German Church wants to have its cake and eat it

Gilles: German Catholics for reforms, but against special paths

The accusation that the Church in Germany wants to provide special path in reforms has been raised repeatedly. DBK Secretary General Beate Gilles has now rejected it again in an interview. She also expressed hopes with regard to Rome.

The Secretary General of the German Bishops' Conference, Beate Gilles, rejects accusations that Catholics in Germany want to go special ways in the universal Church. "There are great fears," she told the Phoenix radio station on Friday. It is not yet clear what the results of the Synodal Path will be. The concern about the right path in the reform project for the future of the Church in Germany is shared in the different camps. She added that the reform project did not intend to take special paths at any point: "The Synodal Way completely brings in the perspective of the people here, finds topics for us - and then the request to the bishops is to bring these topics to Rome again."

Catholics all over the world have to stay together in principle, but they can "go different paths". How far these paths might differ in the individual countries and local churches remains to be seen, the theologian continued. For example, the question of the ordination of women as deacons or even priests, which has not been permitted up to now, was raised in many countries around the world in preparation for the World Synod in autumn: "You notice that this topic comes up again and again. Then the question is how a world church organisation deals with it. To say, let's open this barrel again, that would be a first step." Gilles sees the diaconate of women as a first possibility "to give space to the longing for participation. My hope is that there will be such signs."

In the Synodal Path, bishops and lay people in Germany had discussed reforms with each other in several rounds since December 2019 as a consequence of the abuse scandals. Among other things, it was about more control of episcopal power, women's rights and an appropriate way of dealing with the diversity of gender identities. The process of joint consultation and decision-making is to lead to a permanent Synodal Council in 2026 via an intermediate step in the form of a Synodal Committee. However, there is resistance to this in Germany itself as well as from the Vatican and other parts of the Universal Church. Among other things, it is said that the authority of the bishops would be undermined. Other demands from Germany are fundamentally incompatible with Catholic teaching, say critics.