Yesterday the German bishops started their annual spring conference.

On the GBC website, preparation for the October Synod of Bishops on the Family is only mentioned casually as one of the less prominent points of the agenda. Given recent utterances of certain German bishops, this does not quite allay my apprehension.

So, restlessly prowling around the internet, I only now discovered that the GBC’s answers to the Vatican questionnaire are online. Catholic World News summarizes the summary. Contrary to my first assumption, they did not quote the most extreme things out of context: the whole document breathes the same spirit.

Honestly, I did not expect something this blunt. One could, in fact, call this a ‘courageous’ document. I mean, how shameful and embarrassing (to say the least) to have to go to Rome and admit how fully and utterly you have failed in taking care of the immortal souls of your flock!

I was even starting to hope again: if you want to argue that changes in society necessitate some ‘development’ of the Church’s teaching on marriage and sexuality, presenting the situation as a wholesale pastoral and catechetical failure would not seem to be the most promising strategy. On the other hand, some passages seem to cross the border from bluntness to cynicism – at least, that is the best interpretation I have for sentences like this one:

Almost all couples who wish to marry in Church have already been living together, frequently for several years (estimates are between 90% and 100%).

The fact that even the bishops of my country see people like my married Catholic friends (who did not cohabit before marriage) as some barely existing freak group is somewhat disturbing.

Update: Today, the German bishops have voted for Cardinal Archbishop Reinhard ‘Who-is-the-head-of-the-CDF-to-tell-us-what-the-Church-teaches’ Marx as the head of the German Bishops’ Conference.