Establishment of the German Synodal Committee "a scandalous, illegitimate act in every respect"

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Press release from the New Beginning Initiative from November 8, 2023

New Beginning Initiative:

Protest against Synodal Committee

Neuss. On the 10th/11th November , a no longer complete Catholic German Bishops' Conference and representatives of the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK) as well as elected representatives from the German "Synodal Path" met in Essen to found a so-called "Synodal Committee".

This process seems like a dispute within the church, but it is extremely explosive: it makes visible the deep division that can tear the Catholic Church in Germany apart and endanger unity with the Pope and the universal church. On the occasion of the upcoming constitution of the Synodal Committee, the New Beginning Initiative declared:

The planned establishment of the Synodal Committee represents a scandalous, illegitimate act in every respect, which we as Catholic Christians oppose. Contrary to binding Roman instructions, a group of bishops and laypeople make themselves masters of the church and, by going it alone against the Pope, are carrying out a consciously schismatic act by changing the core of the apostolic constitution of the Catholic Church. We protest against the presumption of this group to speak for all Catholics in Germany. The installation of a synodal committee that is supposed to establish a synodal council is a blatant violation of ecclesiastical law, means a damage to unity with the universal church and is an overreach that wastes millions of church tax money on the forbidden establishment of a body.

The “Synodal Committee” is there to establish a “Synodal Council”, an independent body with a democratic-parliamentary structure, its own legal and decision-making powers and its own budget. The stated goal is to seize power over the church. According to ZdK President Irme Stetter-Karp, it is about finding a “steady form in which bishops and lay people, i.e. the office and people of God together, not only advise but also decide.”

This would curtail, if not destroy, the apostolic leadership of the bishops. Lumen Gentium 21 states: “The ordination of bishops confers with the office of sanctification also the offices of teaching and leadership, which, however, by their nature can only be exercised in the hierarchical community with the head and members of the college.” The Vatican is opposed to this pointed out by the German Bishops' Conference.

If the Church is currently rediscovering "synodality" in the context of the World Synod - the common listening of all believers to the will of God, it does not mean that it is constituted from below (which is what local majorities currently want), but rather: "Jesus is Lord" ( Romans 10:10). The bishops are the called witnesses of Christ. They alone lead the church - advised by the believers.

On July 21, 2022, the Holy See had already determined that the 'Synodal Path' in Germany does not have the authority to "oblige the bishops and the faithful to accept new forms of leadership and new orientations of doctrine and morality" - a fact , which is ignored by German lay officials.

In a letter ordered by Pope Francis (January 16, 2023) to the chairman of the German Bishops' Conference, it is stated that a “Synodal Council” practically places itself above the community of bishops and appears to “de facto replace it”. It is further stated that “neither the Synodal Path nor any body appointed by it nor a bishops’ conference have the competence to establish the ‘Synodal Council’ at the national, diocesan or parish level.” 

The body that is now being constituted claims that the committee will meet on behalf of the bishops' conference. That's not correct. In accordance with the Roman directive and canon law, and in unity with the worldwide college of bishops, four diocesan bishops have justly refused funding to the committee and thereby terminated their participation.

Furthermore, we note: Through the funding commitment of various German bishops for an illegally installed “Synodal Committee”, pastors of the church are exposing themselves to accusations of embezzling church tax money. This deepens the latent division, leads to a further erosion of trust in the church and its appropriate leadership by the bishops and provokes new people leaving the church.

We are grateful for every bishop who is aware of his calling, who resists the pressures from within and without and does not take part in the founding convention in Essen. Bishops are there to protect the faith and the spiritual form of the Church - the home of so many people. At this time, this includes recognising the Synodal Committee and the planned Council for what it is: an attack on the integrity of the community and a canonical nothing.

We remind all Catholics in Germany that the Church has an epochal challenge to renewal; but it cannot consist of building a German-style Church for itself.

The New Beginning Initiative consists of a circle of theologians and lay people who are in favour of reform projects in the Catholic Church, while remaining within the global identity of the Church. Their reform manifesto, which advocates unity with the universal church with nine theses on the synodal path, was presented to Pope Francis in Rome on behalf of 7,000 signatories.



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