Monsignor Stefan Oster. Photo: Il Foglio

Statements of A German Bishop Who Voted Against the Texts of the 5th German Synodal Assembly

The bishop considered that there is still a need for renewal, deepening and strengthening of the faith. And the fact that this issue has not been discussed in any assembly shows that there are also structural problems.

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(ZENIT News / Passau, 03.14.2023) The fifth meeting of the Synodal Journey of the Church in Germany was held in Frankfurt. Monsignor Stefan Oster intervened during the debate on three  texts of individual action (blessing of celebrations for couples that love each other; treatment of gender diversity; and need to consult and decide together) on the three following statements (translated from German by ZENIT). Bishop Ostere was also invited to give a brief impression/boost during the closing Mass in Frankfurt‘s Cathedral of Saint Bartholomew. 

1st Statement

Pope Francis has described the Church as a field hospital and has invited her to let herself be wounded and spent for the world and the encounter with people. This call is addressed to us as people of the Church, to all of us. One who lets himself be wounded is able to love. At the same time, the Church is called to be herself sacrament — and to do so increasingly –, especially in the life of her relationships, which also includes sexual communion. This includes the interlacement of truth and love. Hence, we believe that the blessing of the Church to relationships of couples has to do with the ordering to the whole of the body-soul communion, association and fecundity. The present text is understood in the sense of the pastoral’s accompaniment, and in this we do have the need to learn. However, as the text includes all relationships of couples imaginable, and we do not have a corresponding basic theological-anthropological text or the necessary differentiations, in reality it opens the door to arbitrariness and, in my opinion, it cannot be approved 

2nd Statement

There is no doubt that, as Church, we have much to do to be up to date on the many questions that surround people’s gender identity. This is especially true when one has to deal with people who feel misunderstood or marginalized. In my opinion, basing ourselves on our traditional anthropology, we are only at the beginning of understanding the phenomena mentioned. For example, we talk of the term “identity” as if we all understood already what we wish to say by it. In many conversations with queer people, this has been made very clear to me. And we almost never add that our Christianity means to grow towards a specific, new identity. According to Jesus, we are called to be born again or, with Paul, to be new creatures in Christ. And what such Christian existential experience does with all that then contributes also to the search for people’s identity, in my opinion, the present text does not even consider. Hence, I still don’t consider it acceptable. 

3rd Statement

From my point of view, synodality is an extremely essential aspect that Pope Francis has introduced recently in the universal Church and in which a new dynamic has been deployed. In 2018, in the Synod of Bishops on Young People,  I was able to comprehend more profoundly what he understands by synodality. I’m very happy to follow this path and I also try to live and develop synodality in my diocese. However, I am experiencing a kind of synodality here in the synodal path, which in my opinion contradicts the Pope’s understanding on quite a few points. The two afternoon appeals of the two members of the Executive Committee confirmed clearly once again this impression, just as Thomas Söding’s previous statement did. 

Moreover, the Pope has given us a clear guideline in regard to this Assembly, and I feel bound to it. Therefore, I shall wait to see what the Synod of Bishops proposes at the global level on this subject  and I will not be in agreement with the text presented here. 

4th Brief Final Boost

Dear brothers and sisters in the faith, dear members of the Synod,

The majority of  you know that I am skeptical about some of the key texts adopted by the Synodal Path. Of course, I believe our Church needs renewal urgently, also systemic renewal. And we are implementing intensely concrete institutional changes in the system everywhere. However, we still need more renewal of the faith, deepening of the faith, strengthening of the faith. And the fact that our five Synodal Assemblies have not addressed this topic in particular also shows that we have structural problems here. At the same time, however, we feel a certain impotence, especially in regard to what Pope Francis understands by evangelization. Therefore, even after this Synodal Assembly, probably much time will pass before we are able to say: the Church has overcome the crisis. And, yet, I absolutely want to continue holding on to this faith of the People of God, which is expressed today in the Reading of the Book of Micah. That God abides with us, walks with us and always has mercy on us. And I don’t want to cease hinting to those in our Church, who think and believe in a different way to mine, that they too want the good for this Church.

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