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After months of controversy, the progressive German bishops did not approve a document that would update their teachings on sex, gender and masturbation.

The document, “Living in successful relationships”, was rejected by the bishops. The German prelates came under heavy pressure from the Vatican to abandon the proposed changes.

In the final vote, 33 bishops voted to adopt the document, 22 voted against.

The synod requires a two-thirds majority to approve the document.

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Archbishop of Munich and Freising, leaves at the end of a media briefing during a four-day summit on sexual abuse convened by Pope Francis in Rome, Italy on February 23, 2019.
(Photo AP / Alessandra Tarantino, file)

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The failure of the change in church teaching sparked emotional outbursts in some synod participants. Some accused the bishops of intentionally remaining silent before the vote. Others said they felt unable to speak while the document was being discussed.

Some bishops have threatened to take the failed synod document to Pope Francis in Rome, refusing to renounce drastic reforms.

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich and president of the German Bishops' Conference, celebrates the opening mass of the conference in the cathedral on September 25, 2018 in Fulda, western Germany.

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich and president of the German Bishops’ Conference, celebrates the opening mass of the conference in the cathedral on September 25, 2018 in Fulda, western Germany.
(Arne Dedert / DPA / AFP via Getty Images)

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“We will bring it to the level of the universal Church when we are in Rome in November for the ad limina visit when we go to prepare the world synod with the continental episcopal conferences in January”, said Monsignor Georg Bätzing.

Attempts to involve the pope in the decision are almost certainly doomed to fail, as Pope Francis has already severely warned the German Church that adopting teachings contrary to the Catholic Church would risk drifting away from communion.

The pope had previously expressed concern for Germany’s laity and clergy if their leaders broke church teaching established, saying that Catholics would be adversely affected by the many proposals for changes to the church pushed by Cardinal Reinhard Marx and other German liberal leaders on their “synodal journey”.

Pope Francis speaks to cardinals in St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican during a mass on August 30, 2022.

Pope Francis speaks to cardinals in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican during a mass on August 30, 2022.
(Photo AP / Andrew Medichini)

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“In order to protect the freedom of the people of God and the exercise of the episcopal ministry, it would seem necessary to clarify that the ‘Synodal Path’ in Germany does not have the power to force bishops and faithful to adopt new ways of government and new approaches to doctrine and to morality “, reads the Holy See’s communiqué.

The “Synodal Way” – sometimes called the “Synodal Way” – is a controversial ecclesiastical committee in Germany. The synod, organized by the German Bishops’ Conference and the Central Committee of German Catholics, aims to discuss and address four loose themes: sexual ethics, the structure of Church governance, the role of women in the Church and the vocation of the priesthood.

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“Before a shared understanding at the level of the universal Church, it would not be legitimate to start new structures or official doctrines in the dioceses, which would represent a wound to ecclesial communion and a threat to the unity of the Church”, said the Pope. Francis warned the synod.

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