ROME — Australian Cardinal George Pell has warned that the wayward Catholic Church in Germany will only grow worse without serious corrections from Rome.
There has been much talk in recent years of “synodality” as a key characteristic of the Catholic Church, a vague term used to suggest greater participation and dialogue among the faithful, but such an emphasis can be counterproductive, Cardinal Pell argues in his Oct. 12 essay in the National Catholic Register.
There have only been 21 councils in Catholic history, notes the former head of the Vatican’s economic secretariat, and this infrequency is significant.
“Neither should synods become too frequent, become a competitor with prayer, worship and service,” he writes. “And history reminds us to be careful, not to build up false expectations, not to unleash forces which can escape our control.”
A case in point is the Church in Germany, Pell suggests, which has begun questioning or even refuting central Catholic teachings under the synodal banner.
“The synodal process has begun disastrously in Germany, and matters will become worse unless we soon have effective papal corrections on, for instance, Christian sexual morality,” the cardinal writes.
“We find no precedents in Catholic history for the active participation of ex-Catholics and anti-Catholics in such bodies,” such as is now happening in Germany, he adds.
“Every synod has to be a Catholic synod, bound by the apostolic Tradition, just as Councils are so bound,” he notes. “To allow serious heresies to continue undisturbed is undermining and damaging the unity of the One, True Church.”
He goes on to declare that there can be “no pluralism of important doctrines of faith or morals,” since Catholic unity “is not like that of a loose Anglican federation or that of the many national Orthodox Churches.”
The situation in Germany has grown so dire, Pell observes that some faithful German Catholics “are already talking, not of the synodal way but the suicidal way.”
The aftermath of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) “provides a warning of the powerful hostile forces that surround us,” he adds.
In his essay, the cardinal also suggests that the rampant demolition of the secondary structures and patterns that the Church had built up in society over the ages has been catastrophic, since “we need all the sociological supports we can find or construct.”
In this regard, he writes, the “contributions of Trump, or Orban, or the Fratelli d’Italia are not to be rejected, small as they might be, just as some of us remain grateful for Constantine and Charles V.”