Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who is attending the Synod on the Family as president of the German bishops’ conference, is allegedly holding extravagant dinners for synod fathers at a multi-million euro villa in Rome owned by the archdiocese of Munich.

Around 20 bishops from a number of countries attended a lavish dinner at an archdiocesan-owned guesthouse located on Via delle Medaglia d’Oro last Sunday.

According to an informed and reliable source, there was such an abundance of food “the bishops’ stomachs were hardly able to take a break.” Another similar banquet is planned tomorrow.

Dining in Rome is not a crime, of course, and it's not unusual for bishops to host dinners, especially during a synod. In fact, some would say the crime would be to not to hold them. Often they are chances for various synod fathers to network with one another, forge friendships with their brother bishops, and discuss the issues being raised during the synod.

But the alleged lavishness of these dinners is again prompting the question of whether the German bishops are taking seriously the Holy Father’s call for a “poor Church for the poor.” It also raises the disputed question concerning the German church: is it using its immense wealth to influence synod fathers to vote according to their wishes, which many fear would lead the Church into heresy?

This week during his intervention at the synod, Cardinal Marx openly promoted giving holy Communion to the civilly divorced and remarried (the full text is here – H/T In Caelo et in Terra).

The venue was recently bought by the archdiocese at a cost of 9.7 million euros. The archdiocese denies it is a luxury and insists it was paid for by diocesan assets and not revenues taken from Germany’s church tax. But thanks largely to tax revenues, the German church has become the wealthiest in the world and the second largest employer in the country. At the same time, Church attendance is collapsing.  

Archdiocesan spokesman Bernhard Kellner has described the guesthouse as a “house of meeting” for members of the cathedral chapter, Church employees, representatives of lay councils, as well as small groups of pilgrims.

The Register contacted the archdiocese for comment but they were not immediately available.