"We are all in Archbishop Aquila's debt for such an extraordinary, reasoned and theologically rich response to the German bishops' 'Synodal Path,' which proposes a radical transformation to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Church he left us," wrote Cordileone in praise.
Cordileone was responding to Aquila's letter, dated May 13 but released Wednesday, which demands German bishops and laity involved in the open-forum pastoral conferences "repent" and "believe."
"Most of us outside Germany are aware through the media of the German Catholic Synodal Path and the outspokenness of some bishops in calling for radical changes to Church teaching and practice," Aquila explained.
This synodal way has bishops and laypeople addressing four major topics: how power is exercised in the Church, sexual morality, the priesthood and the role of women.
The Denver archbishop decried this structure noting: "The Synodal Assembly in fact proposes truly radical revisions of the structure of the Church and of her understanding of her mission."
Aquila also suggests the synodal text, specifically on the priesthood, desires to sidestep Church teaching.
"Nonetheless, the Fundamental Text fails to tie this 'special priesthood of ministry' clearly to the Sacrament of Holy Orders, willed and instituted by Jesus Christ himself, and this failure gives every appearance of being intentional," Aquila opined.
The president of the German bishops' conference, Bp. Georg Bätzing, has consistently defended the synodal way, downplaying worldwide fears of schism. Bätzing insisted on May 16 the German Church wants the Vatican to help implement the reforms proposed by Germany's synodal way and yet remain unified with Rome.
In the same breath, Bätzing advocated for women clerics, arguing that theological arguments for banning women from certain Church offices are "no longer accepted." To the contrary, Pope John Paul II's 1994 Ordinatio Sacerdotalis clarified that priestly ordination is reserved for men alone.
Bätzing also called for blessing same-sex unions, saying, "If couples are living their partnership in faithfulness and reliability and in a Christian attitude, then I would also like to find a possibility to bless them."
But it's not just U.S. prelates condemning these radical proposals. German cardinal Gerhard Müller on Monday implored the pope to step in and discipline Germany's dissident bishops and clerics:
For the sake of the truth of the gospel and the unity of the Church, Rome must not watch in silence, hoping that things won't turn out too badly or that the Germans can be pacified with tactical finesse and small concessions. We need a clear statement of principle with practical consequences.
The Vatican's former doctrinal watchdog references a nationwide protest on May 10, when more than 2,600 members of German clergy in at least 80 cities defied the Vatican's March 15 ban on blessing homosexual unions.
Müller's cry for help exposes an ongoing fight for faithful Catholics in Germany to keep their churches from falling into schism.
All the cardinal asks is for the Vatican to prevent it: "This is necessary so that after 500 years of division, the remnant of the Catholic Church in Germany does not disintegrate — with devastating consequences for the universal Church."