The German Bishops’ Conference has published its digest of responses to the questionnaire in preparation for the extra-ordinary synod on the family. No one will be surprised at its content – the sanctification of serial monogamy and the embrace of civil partnerships. Nor at the portentous language in which the digest is described: the bishops speak of it as the voice of ‘the People of God’. What might raise an eyebrow, however, is the manner in which the document has been published. It can be read in its entirety on the website of Germany’s episcopal conference, not only in the original German but in Italian, English, French, and Spanish.
Said Cardinal Reinhard Marx: ‘We are not a subsidiary of Rome. Every episcopal conference is responsible for pastoral care in its own cultural context, and must preach the Gospel in its own original way. We cannot wait for a synod to tell us how we must shape the pastoral care of marriage and the family.’
It is becoming clear that the Germans are not only asserting what Anglicans call ‘Provincial Autonomy’, but seeking to replicate the Magisterium. Cardinal Mueller will not be best pleased.
The question is: who in Rome is supporting this manoeuvre? For there can now be little doubt that it has backing in high places. Is it mere co-incidence, you will be asking, that the theme of the recently convened ARCIC III is ‘the relationship between the universal Church and the local Church, with particular reference to processes for discussions and decision making regarding moral and ethical questions’ ( see Roman Holiday below)? Anglicans, after all, can have only one contribution to make to that dialogue.
It is obvious who is playing Groucho in this show…but who are the other Marx brothers?