16Jan German priests: open the priesthood to women, make priestly celibacy voluntary

https://www.ncronline.org/blogs/german-priests-open-priesthood-women-make-priestly-celibacy-voluntary

In an open letter on the state of the church and priestly ministry in Germany, a group of 11 German priests from the Cologne archdiocese have urged the church to open the priesthood to both men and women and to make priestly celibacy voluntary.

They underline seven essential points for the future of the church, including the following:

  • We urgently need to forge ahead with courageous initiatives on the question of admission to the priesthood. It makes no sense continuously to ask the Holy Spirit for vocations while at the same time excluding women from the priestly ministry.
  • Celibacy often leads either to fruitless loneliness and social isolation or helpless work agitation. It rarely releases a spiritual source for pastoral work. We accepted celibacy but did not choose it. 1 Timothy 3:2 provides us with food for thought: ‘A church leader must be without fault; he must have only one wife.’

The priests also criticized the clustering of parishes. They said that parish clusters are an “imposition” as they further the anonymization and isolation that is already taking place in society. Parish priests and their helpers must be available locally and not in some “distant center,” the priests said. They should be “where the church spire is and the bells ring.”

“For us — and for many others — these questions are burning issues and we know that that they are also a great source of worry for Pope Francis and [Cologne] Cardinal [Rainer] Woelki,” Msgr. Wolfgang Bretschneider, one of the 11 priests, told domradio.de, the Cologne archdiocese’s internet portal.

The 11 priests, who were all ordained in 1967 shortly after the Second Vatican Council, have met once a month since then, have gone on retreats and undertaken trips at home and abroad together, Bretschneider said. On the 50th anniversary of their ordination, they looked back on all they had experienced in the church and decided to publicize their views in the form of an open letter about the burning issues in today’s church.

Asked what he and his fellow priests hope for as far as women’s ordination, Bretschneider replied, “We hope that the issue will not be shelved. There was a time when one could not even discuss women’s ordination openly. A great deal has become possible under Pope Francis, however. We are fully conscious of the fact that this issue cannot be decided overnight. There is the world church to consider and the danger of a schism. … But increasing awareness and continually putting a finger on a problem can lead to a change of opinion over the years and to a possible solution.”

3 Responses

  1. Martin Murray

    “No doubt Pope Francis and the other curial officials will be interested to learn how we are facing the current challenges of a decline in Mass attendance in Ireland and in the number of vocations to the priesthood and the religious life.
    I, and my fellow bishops, will be able to share with them the resilience of our priests and religious under increased pressure and workload, as well as the tremendous generosity and kindness of the faithful towards us ……..”

    I suppose these words of Archbishop Eamonn Martin concerning the Irish Bishop’s current visit to Rome in your leader to this article, could be Irish for “Don’t worry, we can as usual put positive spin on a bad situation and call it leadership”.

    On the other hand, maybe there are places where there are signs of life. But for the most part, the clerical church still reigns, and any renewal is far from the progressive, inclusive and explorative Catholicism that is so much needed for 21st century living. We still have too much to teach and nothing to learn.

    And should there not be lay involvement in the preparation and deliver of any audit of the Irish Church? If not why do we use words like ‘co-responsibility’?

  2. Martin Murray

    Leadership is more than just maintenance and management. The true measure of leadership is the ability to recognise the need for change and to have the courage to implement it. For life without change is impossible and this holds true for the life of the church.

  3. Lloyd Allan MacPherson

    So true Martin, @2 – that leadership is staying ahead of the curve and bracing everyone for the change needed before it becomes a reactionary process. Sadly, this foresight is lost when clerical activity is the forefront. The last 2 Popes, slightly behind the curve, at least don’t lack the courage to be visionary in reaction to what is happening in the world.

    Bishops are middle managers who guard the status quo and to be looking for anything visionary from them is like asking the trees to uproot and move position. Change will take place from the bottom up (or as Francis would have us believe, the top down in this era of the inverted triangle).

    Perhaps now it is time to poll the bishops to see where they truly stand? Questioning would be from a middle management standpoint and worded for future reference i.e. “Could they continue to administer as bishops in a Church that removes the celibacy requirement from the Canons and ordains women?”

    I would love to hear the “no’s” ring clear in their responses if they should dare. It’s not really for them to decide if this Canon legislation should change, especially for the continuation and health of the church.


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