Is it about diversity or about debauchery and libertinism?

Only did the "Tygodnik Powszechny" with "Gazeta Wyborcza", always reliable in such matters, manage to waggle a finger at Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki – that he dares to write to the Pope critically about the German Synodal Way – when there was a surprise. The Vatican writes to German Catholics that there cannot be consent to at least two postulates of this Way!

Does this mean that the Weekly magazine "Tygodnik Powszechny" and/or the "Gazeta Wyborcza" newspaper will withdraw their reprimand? This is unlikely to happen. It wouldn’t be issued deliberately in the first place if it were to be removed right now. After all, the Vatican will not dictate what Gods and some editorial offices may do and what cattle and the clerical and conservative archbishop may not. Right? The internet platform Onet. Pl is also heating the subject because the audience – most likely those people who don't go to church, but this doesn't bother the broadcaster - need to be made aware of what kind of anti-German hierarchs we have (it doesn't matter that the Archbishop Gądecki has an excellent cooperative relationship with German biblists and other scholars). Then, the "Rzeczpospolita" newspaper, with a bold note about the "German-Polish bishops' dispute", comes into play. SIGN UP TO OUR PAGE

Oh, well… neither German nor Polish.

However, let's start from the beginning to put the information in order and not get lost in the meanders of complaints poured out by TP Weekly and GW paper that we are so backward in our - Polish, of course - Church, backward, narrow-minded, anti-feminist, also homophobic and whatever else you can write down. Let alone that we are undemocratic, even racist, and deeply behind when it comes to following the latest scientific trends. This is just a minimalist summary of the description of Polish features from the above newspaper titles and a few others. Their authors blame Archbishop Gądecki, saying: How dare he? How dare he interfere in the life of the Church in Germany? And «write reports» to the Pope! So, let's find the starting point, but where is the starting point?

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Is it the letter of Archbishop Gądecki to Pope Francis about the dangers and doubts of the German Synodal Way, sent before the beginning of the Rome session of the Synod, which began with a service on September 30 and lasted almost throughout the entire October? The letter was a reaction to an extensive, reportedly 150-page study of the German Synodal Way, sent by e-mail to participants of the October Rome synod session - sent on the German's own initiative, not even episcopal - entirely outside the synod secretariat.

Archbishop's Gądecki letter was published only now, after the end of this year's session; remember, next year in October, there should also be a synod, and discussions in parishes and dioceses should occur throughout the year. And may they continue, which Archbishop Gądecki strongly encouraged, summarising the Roman deliberations and the final document.

Or maybe the beginning of this troublesome matter, a bit earlier, is the letter of Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki to Archbishop Georg Bätzing, the president of the German Episcopal Conference: an early spring letter on the same topic - wise, profound and courageous. It was written in the spirit of brotherly concern, and advice the first Apostles would give: brothers, reflect and repent. But why is Archbishop Bätzing responding only now? And why is he making the problem bilateral? Did he become almost angry and fall into uncontrollable emotions? He was boiling this much that - according to reports from serious sources - a group of German Catholics sent a letter to the Polish Archbishop on Tuesday, November 28, in which they apologised for the "hysterical" response of Archbishop Bätzing. Sic!

As the starting point, we could also consider the Archbishop's Gądecki account from the European synodal meeting in Prague in February this year, when he spoke with concern about the aggressively expressed demands of the German participants of that meeting, especially the statements of activists demanding the sacrament of priesthood for women and the sacrament of marriage for homosexual couples, as well as greater power for lay governors.

And finally, the already mentioned conferences - in Rome and after returning from Rome - where Archbishop Gądecki in no way questioned the meaning of the Synod, did not question the Pope's decision and did not relativise his observations and doubts. He called a spade a spade and introduced the issues as such to be considered by the Church or anyone who would listen. He put a different emphasis on his reports than the other Polish participants of the Synod, Cardinal Grzegorz Ryś and Archbishop Adrian Galbas - the new Metropolitan Archbishop from Katowice. Some publicists try to emphasise that diversity is a treasure of the Church, and none of these hierarchs could ever doubt the credibility of the others - it would not even cross their mind – or question the credibility of the Synod.

However, in the "Tygodnik Powszechny", in the text by Piotr Sikora, it turns out that Archbishop Gądecki apparently has a problem with the Synod. He criticises the Synod and consequently the Pope. It turns out that "the sources of Archbishop Gądecki's problems with accepting the new Church's direction - towards which it is heading thanks to the synodal process - is clearly visible in his letter to the Pope on the German Synodal Path. The hierarch considers the German demands as an attempt to carry out a revolution in the Church - not an evangelical one, but a left-liberal one". The letter clearly shows - says the TP weekly publicist - that the assessment of German proposals as "non-Catholic" is associated with a sceptical stance towards the achievements of modern social sciences. Archbishop Gądecki allegedly discredits the latter, resorting to an ethically questionable rhetorical trick: comparing them to the "once popular theory of racism".

And as I wrote earlier, TP weekly had not gained momentum yet, and now the Vatican has presented its position. On Friday, November 24, in the German Catholic weekly "Die Tagespost", Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin - the highest representative of the Papacy after the Pope - informs German bishops that "priestly ordination is reserved for men and the Church's teaching on homosexuality is non-negotiable – therefore the special German Synodal Way is excluded. According to Vatican Radio, the note is dated October 21, so it was created during the October session of the Synod. The document announces further meetings between representatives of the German episcopate and the heads of Vatican Dicasteries regarding the German Synodal Way. They will take place in January, April and June next year.
Why does Archbishop Georg Bätzing respond to Archbishop Gądecki only now, after so many months? Photo Christopher Neundorf/EPA/PAP
As KAI (Catholic News Agency) reported, the note was published after Pope Francis confessed on November 10 that he shared concerns about the unity of the Church in Germany with the universal Church. Previously, other bishops expressed concern, including a group of Scandinavian bishops and those from the synod secretariat. At the very beginning, the Vatican document reminds us of the need to respect the synodal process in the universal Church so as not to give the impression that the Church in Germany is quite indifferent to it and undertakes its own parallel initiatives.

"When considering the current course of the German Synodal Way, first of all, we should realise that the Holy Father currently convenes a universal synodal path. We should therefore respect this path of the universal Church and avoid the impression that parallel initiatives are undertaken, regardless of the effort to follow together," - we read in Cardinal Pietro Parolin's note published in "Die Tagespost".

Vatican Radio also emphasises that the note quoted Francis' personal letter to Catholics in Germany from 2019, specifically the fragment which warns against the temptations of the Father of Lies and Divisions, who - under the appearance of goodness - leads to divisions within the Church: "Brothers, let us take care of each other! Let us be alert to the temptation of the Father of Lies and Divisions, the master of divisions, who - in his search for the apparent good or his hunt for the answers to a specific situation - ends in the dismemberment of the Holy Body of God's faithful people. The Vatican emphasises that priestly ordination is reserved exclusively for men, as stated in the apostolic exhortation of St. John Paul II, Ordinatio sacerdotalis of May 22, 1994. It says that "the Church has no authority to confer priestly ordination on women, and this ruling should be considered final by all the faithful of the Church". (n.4) It was recalled that Pope Francis clearly confirmed this statement of Saint John Paul II several times.

Last week, Pope Francis once again expressed his concern about the Catholic Church's reform plans in Germany, writing that the creation of the Synod Council in its planned form "is incompatible with the sacramental structure of the Catholic Church". On November 10, the Pope wrote to four female German theologians in response to their letter. One of them, prof. Westerhorstmann told Vatican Radio that they decided to take such actions because they had the impression that the Church in Germany was ignoring subsequent interventions of the Holy See. – We felt that this was our duty as laypeople and as women in the Church – said the German theologian. – The Pope responded quickly, just after two days, and he did it with outstanding clarity and personal commitment. You can see that this is an important issue for him, added the theologian.

The matter is gaining more and more attention as Vatican Radio brings more and more new information. On Monday, November 27, a statement by Prof. Westerhorstmann was published on the radio station's website. Westerhorstmann "does not understand the accusations against them (the four theologians - ed.) that their initiative contributes to divisions in the Church". The German theologian believes that in her letter, they expressed concerns about the already existing conflicts and differences of opinion regarding the future of the Church in Germany. – We hoped that this could be an impulse that would contribute to maintaining unity – said Prof. Westerhorstmann.

In Pope Francis' letter to the German theologians, we read: "Instead of looking for » salvation « in new committees and constantly discussing the same topics with a kind of self-centeredness - in my » Letter to the Pilgrim People of God in Germany « - I wanted to recall the need for prayer, penance and adoration, and I invite us to open ourselves and go out to meet » our brothers and sisters, especially those who can be found on the thresholds of the doors of our churches, on the streets, in prisons, in hospitals, in squares and in cities « (No. 8). I am convinced: there the Lord will show us the way", writes the Pope.
So who has the problem? Archbishop Gądecki, or maybe the weekly "Tygodnik Powszechny" and related papers? And why does even "Rzeczpospolita" raise the issue? Additionally, with such a pretentious title - "We accuse and wait to be accused" – where in this unrefined and intellectually dishonest way it refers to the historical letter of the Polish bishops to the German ones ( “We forgive and ask for forgiveness”) written in 1965? Something went screwy in some colleagues' heads!

It's hard to resist the impression that this is some more extensive operation, not to say a brawl. But why? To forcibly – and unjustifiably – connect Archbishop Gądecki with the outgoing authorities? Attributing cynicism to Archbishop Gądecki's (GW) pro-government manipulations ("Rzeczpospolita") and even ignorance (TP) is embarrassing, not to say dishonest. Trying to fit the activities of the Church - universal, on a global scale, because this is what synodal discussions on the most critical, doctrinal issues concern (entering the statements of not only Archbishop Gądecki but also Cardinal Parolin and the Pope himself) – into current Polish politics is, to put it mildly, pathetic.

"For this reason, it is difficult to read both letters in isolation from the political context - tensions between Germany and the outgoing Polish government," we read in "Rzeczpospolita." It is rather difficult to read these words in isolation from journalistic details. After all, the author is probably aware of the letter of Cardinal Pietro Parolin published in "Die Tagespost", its Vatican dimension and the lack of any Polish context because it concerns the universal Church. So, is this manipulation? If the author doesn't realise this, he doesn't know what he's writing about. It's hard to say which is more dramatic and which is more embarrassing.

On Monday, November 27, in the evening, in Malta - where the plenary meeting of the Council of the Bishops' Conferences of Europe (CCEE) was held, both hierarchs - Archbishop Gądecki and Archbishop Bätzing – met for a conversation. "We are aware that we live in difficult times for the Church in Europe, but despite cultural differences, we will look together for the good and the right path for the Church in Poland and Germany", Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki announced on social media on Tuesday. His German interlocutor admitted that "we want, especially in these times, to stand together as neighbours, even if we recognise cultural differences in the legitimate diversity of Catholicism, and we try to find our way to a good future in which we want - as we have always done - to bear witness of the Good News to the people."

However, I will act undiplomatically and question his formula of "cultural differences in the legitimate diversity of Catholicism". Because when it comes to the most important matters, i.e. the sacrament of marriage for homosexual couples and the sacrament of priesthood for women, there is no "diversity of Catholicism" here. There is debauchery and libertinism, and the Church cannot consent to this, as the Pope wrote and said directly. And no Synodal Way, German or other one, will change this.

– Barbara Sułek-Kowalska

TVP WEEKLY. Editorial team and jornalists

– Translated by Katarzyna Chocian
Main photo: The President of the Polish Episcopal Conference, Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki (first from the left), the Metropolitan Archbishop of Katowice, Archbishop Adrian Galbas (on the right) and the Metropolitan Archbishop of Lublin, Stanisław Budzik (in the middle) after the end of the KEP meeting. Photo PAP/Waldemar Deska
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