As preparations are being made for the forthcoming Synod in Rome, the Deutsche Bischofskonferenz has been considering strategy. Its president, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, has asked the General Secretary to consult with an English colleague.


 Dear Reinhard,

On your advice I have spoken to the Welby fellow. Of course you are right: he is an unprepossessing sort of chap, but he has some good ideas (picked up, no doubt, during his time in the oil business). ‘Facilitated conversations’ are one of the best. What, after all, could be more unthreatening than a mere ‘conversation’, with its very English overtones of tea and sympathy?

The clever notion that Welby has come up with, however, is that these conversations should cost a lot of money. The English are spending a third of a million on them – we Germans could easily manage ten times that amount. The important thing is to get a financially quantifiable degree of institutional commitment. That, of course, will inevitably come to be seen as a commitment to change. Who, after all, spends several million Euros in order to do nothing? The money spent demands a result – and the only result which will satisfy that demand is a change of doctrine and policy. Hey presto! The horse is past the finishing post before the cat is out of the bag, if I can mix metaphors.

We should certainly adopt this stratagem. There is still time before the October synod. The ‘conversations’ should, of course (as you yourself have indicated) be conducted in the strictest confidence. But, at the same time, I suggest that the groups should be big enough to ensure maximum leakage. Imagine the effect on the Church at large of numbers of elderly cardinals tearfully recalling the sexual indiscretions of their youth! The newspaper coverage alone would be invaluable.

I eagerly await further instructions,

(Dr. Hans Langendörfer SJ)

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