Germany: Third Day of the Fifth Synodal Path Assembly
Forum IV Text on Gender
The document entitled “Managing gender diversity” was approved by more than 95% of the votes. Among the bishops, 7 voted against and 13 abstained, out of a total of 58, remembering that a text is approved by two thirds of the Assembly on the one hand and two thirds of the bishops on the other. If those abstaining had voted against it, the text would have been rejected.
This “action text” makes a number of demands, of which the most characteristic are as follows.
1. It should be possible to leave the gender entry blank in the register of baptisms for intersex children (where their gender identity is unclear), or to enter it as “diverse”, as is now envisaged in German law. . If it becomes apparent at a later point in time that the intersex individual identifies with a specific gender, there should be an uncomplicated mechanism for changing the gender entry in the register of baptisms.
2. “It should also be made possible for transgender faithful to have their civil status in the register of baptisms, i.e. the entry on gender as well as their first name(s), changed. Standards in the Church’s administrative law should be established here.”
3. “If transgender or intersex believers are denied the sacrament of marriage, blessing ceremonies should be made available to them for their partnership. Corresponding preparation courses should also be open to couples in which one or both persons are transgender and/or intersex.”
6. “Persons with an intersex or transgender identity are not to be excluded from pastoral ministry or other employment relationships. Gender identity does not constitute a breach of loyalty within the meaning of the Basic Order of Church Service in the Framework of Church Employment Relationships.”
7. “All ecclesial communities are recommended to allow intersex and transgender people to have equal access to or remain in an institute of consecrated life or in a society of apostolic life.”
In addition, a study is needed on the constitution of a “normative and positivist gender anthropology,” on the “unequivocal refusal of conversion therapies on transgender people,” finally on “access to ordained ministries and to the pastoral care professions in the Church [which] should not be excluded altogether, even for the baptized and the confirmed intersex and transsexuals, but must be examined on a case-by-case basis.”
The Synodal Path therefore completely adopts gender theory and draws all the consequences from it. Thus, men claiming to be women will be able “if necessary” to have access to female religious communities and vice versa. And a woman claiming to be a man could thus receive priestly ordination.
Did we read this correctly? Unfortunately yes. Bishop Georg Bätzing may well protest once again that there was no schism or formation of a separate German Church because of the Synodal Path, but the texts speak for themselves.
Establishment of the Synodal Committee
Saturday, March 11 saw the establishment of the Synodal Committee whose task is to continue and implement the reform project over three years. In other words, it is a sort of continual synod, similar to what the Dutch pastoral council established and from which the Würzburg synod borrowed the idea: in Germany it has become a commission the members of which are a mixture of bishops and the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK).
The Committee also has the function of setting up synodal councils: diocesan and parochial. It should be noted that there is no longer any question of a national council after the Roman warnings, but, despite these warnings which also targeted the dioceses and parishes, the project continues.
The Committee is made up of the 27 residential bishops of Germany and 27 members of the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), as well as 20 additional members who were elected on the last day of the Synodal Assembly.
The Fundamental Text of Ecclesial Policy
Proposed by the presidium of the Synodal Path, this document called “Listen. Learn. Break new ground” was described by Bishop Bätzing as a guide. The preamble points to the abuse scandal as the starting point for the reform project. The text contains a broad admission of guilt regarding the handling of abuse in the Church, as well as a call for a culture of dialogue.
The latter is described under four themes: sexual morality, the form of priestly life, power and the separation of powers as well as the role of women in the Church, in other words they overlap with the four forums which developed the schemas discussed and voted by the Synodal Assembly over the past three years.
Finally, it should be noted that the text presents the German Synodal Path as a contribution to the World Synod launched by Pope Francis.
The Text on Women in the Church
While the female diaconate had been set aside by the text on priests and the priesthood, it returned in the text concerning women, entitled “Women in sacramental ministry – perspectives for the universal church dialogue,” which is in line with the basic text on women in the Catholic Church adopted at the Fourth Plenary Assembly.
The German bishops undertake to ask Rome for the admission of women to the diaconate, and to propose in-depth reflections on an opening of all ordained ministries in the Church. Thus, the binding nature of existing magisterial statements, which hitherto categorically exclude women from ordained ministry, must be critically examined.
It must be repeated here that the sacrament of orders is unique, and that it is composed of at least the following three degrees, according to the Council of Trent: episcopate, presbyterate, and diaconate. Now, since the whole tradition and an infallible decision declare that the subject of ordination is the masculine man, this excludes at the same time the episcopate and the diaconate.
It should be noted that there have never been ordained deaconesses in the Church: the title was given to female auxiliaries who helped with the baptism of adult women, for reasons of modesty, at the time when this sacrament was given by immersion. The commissions recently set up on this subject could only note this conclusion, which had already been known for a long time.