For German Bishops’ President Democracy Comes First, Christ Second

Bishop Georg Bätzing, the bishop of Limburg and president of the German episcopate, reaffirms that his goal is to establish democratic principles in the governance of the Church in his country.


Newsroom(03/02/2024 15:20, Gaudium Press) Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg, president of the German episcopate, has reaffirmed his intention to introduce the democratic principle into the administration of the Church not only in his country.

The idea of “democracy” is not completely foreign to the Church, as is the “democratic” election of superiors and even the Pope. Even so, it is important to emphasize that the Church, in its essence, is a monarchy, whose head is Jesus Christ, who left a faith and morals that must be preserved and promoted, and not subject to democratic choices or variations.

Furthermore, Christ established a monarchical government for his Church, not a democratic one, at the head of which is his Vicar. At the local level, the bishops exercise a government of a “princely” nature, not in a tyrannical way, but with the responsibility of shepherding and caring for the flock, as appointed by Christ.

However, Bishop Bätzing and most of his fellow Germans are firmly committed to implementing the so-called “synod councils”. In the February issue of the monthly magazine Herder-Korrespondenz, he explains that there are parallels between the synod process in Germany and its democratic leadership structures, stressing that this “should not be regarded negatively”.

Summarizing the content of the bishop’s note in the Herder-Korrespondenz magazine, Infocatólica reports that “the prelate sees no contradiction with Church teaching in the introduction of proven methods in the secular sphere that serve transparency in the direction of the Church and the participation of the faithful. There are already many structural elements in the Church that coincide with the procedures and structures established in modern democratic states based on the rule of law.”

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Bishop Bätzing questions why modern democracy, which presupposes the valorization of human dignity, human rights and principles such as the constitutional order, popular sovereignty, the rule of law, the separation of powers, the protection of minorities and the welfare state, should raise concerns in the Church.”

“For the implementation of synodality, the president of the German Bishops’ Conference considers it essential to strengthen bishops’ conferences and ecclesial organizations at regional and continental level.” The Synodal Committee in Germany and the yet-to-be-developed ecclesial conference, discussed under the name ‘Synodal Council’, are heading in a very similar direction,” says Bishop Bätzing.

In a nutshell, the validity of the worldly liberal-democratic model in Church government seems to be the issue, where popular sovereignty prevails instead of the sovereignty of Christ; something very different from what Christ established.

Compiled by Teresa Joseph

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