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FRANKFURT, Germany (ChurchMilitant.com) - Lay Catholics in Germany are warning that the nation's errant Synodal Way may force faithful Catholics underground.
The group New Beginnings recently called on the Vatican to intervene definitively and put a stop to the German bishops' increasingly leftist ideological push, though anticipating no such intervention will materialize.
"The Fifth Assembly of the Synodal Path," writes the group, "will lead to a historic challenge for the Catholic Church in Germany. After that, the Church will no longer be what it was before."
New Beginnings lays out three possible scenarios for March's Synodal Way meeting, along with anticipated outcomes from each and an assessment of the likelihood of each.
In the first scenario, the Vatican intervenes decisively and brings the Rhine back into the Tiber, avoiding schism and correcting errors. This, the group contends, is the least likely situation.
The second scenario is the most troubling: It's called "the dirty schism." In such a situation, no formal rebuke from the Vatican would be delivered, though some criticisms may be issued, and the German bishops would effectively establish a second "magisterium." Those pushing for sodomy, priestesses and pantheism would maintain their present canonical authority and faithful Catholics would be forced to worship and catechize in secret. New Beginnings anticipates this is the most likely outcome.
The third situation would be the formal schism, already predicted by cardinals and bishops across the globe, even several from Germany.
New Beginnings predicts reconciliation with Rome is the least likely of the three scenarios to occur. First of all, it would require the German bishops to resubmit themselves to the authority of the Vatican and to abandon the notion of democratizing the Church. This is something the Rhineland's bishops have consistently demonstrated they are unwilling to do.
As recently as Monday, the Vatican shot down a Synodal Way proposal to craft a lay-led governing council, taking authority away from priests and bishops and giving it instead to the laity — in other words, allowing the sheep to lead the shepherds. But Bp. Georg Bätzing of Limburg, president of the German Bishops' Conference and copresident of the Synodal Way, rejected the Vatican's intervention.
In November, during the German bishops' ad limina visit to Rome, the Vatican actually pushed a moratorium on the Synodal Way. Germany's bishops rejected any such proposal, instead obstinately insisting on plowing ahead with the errant procedure.
Bätzing has also defiantly announced that he is unwilling to compromise on the blessing of homosexual couples, condoning the mortally sinful lifestyles being led by those under his care. More recently, Limburg's bishop published new diocesan guidelines forcing his priests to bless same-sex unions and demanding Catholic schools teach radical leftism as part of so-called sex education.
In September, the Vatican issued a surprisingly strong warning against the Synodal Way, clarifying that "the 'Synodal Path' in Germany does not have the power to oblige the Bishops and the faithful to assume new ways of government and new approaches to doctrine and morals." The Vatican warned the Synodal Way could, if not curbed in accord with doctrine and reason, become "a wound to ecclesial communion and a threat to the unity of the Church." This, too, was brushed off by the leaders of the Synodal Way.
Reconciliation does, indeed, seem the least likely outcome.
One of the reasons reconciliation is unlikely is also a reason that formal schism is unlikely: the Vatican's unwillingness to definitively condemn the Synodal Way.
Various criticisms have been published and various Vatican officials have issued statements warning against this or that aspect of the Synodal Way, but thus far, no clear official statement has come from Rome warning of formal schism.
The Vatican's years of silence have been deafening, as Teutonic bishops press forward in condoning and promoting sodomy, trying to abolish priestly celibacy, clamoring for female ordinations and diluting Catholic doctrine.
Another factor affecting the potential for a declaration of formal schism is money. The Church in Germany is the wealthiest regional branch of the Catholic Church in the world, with an estimated net worth of $26 billion as of 2021. Additionally, German law demands that all those registered as Catholics pay a specific tax, which is then mostly provided to parishes and clergy. A state of formal schism would more than likely trigger an internal restructuring of German law as regards property, taxes, charitable statuses, etc.
While admitting formal schism would be, in many ways, a catastrophe, New Beginnings clarifies:
Church unity is communion in truth and love. It obliges us to struggle for this unity. Nevertheless, there is a point where an external unity held at any cost destroys true unity. ... [T]he ultima ratio of a clean separation of the incompatible can be the means of choice to save the Church from its final disfigurement and to preserve the real unity in truth and love.
With Pope Francis' consistent emphasis on unity and "radical inclusion" and the vast sums of money involved, the chances the Vatican will declare that the German Church is in a state of formal schism seem slim, despite the potential for wholesome (though bitterly won) clarity.
New Beginnings predicts that the most likely (and most dangerous) response to the Synodal Way is "the dirty schism."
In such a situation — seemingly Orwellian in terms of cultural and psychological horror — the Vatican will refuse to either declare a formal schism or to bring Germany's bishops back into the fold.
New Beginnings describes in chilling detail the anticipated reign of ideological terror the dirty schism would bring about:
It would be made impossible for preachers, lay people in church service, clerics, and religious to act in congregations and preach in line with universal Catholic teaching, Scripture and tradition – by the procedural power of the Synodal Path, the normative power of its decisions, the new Church labor law and by public media protest and pressure. ... In fact, there would be two Magisteria: the Roman Catholic one, which is forced into a niche existence in Germany, and the very present "differently Catholic" (Bätzing) Magisterium of the "Synodal Path", which is pushed by secular and Church media. ... Loyalty to Catholic doctrine would demand a high, even existential, price. Church ministry would no longer be an option for faithful Catholics. Vocations to the priesthood would not [sic] longer have a place in the Church. ... Priests and bishops who want to remain faithful to the universal Church, as well as members of religious orders whose leadership chooses the schismatic path, would find themselves in an existential trap unless Rome offers them a place to go. ... Criticism of the official German line would be sanctioned — possibly even with the church actively involving governmental antidiscrimination agencies against those holding on to catholic teaching. Media pressure, informer systems, and purges would ensure that only those loyal to the line would get and stay in positions of responsibility.
The situation seems perfectly suited to the present zeitgeist: no Catholic would be fed to lions, stoned to death or roasted on a spit, as were the martyrs of old. Instead, adherence to Catholic doctrine would be punished with isolation and derision — punished not by laws and diktats but by the choice of one's countrymen, by one's own friends and family who have been encouraged to embrace a rabidly intolerant secular ideology by worldly bishops and priests.
The dirty schism would practically force faithful Catholics underground and would certainly dissuade would-be converts who crave the truth, beauty and goodness Rome offers.
In a wide-ranging interview on Tuesday, Pope Francis spoke to the Associated Press about Germany's Synodal Path, calling the process ideological and elitist.
Speaking on one of his favorite themes, so-called dialogue, the Pope said that "the German experience does not help." He further noted, "Here the danger is that something very, very ideological trickles in. When ideology gets involved in Church processes, the Holy Spirit goes home, because ideology overcomes the Holy Spirit."
Though far from warning of formal schism, the pontiff's critical comments do suggest that he may stand up against the radical process if his hand is forced.
However, his own ideologic tendency towards "dialogue" may end up resulting in the dirty schism after all. The pope concluded his Synodal Way commentary by saying, "We must be patient, dialogue and accompany these people on the real Synodal Path. ... Always try to unite."
The fifth and final meeting of the German Synodal Way will take place in Frankfurt in early March. It remains to be seen whether the Vatican will intervene before or after the conference — or at all.