Outrage mounted Wednesday over Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller’s dismissal of “Synodal Path” talks involving German bishops and lay Catholics — begun in Frankfurt last week and set to run on-and-off for months — as a “suicidal process” akin to 1933.
“This is like the situation when the Weimar Constitution was repealed by the Enabling Act,” Müller had told the arch-right Canadian portal LifeSiteNews on Monday, referring to German law passed on March 24, 1933, that cemented 12 years of Nazi rule.
He slammed the 230-member Catholic conference that adjouned on Saturday as “a self-appointed assembly, which is not authorized by God nor by the people it is supposed to represent,” accusing its particpants of wanting to rescind what he termed “the Constitution of the Church of Divine Right.”
Behind the synodic process — focused on widespread calls to end celibacy, create ministries for women, debate sexual mores and scandals over priestly abuse of minors — is long-simmering protest by groups, including the KDFB Catholic German Women’s Federation.
Jesuit Bernd Hagenkord, a former senior Vatican Radio journalist and a key synodic figure, accused Müller Wednesday of “deliberately poisoning any debate,” and exhibiting “no idea” historically about the Enabling Act that Hitler used to sidestep parliamentary oversight and decree dictatorial laws.
Hagenkord said said Müller’s use of a Nazi allusion pitted Christians against Christians and was not an act of conservative safeguarding of tradition, but “destructive.”
Hagenkord led Radio Vatican’s German-language team
Müller’s remarks were “very much out of place” and not helpful, added Wurzburg Bishop Franz Jung, stressing that Germany’s consultative process had been set up under decisions made by German bishops and the ZdK Central Committee of German Catholics.
Having made that decision, “then one must stick to it,” said Jung.
“There is criticism which corrects itself,” retorted ZdK president Thomas Sternberg, describing Müller’s remarks as “far removed from life” and directed against “the large concordance among the Catholic faithful and the great majority of the episcopal co-brothers [bishops]”.
Müller, formerly bishop of Regensburg in Bavaria and from 2012 until 2017 chief of the Vatican’s powerful Congregation of the Faith, is among some five conservatives left back-footed during the synod’s opening debate of conference procedures.
A blocking minority (Sperrminderheit) sought within the synod’s four thematic working groups by conservative bishops was defeated by 87 percent. Instead, a women’s majority will be required at the talks, for each motion to proceed.
The Catholic Bishops Conference comprises officeholders in 27 bishoprics within Germany.
Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki in his Cologne cathedral summon on January 6 warned against what he termed a neutralized (gleichgeschaltete) church — an adjective used to described the past Nazi crushing of free expression and pluralism.
In the conservative Catholic weekly Die Tagespost last week — on the conference’s eve, Müller described the synodic talks as a “defect birth” (Geburtsfehler) resulting from a “political misunderstanding” that power in the church could be democratically confined and its evangelical teachings could be “redefined or even reinterpreted.”
‘Great chance,’ for Catholic renewal, says Flachsbarth
That was nothing other than “populism and theological ignorance, Müller asserted.
Time-over for ‘male-designated church’
“The time of male-designated Catholic church has expired,” insisted KDFB’s Berlin branch president Barbara John in remarks run by the Catholic news agency KNA Wednessday.
KDFB’s federal president Maria Flachsbarth urged German Catholics to view the Synodic Path as a “great chance” in which each woman, alongside men, would be treated as a “likeness of God.”
ipj/xx (KNA, epd, dpa)