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Bishop Georg Bätzing, president of the German Bishops' Conference, met with Pope Francis on Thursday. Shortly after his private audience at the Vatican, Bp. Bätzing released a statement assuring Catholics the Holy Father understands and endorses Germany's Synodal Path.
The bishops' conference published Bätzing's statement, which reads: "Pope Francis has encouraged us to continue on the Synodal Path we have chosen, to openly and honestly discuss the questions at hand and to come up with recommendations for changed action by the Church."
Bishop Bätzing further wrote: "At the same time, [Pope Francis] campaigned for the Church in Germany to help shape the path of synodality that he had proclaimed towards the synod of bishops in 2023."
The word synod has gained infamy in the 21st century with the advent of Germany's errant Synodal Way. Synod derives from the Greek word sinoðos, an equivalent to Latin's concilium, meaning a council. The Synodal Way, or Der Syonodale Weg in German, has set itself apart from the Catholic Church's historical councils by pushing progressive agendas throughout Germany and the world.
The Synodal Way took shape in 2019 and advocates for a more democratic Church that "develops the ability to take new positions and to go new ways." It now pushes for the ordination of women, blessings for homosexual couples and an end to clerical celibacy.
Bätzing is championing the Synodal Way in Germany, frequently voicing his support for its progressive proposals. In preparation for the Synodal Path, as it is also known, Bätzing approved a document affirming homosexual activities, contraception and masturbation.
One selection from the dissident document reads, "Homosexual acts also realize positive meaningful values, insofar as they are an expression of friendship, reliability, loyalty and support in life."
Another line asserts, "The joyful experience of one's own body (self-sex) can also mean a responsible approach to one's own sexuality."
Since his installment as president of the German Bishop's Conference last year, Bätzing has publicly supported female ordination, Protestant intercommunion and the blessing of homosexual unions; he has insisted "God does not punish."
German cardinal Gerhard Müller, the Vatican's retired doctrinal chief, slammed Bätzing's errors earlier this year.
"The so-called Synodal Path of the German dioceses has no authority to introduce a doctrine and practice that deviates from the binding doctrine of the Catholic Church in questions of faith and morality," stated Müller.
In addition, Cologne cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki blasted the Synodal Way last year, lamenting, "The Synodal Path ... installed a form of Protestant church parliament." He warned that "the Catholic Church must remain Catholic."
The successor of Martin Luther, Rev. Dr. Alexander Garth even condemned Germany's Synodal Way. Reverend Garth is the Lutheran pastor at St. Mary's in Wittenberg, which many consider to be the "mother church" of the Protestant revolt.
"I consider the Synodal Way to be a mistaken way since it forces the Protestantization of the Catholic Church," wrote Luther's heir.
Reverend Garth urged liberal Catholics to "become Protestant," explaining that "you will find everything you are fighting for: woman priests, a synodal constitution, married pastors, feminism."
Garth explained, "This world needs the Catholic profile of Catholic spirituality," and he even interviewed with Church Militant to discuss the troublesome Synodal Way.
This year, three German Catholics from the diocese of Essen formally submitted a dubium to the Vatican, asking whether the German Church is in schism with the Holy See. A dubium — from the Latin for "doubt" — merits a definitive answer from Rome, titled a responsum ad dubium. Rome issued such a responsum in March, when they banned blessings for homosexual couples.
Bishop Bätzing fired back at Rome's ban on homosexual blessings, instead calling for "openness to newer results of the human sciences and the living situations of today's people."
Pope Francis, however, has not openly condemned Germany's Synodal Way. Last June, Bätzing related, "I feel encouraged by the intensive exchange with the Holy Father to continue on the path I have chosen."
Bätzing added, "The pope appreciates this project, which he connects closely with the term 'synodality' that he coined."
The German prelate is now echoing these comments with his Thursday statement, again claiming Pope Francis supports his progressive synodal efforts.
Bätzing then wrote, "I informed the Pope in detail about the status of the Synodal Way and made it clear that rumored attributions according to which the Church in Germany wanted to embark on a special path are out of thin air."
Pope Francis has neither publicly condemned nor supported Germany's errant Synodal Way. But after his private papal audience, Bätzing is claiming otherwise.
According to Bätzing, "Pope Francis will accompany the Church in our country on the way out of the crisis."
Where the Synodal Path leads is unclear, like its doctrine. But as we have seen above, many faithful Catholics — and even Protestants — warn that it leads away from the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.