In a letter sent to German bishops, the Vatican has said that plans for a binding Church Synod in Germany are “not ecclesiologically valid.”
Plans for a “binding synodal process” were first announced by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the German episcopal conference, earlier this year.
CNA reported that draft statues for the planned “Synodal Assembly” were approved in August by the executive committee of the German bishops’ conference, ahead of a final hearing at a full meeting of German bishops, set to be held on Sept. 23-26. CNA also reported that small working groups connected to the Synod have already begun discussing a series of controversial Church topics.
In a Sept. 4 letter addressed to Marx, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, said that plans for a Synodal Assembly must conform to guidelines issued by Pope Francis in June, especially that a Synod in Germany could not act to change universal Church teaching or discipline.
Ouellet also sent Marx a four-page legal assessment of the German bishops’ draft statues. Both the letter from Cardinal Ouellet and the attached legal assessment were obtained by CNA.
The assessment, signed by the head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, says that the German bishops’ plans violate canonical norms and do, in fact, set out to alter universal norms and doctrines of the Church.
In his legal review of the draft statutes, Archbishop Filippo Iannone, head of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, noted that the Germans propose to treat four key themes: “authority, participation, and separation of powers,” “sexual morality,” “the form of priestly life,” and “women in Church ministries and offices.”
“It is easy to see that these themes do not only affect the Church in Germany but the universal Church and – with few exceptions – cannot be the object of the deliberations or decisions of a particular Church without contravening what is expressed by the Holy Father in his letter,” Iannone wrote.