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BONN, Germany (ChurchMilitant.com) - The move of the German bishops to challenge infallible moral teachings of the Catholic Church is not without resistance in Germany. Prominent German Catholics have now put their foot down against the futile attempts of their bishops to change unchangeable doctrine on matters of human sexuality.
Germans are not unfamiliar with movements like these in their history. In the sixteenth century, German clergy revolted against faith doctrine, and in the 21st century, German clergy are now revolting against moral doctrine. The first ended in a full-fledged revolution that created a great schism. Faithful Germans who signed a petition titled "We Remain Catholic — A Call to Resistance Against the Synodal Path" do not want another great split to occur in the Church, beginning again in Germany.
German Cardinals such as Gerhard Müller, Paul Josef Cordes, Walter Brandmüller and Rainer Woelki have warned that this "Synodal Path" might spark schism. Subsequently, a group of 21 prominent German scholars, journalists, pro-family activists and representatives of faithful Catholic organizations have come out publicly to oppose the German bishops' Synodal Path because of its dissent from Catholic teaching on celibacy, clerical authority, the ban on female ordination, contraception, cohabitation, homosexuality and gender theory.
They see their bishops being swept up by the ravages of the sexual revolution and are inspired to resist it. They are fearful that their bishops' plan will "Protestantize" the Church, bringing about the death knell for the Catholic Church in Germany.
The petition was written by Professor Hubert Windisch, a priest and retired professor of pastoral theology from the University of Freiburg. Each of the signatories maintains a good name among Catholic faithful in Germany. Freiburg and the other signatories are encouraging all faithful Catholics to sign the petition, which at the time of this writing has almost 7,000 names.
The Call to Resistance is the first largely lay initiative coming out of Germany against these developments in the Church in Germany. Its signers state that the Synodal Path is leading the Church in Germany "downhill." They call upon bishops to leave this errant "path."
The official petition is addressed to the German bishops and cc'd to Pope Francis. Its introductory paragraph warns of a potential schism: "The first Assembly of the so-called Synodal Path gives cause for concern, both in form and content, that the Catholic Church in Germany is on the way to a division."
The final words of the petition plead with the bishops to stop the trajectory of Protestantizing the Catholic Church, which would ultimately destroy its presence in Germany: "Members of the so-called Synodal Path seem to be almost passionate about the projects they are striving for, ultimately wanting to Protestantize the Catholic Church. Those who want to do so, however, should be aware that this would destroy the substance of the Catholic Church. We oppose this Synodal Path. We remain Catholic."
In his recent exhortation following the Amazon Synod, Pope Francis did not accept the ordination of women to the diaconate or the ordination of married men to the priesthood in the Latin Rite — to the chagrin of the German bishops' conference and others who were hoping this pope would break with Catholic Tradition. Nonetheless, these German bishops have not yet surrendered.
Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich, outgoing head of the German bishops' conference, wrote his own response to the pope's exhortation. He sees this more like a speed bump than a closure, and is not convinced these issues are resolved.
Marx wrote, "As is well known, the two-thirds majority of the 280 [synodal fathers] in the final synodal document also advocated for exceptions to compulsory celibacy and stimulated further reflection on the admission of women to the diaconate. … This discussion will continue," Marx insisted.
The Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), an influential lay group jointly managing the synodal process with the German bishops', accused Pope Francis of a "lack of courage for real reforms" in his Amazonian exhortation.
"Unfortunately," they wrote, "he does not find the courage to implement real reforms on the issues of consecration of married men and the liturgical skills of women that have been discussed for 50 years," they stated.
They also lamented, "We very much regret that Pope Francis did not take a step forward in his letter. Rather, it strengthens the existing positions of the Roman Church both in terms of access to the priesthood and the participation of women in ministries and ministries."
More and more faithful Catholic laity are stepping up to fill the void that unorthodox clergy have left in the Church. Signing this petition is one way they are participating in this movement of charity and justice.