Bishop refuses to accept Cardinal's statement that he was not comparing supporters of the Synodal Path to Nazis
Bishop Bätzing: Statement on Cardinal Kurt Koch's response of 29 September 2022
Reaction to Cardinal Koch's interview on the Synodal Way in "Die Tagespost" newspaper
After Cardinal Kurt Koch's interview on 29 September 2022 in the newspaper "Die Tagespost", I called on the Cardinal in the press conference of the same day to apologise for his untenable statements of a comparison of theological debates on the Synodal Path and the Nazi dictatorship. Cardinal Koch sent me a statement on the evening of 29 September 2022, which is also public.
The struggle to open up our faith from its sources of knowledge is a core question of theology. There would be many ways to draw examples and comparisons for this; those drawn from the National Socialist period are particularly sensitive, and Cardinal Koch must have deliberately chosen the one used in the interview. The way he uses the antithesis of "German Christians" (and their erroneous attempt to declare the Christian faith compatible with National Socialist ideology) and the Confessing Church in the interview allows no other reading than that he equates the Synodal Assembly, which adopted the text of orientation with a clear majority, with the "German Christians" and of course, because that is the point of a comparison, he thus places the Synodal Assembly in the horizon of the regime that brought unimaginable suffering, especially upon the Jewish people.
I cannot accept the answer to my publicly expressed criticism as satisfactory, since Cardinal Koch in essence does not apologise for the indefensible statements, but - on the contrary - aggravates them. Cardinal Koch's sentence in his statement yesterday: "And I must perceive that memories of appearances and phenomena in the National Socialist era are obviously taboo in Germany", hurts again. Indeed, he suggests that in Germany we do not face up to the terrible legacy of National Socialism. I firmly reject this new insinuation. It is not we who are erecting a taboo; rather, in view of the victims of National Socialism, it is a taboo to make comparisons of National Socialist thinking, which led to these very victims, with any thinking today.
The repeated assertion of an absurd comparison, which does not do justice to the theologically differentiated concern of the Synodal Path in the orientation text (which can certainly be debated objectively), is no excuse for me. On the contrary: the formulation already quoted above seems strange in its guilelessness for an internationally recognised and active cardinal of the universal Church with diverse official and personal contacts to Germany.
I still expect Cardinal Koch to clearly distance himself from these statements.
Incidentally, I would like to add something to the matter after Cardinal Koch's argumentation, which can also make it clear to the wider public what we are (not only) wrestling with in the Synodal Way and what the argumentation of the "orientation text" of the Synodal Way is based on.
"Locations of theology" (Latin "loci theologici") can also be called sources of knowledge of theology. In these places and from these sources, people who reflect on God draw their insights into what God means for them, what he wants from them and how they should direct their lives towards him. In the course of time and in the long process of reflection, it became clear that there are various of these sources, each of which has a different significance and its own dignity and weight and which complement and reinforce each other. Here we can mention Holy Scripture, the doctrinal tradition of the Church, the Church's teaching authority, theological reflection and the sense of faith of the faithful. The certainty of the statements of faith is condensed in the interaction of these sources of knowledge. The orientation text also assumes that the "signs of the times" also belong to these "places of theology". What is meant by this?
People always live and reflect on their faith as "children of their time". They have a background of understanding that is shaped by the circumstances in which they live and in which they also draw from theological sources. This alone does not make the respective time a theological place of its own. However, the orientation text, together with a number of magisterial texts, such as the Council Constitution Gaudium et Spes and the Encyclical Pacem in Terris of Pope John XXIII, assumes that God, the Creator and Sustainer of the world, also reveals Himself again and again in this world and in the history of humankind, that His activity and His being are not just a matter of time, but also a matter of life. Of course, not all historical events and developments are equally suitable as such "finger pointers from God". In the history of the Church, there have been shocking errors of judgement time and again. That is why the Second Vatican Council emphasises that such "signs of the times" are to be interpreted in the light of the Gospel. The "signs of the times" are therefore to be considered and appreciated in the context of the other locations for theology.
With this in mind, however, they are in fact not only "background for understanding", but genuine sources for the reflection of faith. Not only from Scripture and Tradition, theology, the Magisterium and the sense of faith of the faithful can something be learned about God's will for people and for his Church, but also from contemporary events and developments in history, through which the people of God are on pilgrimage. There are examples of this throughout history. Pope John XXIII, for example, called the social equality of women a "sign of the times". From the history of theology, one could point to the importance of the insights of pagan philosophers (e.g. Plato and Aristotle) for a deeper understanding of theology. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas gained and formulated a deeper understanding of the Christian faith with the help of these explicitly non-Christian sources. But reference can also be made to the importance of the findings of astronomy for a deeper understanding of the greatness and vastness of creation. Here it was a mistake of the Church, now recognised as such, to block itself against these inner-worldly insights. Thus, developments of the "profane" world have always become "signs of the times" and sources of theological knowledge, even if this could not always be reduced to this term.
Cathcon: the stakes could not be higher and are being raised all the time. Bishop Bätzing is trying to change the nature of truth by citing the signs of the times. No wonder that the "German Christians" come to the mind of critics of the Synodal Path.