27. July 2019 | Essential Characteristics of an alternative Draft of the Statutes for a Synodal Path
Our alternative draft of the statutes for a synodal path has four essential characteristics which differ fundamentally from the statute draft previously submitted to the German Bishops’ Conference for review.
1. The statute draft clearly confronts the basic themes of a mental and spiritual renewal as set down by Pope Francis in his letter to the Catholic Church in Germany under the central theme “primacy of evangelization” (cf. Preamble). This includes the willingness to courageously and directly discuss the variegated dimensions of the crisis of faith as the central problem. This is being explicitly confirmed by both the number and the topics of the synodal forums (cf. Art. 7).
2. The statute draft allows for a just and balanced composition of all synodal institutions (the synodal general assembly; the synodal presidium; the synodal forums; the observers; the guests) by including all the relevant groups of the Catholic Church in Germany. By and large the basic criteria of a balanced representation are thus fulfilled (cf. Art. 3‐6, 8). Guests from ecumenical Christianity have been given an observer status.
3. Quite clearly the statute draft maintains the teaching and leadership authority of the bishops specific to the Church and its hierarchical episcopacy (cf. Art. 11‐13). At the same time laity (along with other clergy) who are fulfilling their mission grounded sacramentally in baptism and confirmation as responsible Christians in the Church through their counseling work have been largely included. The statute draft thus clearly shows the task of the central organ of the Synodal Path: The synodal general assembly debates the topics and formulates resolutions which the bishops then discuss in their conferences by virtue of their magisterial authority, and which they then as lawmakers either bring into effect or not. With this both the joint responsibility of the deliberating believers together with the bishops is honored (conciliarity), while at the same time the indispensable leadership and teaching authority of the bishops is maintained (collegiality). The alternative statute draft sees itself completely committed to this basic hierarchical form of Church governance!
4. The statute draft emphasizes that the magisterially clarified topics (e. g. the ordination of women, which Pope Francis rejects in conformity with the doctrinal tradition of his predecessors in the Church), remain outside the discussions in order to avoid creating unrealistic expectations and thus sowing the seeds of dissent in the particular and universal church. This will help to avoid any separate routes from being taken by the Catholic Church in Germany which could lead to a break with the universal Church. To emphasize the bond with the universal church, the draft also guarantees an observer status to the apostolic nuncio as well as to one representative each of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Pontifical Council for a New Evangelization (cf. Art. 4).