AACHEN, Germany - (ChurchMilitant.com) - A German bishop is claiming the Church will become irrelevant if doctrines are not modernized.
Helmut Dieser, bishop of Aachen, commented June 10 that German bishops' efforts to change key doctrines on sexual morality and the priesthood "must be a success" or else the Catholic Church will merely become a sect.
He's speaking about the German bishops' Synodal Way — a two-year project to change Church doctrine, especially regarding the blessing of same-sex unions and the ordination of women to the priesthood.
He said in an online discussion with the Federation of German Catholic Youth, "Our forum and the Synodal Way must be a success," adding, "If we don't succeed in the Synodal Way, then I'm afraid we will first become a sect."
Speaking of blessings for same-sex couples, Dieser noted that if the bishops "push the blessings through in the end, I think that would lead to divisions," adding "I don't rule it out either."
Dieser also claimed modern discussions of sexuality must be addressed by new methods, saying, "We cannot solve it by just saying that everything the Church has said so far is enough to answer the new questions."
He's echoing the sentiments of ex-German Bishops' Conference president Cdl. Reinhard Marx, who urged Catholics in January to "start the new decade with imagination," by abandoning "old templates and possessive thinking" and take up the "completely new tone in society and religion."
Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck agreed, saying the Church is at a "turning point" when "a lot of questions are being asked [and] reforms are being called for." He added it demands "a thorough turn away from the institution towards the individual and their needs."
But not all German bishops have been on board.
Cologne's Cdl. Rainer Maria Woelki spoke out against the ongoing discussions, saying on June 4 "The Catholic Church must remain Catholic."
Dieser's comments follow the departure of Cologne auxiliary bishop Dominikus Schwaderlapp, who in May walked out of the group's discussions and resigned from the group.
He slammed his fellow bishops, saying they were using the forum to cast doubt on fundamental Church teachings by pushing gender fluidity.
Speaking out against the bishops' efforts to modernize morality, he said "Over the last 50 years in particular, the Magisterium of the Church has produced precise statements on questions of sexual morality," adding, "In doing so it has deepened and developed the teaching of the Church."
He continued, 'Further development' can never mean destroying what is there, rather it should build on it." He asserted that Popes Paul VI and John Paul II "made a binding statement that sexuality, from the point of view of creation, comprises two meanings that are inseparably linked — the transmission of life and the communication of love."
In September 2019 the Vatican's head of the Congregation of Bishops, Cdl. Marc Ouellet, called out the German bishops, saying their synod was "not ecclesiologically valid."
He also attached a letter by Abp. Filippo Iannone, the Vatican's head of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, that examined a draft of the Synodal Way's statutes. He maintained the German bishops were pushing an assembly without permission from the Pope — in effect, a rogue synod.
Marx, however, besides being one of the key architects of the Synodal Way, is one of Pope Francis' closest advisors. He claimed in response to Iannone's assessment that the bishops are conducting "a consultation of our own kind that is not covered by canon law."
He added, "The Synodal Way is a sui generis process," he added. "The draft statutes should therefore by no means be read and interpreted through the lens of canonical instruments such as a plenary council. It is not a Particular Council!"
Marx also commented to Ouellett that "We hope that the results of forming an opinion [on these issues] in our country will also be helpful for the guidance of the Universal Church and for other episcopal conferences on a case-by-case basis."