comes from the clergy, most specifically the clergy in Germany. Cardinal Reinhard Marx now leads a group of bishops down a “synodal path.” This is a gathering of German bishops discussing the church’s teachings on all the most controversial subjects. However, despite being criticized by many Vatican officials as non-binding and causing speculation that it would bring the Catholic Church in Germany out of communion, it has persisted. Pope Francis himself has alluded to the German bishops in many homilies and even sent them a 28-page letter urging them to exercise restraint and focus instead on evangelization. This movement for change in Church teachings is entirely different from the Amazon Synod, which operated under the supervision of Rome and merely submitted actions to the Holy Father for consideration. 

But why should we (at least we baptized Catholics) be so concerned with these teachings, which seem so distant from the world we know today? It appears as though orthodoxy has lost the battle for public life; maybe we should move on too.

Now, if years of religious education and attending a Catholic University did not convince you of the merits of natural law, the intrinsic value of human life and the unchanging truth of Christ’s teachings, then I am not the one to convince you in a few short sentences. All I can leave you with is a thought. 

There is no such thing as a liberal Catholic or a conservative Catholic. There is orthodoxy and there is heresy. There is truth and there is falsehood. There is the way prescribed to us by scripture and the one we would prefer. As we mature as a church, we can better reflect on these teachings and realize that perhaps we have erred, but we do so from the same foundation. We do not import our ideology or preferences.

If something seems out of step with modernity, it is probably by design. So when the German Bishops cite polls or declining church attendance, I would like to echo Pope Francis, focus on conversion.