Ultraconservative Gerhard Müller has compared the German Church’s “synodal path” to the rise of Nazi Germany, nervous as he seems to be about the sliver of democracy creeping into Catholicism via that two-year reform process.

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“This is like the situation when the Weimar Constitution was repealed by the Enabling Act”, Müller told ultraconservative outlet LifeSite News after the first synodal assembly in Frankfurt at the weekend, referring to the legislation by which Adolf Hitler seized absolute power in 1933.

“A self-appointed assembly, which is not authorized by God nor by the people it is supposed to represent, rescinds the Constitution of the Church of Divine Right, which is based on the Word of God (in Scripture and Tradition)”, the cardinal complained.

The ex-Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith further fretted that the first synodal 230-strong assembly gave more power to lay people in terms of voting members (52% of synodal participants) than bishops (30%) and priests together.

“In a suicidal process, the majority decided that their decisions are valid even if they contradict Catholic doctrine”, Müller also bewailed.

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Müller thus joined his voice to that of Cologne cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, who also complained about the first synodal assembly, saying in disparaging tones that it resembled a “Protestant church parliament”.

“My impression is that much of what belongs to theological doctrine is no longer shared here with us, and instead one believes that one can shape the Church in a completely new and different way”, Woelki grumbled.

That negative carping on the part of the cardinal drew criticism from the lay people of his diocese, and especially from the chairman of the Diocesan Council of Catholics in the Archdiocese of Cologne, Tim Kurzbach, who accused Woelki of “destroying the authority of his episcopal office” by constantly nay-saying the synodal path.

“He [Woelki] should have long since recognised that the office [of bishop] alone no longer establishes true authority”, Kurzbach declared.

He added that Woelki and other “traditionalists”, like Müller, were “overwhelmed by the fact that suddenly everyone can speak with equal rights in the ‘synodal way'” and the “fearless” discussions that have accompanied it to this point.

Why it matters

Müller and Woelki’s whining about the synodal path couldn’t be further from the overwhelmingly positive sentiment that emerged out of the first synodal assembly.

German Bishops’ president Cardinal Reinhard Marx declared that the talks at the Frankfurt “spiritual experiment” had been “positive and encouraging”.

Marx was seconded in that positive assessment by Thomas Sternberg, president of the German Bishops’ key partner on the synodal path – the lay Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK) – who said a “new image of the Church” had emerged out of Frankfurt in which “no one is disputing the other’s piety here”.

The next synodal assembly is scheduled again in Frankfurt from September 3-5.

From now until then, members of the four synodal forums – on power and authority in the Church, the role of women, the priestly way of life, including celibacy, and sexual morality – will get to work on drawing up proposals to present to that next assembly.

Next on Novena:

‘No’ to clericalism, ‘yes’ to co-responsibility: the keys to the first assembly on the German synodal path

(Small) Win for women on German ‘synodal path’: assembly votes to make resolutions dependent on female majority

“Synodal path” begins in Germany: youth, laity dream of Church “democratisation”

Faithful fight back against “fundamentalist and inhuman” Cardinal Müller, veto him in their churches

Vocal Synod critic Cardinal Müller once backed married priests

German Catholic youth blast Synod-phobic Cardinal Woelki for ‘noes’ on women priests, Church democracy


PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.