Cardinal Walter Kasper, President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, has hit back at a group of theologians who have taken him to task over his damning critique of the German synodal pathway.
In an interview with the International Catholic Review Communio, Kasper said the German “way” had failed”.
In an open letter, the reform initiative “Pro Concilio – Council from Below” from his former diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart asked Kasper how it was possible that he had “allowed himself” to reach such a negative view of the synodal path’s reform proposals “in view of the impressive theological thoroughness with which all the synodal path’s recommendations had been prepared and the great earnestness of the discussions at the many meetings and conferences.”
The reform initiative claimed that “monarchical power structures, male clericalism, mandatory priestly celibacy, a rigid sexual morality and numerous dogmatic fixations” were not part of the Gospel Message but relics from the “freezer” of church history “blocking people’s access to the Gospel Message.”
The cardinal replied at length: “I do not need anyone’s permission (to reach a view). I availed myself of Christian freedom which is available both to you and to me. If you allow yourselves to criticise church teaching then you should not make a Super Teaching Authority (“Superlehramt”) of the [German] synodal path which no one may criticise.”
Synodal processes lived on critical exchanges of different opinions, he recalled. “If you rule out such constructive critical exchange then a synodal path is dead before it has even begun.”
He knew highly regarded theologians who did not agree with the view that the German synodal path documents had been thoroughly prepared and elaborated. Many people had moreover complained to him that participants at the discussions had been treated unfairly, which had given him “much food for thought.” He had the impression that the initiative’s open letter had come into being in an “inner-church echo chamber”. People no longer expected anything from a Church “which is revolving around itself”, he pointed out.
Kasper said that he welcomed the right reforms at the right time. “While some of the synodal path’s reforms are sensible and welcome, others are at most a placebo or even in fact a deadly medication,” he said.