ROME (AP) — Top Vatican cardinals on Friday sought to slow down the German Catholic Church’s controversial reform process, fearing proposals related to gays, women and sexual morality that would split the church and insist they get better later discussed.
The Vatican and the German Bishops’ Conference have issued a joint statement after a week of meetings culminating in an unusual summit between the 62 German bishops and top Vatican officials, including the No. 2 Secretary of State, the head of the Episcopal Office and the head of the Teaching Office .
The pope, who met alone with the German bishops on Thursday, was originally scheduled to attend Friday’s summit but did not, leaving it to his cardinals to follow the Vatican’s lead.
Germany’s church launched a reform process with the country’s influential lay group to respond to clergy sex abuse scandals after a 2018 report found that at least 3,677 people were abused by clergy between 1946 and 2014. The report found that the crimes were systematically covered up by church leaders and that there were structural problems in the way power was exercised that “encouraged or made it more difficult to prevent sexual abuse of minors”.
Provisional assemblies have already approved calls to allow blessings for same-sex couples, married priests, and the ordination of women as deacons. There have also been calls for a review of the Church’s employment laws so that homosexual workers are not at risk of being fired.
Germany’s “Synodal Path” has provoked strong backlash in Germany and abroad, mainly from conservatives who opposed opening a debate on such hot issues and warned that the German reforms, if finally approved in the final stages, could lead to schism could lead.
Such warnings were echoed by Vatican cardinals Marc Ouellet, in charge of bishops, and Cardinal Luis Ladaria, in charge of doctrine, at Friday’s meeting.
According to the joint statement, they spoke “with frankness and clarity about the concerns and reservations about the methodology, content and proposals of the Synodal Way and proposed, for the sake of the unity of the Church,” to address them later, when the global Catholic Church will address such issues in a universal way next year.
The statement said a “moratorium” had been proposed but was rejected.
Francis has since launched a global “synodal path,” seeking input from lay Catholics around the world that echoed many of the same themes as the German trial, including the role of women in the Church and homosexuality. But there is no indication that the worldwide church is willing to go as far as the German church in pushing for change.
Francis, for his part, has personally intervened in the German trial, recently pointing to a 2019 letter he wrote to the German faithful summarizing everything he has to say on the matter. In that letter, Francis offered his support for the process, but warned Church leaders not to be tempted to change for the sake of conforming to certain groups or ideas.
In turn, Bishop Georg Baetzing, who leads the German Bishops’ Conference, explained the work undertaken so far, emphasizing that it was based on listening to the “people of God and the pain over clergy abuse,” the statement said.
Baetzing will give a press conference on Saturday.