Meier: I have not changed my ecclesiastical and political views

Almost at the same time as the beginning synodal path Bertram Meier was appointed Bishop of Augsburg. After two years of the German church reform project, Meier repeatedly criticized the synodal path: it was characterized by “brokenness” and posed a possible danger to the unity of the church. Bishop of Augsburgwhy he is critical of the synodal way, why he gave the ordination of deacons to the Peter brothers and what he took with him from the Roman times.

Question: Mr. Bishop, in the last few months you have made some critical remarks about the synodal way. You recently warned that the reform project could lead to a German national church. But episcopal conferences and lay representatives have repeatedly rejected this fear. Do you not trust these claims, or do you fiercely warn about the special German way?

Meier: Although I subjectively believe that there is good will from all those who point out that the synodal path in Germany is a safe one, since all the concrete steps are based on Catholic teaching and morals, I objectively doubt it. Good will is certainly there, but in practice a course has been set that ultimately affects the main direction of the Catholic Church. As an example, among others, I would like to mention the intention to establish so-called permanent synodal councils at all levels. So that we understand each other correctly: I am also in favor of consolidating synodality as a way of life for the church, but we need to think carefully about what this means in a spiritual and pastoral sense. In my opinion, this cannot be an increase in the number of committees. I already sit in too many conferences and not enough people.

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Question: You also described as a problem that the Synod Road is a German project. But why should this be a problem? In fact, it fits very well with the global synodal process initiated by Pope Francis. There, verification at the national level is an elementary component.

Meier: Assuring is different from pushing forward. It is legitimate for us in Germany to address the issues that directly affect us, especially after the chronic abuse scandal, and also to gather a picture of the sentiments about them. But I think it is problematic that we think that before the world synod that is planned for 2023. October in Rome, we should also state the facts to the universal church through the resolutions of our synod. The church in Germany should get involved, it can safely raise topics, but it should not think that it has to be the “leader of the synod”.

Question: Even if you warn about a possible special way for Germany: wouldn’t certain provisions for the local church in Germany be a conceivable way to implement church reforms in our country?

Meier: This is where the problem lies – our unfinished homework. The question is: What is the core of the Catholic faith and what is the shell? Or to put it another way: it is about divine revelation. What is predetermined and therefore taboo to our access, and what are historical appendages, that is, changeable? In my opinion, we have not asked ourselves enough of this question in the synodal journey from the beginning. The Pope will perform a “discernimento”, The differenceto make responsible decisions.

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Question: And what would be the limits here from your point of view?

Meier: The limits set for us represent the statements that God has given us in His revelation. Unfortunately, in the decree of the Second Vatican Council on ecumenism no. The concept of the hierarchy of truths mentioned in 11 is formally present in the ecclesiastical landscape, but in terms of content it is not sufficiently filled. Ultimately, it’s about prioritization: what’s at the top, fixed — and what can we change at will? We know this from other contexts: those who prioritize must also discuss posterity. It’s boring and tiring. But we should not skimp on this work.

Bertram Meier in a portrait
Photo: ©KNA / Julia Steinbrecht

Bertram Meier (*1960) comes from parents of different denominations, studied at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and in 1985 was ordained a priest in the diocese of Augsburg. After completing his doctorate under Bishop Johann Michael Sailer (1751-1832) and chaplain of Regensburg, Meier completed his studies at the Pontifical Diplomatic Academy. Later came the duties of chaplain and pastor. In 1996, Meier began serving the Holy See…

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