An Austrian bishop has insisted that the ordination of women and married men is “not excluded for all time” in the Catholic Church.

– “Inequality” in admission to ordained ministries “difficult to justify”

“It is important to me to point out that in our Church many women have long since assumed responsibility in important areas and also hold leadership positions. But there is an inequality in the admission to ordained ministries that is difficult to justify”, Bishop of Innsbruck Hermann Glettler acknowledged in an interview October 14 with the Der Standard newspaper.

To rectify the Catholic discrimination against women, “we have to fight for a good solution in harmony with the universal Church”, pleaded Glettler, who at 55, and Innsbruck bishop since 2017, is one of the Austrian Church’s youngest prelates.

Also on the topic of the equality of women in the Church, Glettler referred to the controversy over the title of Pope Francis’ latest encyclical, Fratelli tutti, which translates literally as ‘Brothers all’.

Though many Catholic women have said they do not see themselves reflected in that title, and also in the text’s focus on androcentric “fraternity”, Glettler said he wondered whether the debate over ‘Brothers all’ was not an “exaggerated” reaction based more on instinct rather than a close reading of the text.

The substance of Fratelli tutti “is clearly about a new neighbourliness. The text marks a touching heartbeat that calls the whole world to ‘social friendship’. Pope Francis names the dark sides of globalisation and pleads for a worldwide solidarity”, the bishop explained.

– Talk of coronavirus being God’s punishment “nonsense, of course”

Elsewhere in his conversation with Der Standard, Bishop Glettler touched on the coronavirus crisis, and said that talk of “God’s punishment” with regard to the pandemic “is nonsense, of course”.

However, he added that “this event, which will shape a generation, is certainly an urgent warning. It is undisputed that we are driving ourselves and the environment into life-threatening depletion at a deadly pace”.

“As a result, the entire social system is also becoming more vulnerable. Yes, something must change in our lifestyle… The ‘technocratic paradigm’ that we can do everything must be questioned. Life is a gift”, the bishop stressed.

Glettler recognised that “you can really feel” the effect of the coronavirus pandemic also on the Church, with attendance at Masses still low and collections way down.

“The Church as an employer and institution is badly affected”, the bishop admitted. At the same time, though, he urged Catholics not to look at just the financial impact on the Church, but to ask instead the “crucial question”: “How can we stand, right now, beside those who are struggling hard and who are burdened in many ways?”

– Austrian government must take “much more empathic action” in response to “extreme” migration and asylum “emergency”

Another issue Glettler spoke to in the interview was the dramatic migration situation in Europe, and of the failure of both EU and national governments to offer an adequate response to the phenomenon.

“I feel a certain powerlessness”, the bishop admitted. He added that “of course Austria is fulfilling its obligation to grant asylum. Respectable in comparison to Europe. But in view of the extreme emergency on the Greek islands, much more empathic action is needed”.

“Do we want to wait until the people freeze to death in winter? In addition to aid on the ground, rapid evacuation is needed. There is no alternative to a fair distribution of approved refugees”, the bishop pleaded.

Glettler – who has earned a reputation as one of the most prophetic of the Austrian bishops – denounced that the tough line the Austrian government has adopted on migration and asylum is “political calculation” that in his opinion is “difficult” to explain away.

“The frequently-mentioned readiness to use violence in the camps should not be misused in a populist manner”, the bishop warned, cautioning too that the inhabitants of Europe’s refugee camps “are in an extremely stressful situation and close to despair”.

“What would really be the problem in taking in an additional 200 people in Austria? The population would have been ready for it long ago”, Glettler appealed.

More on Novena on the debate over compulsory clerical celibacy:

German bishop says he “would be happy” with married male priests “today”

Austrian clerics push bishops to petition Vatican for male and female married priests

Austrian priest theologian asks new Bishops’ head for permanent “Church parliament” of laypeople and clergy

More on the debate over the ordination of women


PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.