Cardinal Reinhard Marx has launched a spirited new defence of the Church’s bottom-up model of consultation, or “synodality”, and has called on the Church to “overcome and think beyond” what many see as “contradictions” in the ideas of “tradition” and “reform”.
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“Tradition and reform are not opposites in the history of the Church and of faith, but complement each other and enable change”, said Marx, President of the German Bishops’ Conference, in a radio program to be broadcast Saturday afternoon.
“Tradition and reform” have been points of particularly heated debate recently in Germany since the German Bishops announced in March that they would embark on a “binding synodal process” to examine some points of Church doctrine arising out of the clerical sex abuse crisis.
With the help of laypeople and outside experts, the German Bishops are re-examining clerical power, sexual morality and the priestly way of life, with a particular emphasis on compulsory clerical celibacy.
That local Churches may contribute to the reform of the universal Church has also been a main point arising out of discussions leading up to this October’s Amazon Synod in Rome.
Marx, who is also Archbishop of Munich and Freising and a member of Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinal Advisers, said that synodality is what enables the Church to overcome the apparent tensions between tradition and reform.
The cardinal said synodality goes beyond “black-and-white thinking” and the “pre-arranged consensus” and opens up a “deeper understanding of the Gospel”.
Though “challenging” in its questioning of established positions, synodality “is crucial for a path that starts from the common priesthood of all the baptised”, said Marx.
Cardinal Marx also recalled in his words that Pope Francis has repeated time and again that “synodality is the path that God expects of the Church in the third millenium”.
The cardinal echoed the Pope’s 2015 words to the effect that “we must continue along this path. The world in which we live, and which we are called to love and serve, even with its contradictions, demands that the Church strengthen cooperation in all areas of her mission”.
Marx also turned to shore up his position to sentiments Francis expressed in his 2013 Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium on the proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world.
“Challenges exist to be overcome! Let us be realists, but without losing our joy, our boldness and our hope-filled commitment. Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of missionary vigour!”