German Catholics have blasted Cardinal Müller’s comparison of the German Church’s “synodal path” to the rise of Nazi Germany, ripping the cardinal’s “poisonous”, “inhuman” and “unacceptable” words.

Driving the news

“He who makes such a comparison” – between the synodal path and the Enabling Act of 1933 which permitted Hitler to seize absolute power – “either has no historical knowledge or intentionally acts in order to poison any debate”, synodal path spiritual advisor Bernd Hagenkord SJ wrote.

“This is not a critique anymore”, Hagenkord lamented, criticising Müller’s “inhuman” and “unacceptable” dissent from the democratic direction the Church is taking in Germany.

“The whole thing has limits. One limit is called Gerhard Ludwig Müller”, Hagenkord said, suggesting Müller had removed himself from serious debate with his outrageous exaggerations.

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Another critic of Müller’s was Thomas Sternberg, the president of the lay Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), which along with the German Bishops’ Conference is a key organiser of the synodal path.

“There is a sort of criticism that judges itself”, Sternberg said.

“This is so far away from reality that it cannot be taken seriously”, not to mention opposed to “the great agreement among the Catholic faithful and the great majority of the episcopal co-brothers [bishops]”, the ZdK president deplored.

Likewise piling on Müller for his Nazi-synodal path comparison were Vicar General of Essen, Klaus Pfeffer, who called the cardinal’s criticism “destructive” and declared himself “stunned” by it.

Even Bishop Franz Jung of Würzburg said that Müller’s comment was “very much out of place” and entirely unhelpful.

Why it matters

Another critic of Müller’s was Catholic German Women’s Federation (KDFB) Berlin branch president Barbara John, who reminded Müller that, with the synodal path, “the time of male-dominated Catholic church has expired”.

KDFB’s federal president Maria Flachsbarth had earlier encouraged German Catholics to see the synodal path as a “great chance” to ensure that women in the Church, like men are treated as the “likeness of God”.

For the record

Müller showed his true colours and let slip his fear of democracy and reform in the Church February 3 when he told ultraconservative outlet LifeSite News after the first synodal assembly in Frankfurt at the weekend that the reform process “is like the situation when the Weimar Constitution was repealed by the Enabling Act”, referring to the legislation by which Hitler came to power.

“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 whinged.

His principal motive for complaint? The fact 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.

But that’s something the vast majority of synodal assembly participants and indeed the totality of German Catholics expressed their satisfaction with.

German Bishops’ President Cardinal Reinhard Marx hailed the “positive and encouraging” experience of hierarchy and laypeople having a dialogue at “eye level”.

This Thursday, too, two more German bishops have come out in defence of the synodal path, with Bamberg archbishop Ludwig Schick defending that the synodal participants are not “revolutionaries” and Bishop of Osnabrück Franz-Josef Bode insisting on the need for more women in positions of Church responsibility.

Bode explained that many of the “men’s decisions” in the Church, such as covering up abuse, “would have been different if women had been involved”.

Next on Novena:

Beyond the pale: Cardinal Müller compares synodal path to rise of Nazi Germany

‘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.