Reforms in the Church usually do not begin in Rome

Zulehner takes a relaxed view of Pope's criticism of the Synodal Committee

Vienna - Theologian Paul Zulehner has commented on the debate surrounding Pope Francis' recent criticism of the German Synodal Committee. He takes a relaxed view of the Pope's letter in this regard, calling the criticism of the reform efforts predictable.

Published  on 23.11.2023 at 11:34  – 

The Austrian theologian Paul Zulehner takes a relaxed view of Pope Francis' recent criticism of the Synodal Committee of the Catholic Church in Germany. The fact that the Pope responded to the letter from four critics of the German reform efforts with a letter of his own is "a sign of respect and courtesy", writes Zulehner in a post published on his private blog on Thursday. With his response to the "quartet of women concerned about tradition", Francis may also have wanted to reassure those "who constantly criticise his own World Synod and consider it heretical". From his experience with the post-synodal exhortation "Amoris laetitia" published in 2016, however, he knows that concerns about tradition will ultimately not stop the necessary developments in the Church.

Zulehner: Reform efforts "pioneering work" of the Church in Germany

In his text, Zulehner recognises the Synodal Path and the recently constituted Synodal Committee as "pioneering work" of the Church in Germany. "It is to be expected and also useful for the organisation of the committee that there is resistance from those concerned about tradition. But this is also a sign that a development is taking place in one part of the universal Church that can and probably will gradually affect the universal Church," said the theologian.

On Tuesday, a letter from Francis to the theologians Katharina Westerhorstmann and Marianne Schlosser, the journalist Dorothea Schmidt and the religious philosopher Hanna-Barbara Gerl-Falkovitz was made public. In it, the Pope once again criticised the German reform path. He shares the "concern about the numerous concrete steps that large parts of this local church are now taking that threaten to move further and further away from the common path of the universal church", said Francis.

"Criticism of the four dissidents" of the synodal path is well known

"Instead of seeking 'salvation' in ever new bodies and discussing the same topics in a certain self-centredness," he said, inviting us to "open up and go out to meet our brothers and sisters, especially those who can be found at the thresholds of our church doors, on the streets, in prisons, in hospitals, in the squares and in the cities," the Pope emphasised. His letter was reportedly in response to a letter from the four women a few days earlier, in which the authors had expressed their concern for unity with Rome in view of the German reform course.

Zulehner emphasises in his text that the "criticism of the four dissident women" of the synodal path is well known. With a view to the reform efforts in the Church, he also points out that developments in an organisation such as the Catholic Church do not begin with the fact that "they are all decided unanimously in Rome". (stz)