Bavarian laypeople have denounced that it is “grossly negligent” of the Church “not to take better account of the talents and interests of women”.
– Even if some progress has been made, “women are still far from being fully involved” in Church
“Even if positive developments can be observed within the Catholic Church in Germany over the past twenty years, women are still far from being fully involved in decision-making processes and in leadership tasks, not to mention [being barred from] access to ordained ministries” in the Church, the State Committee of Catholics in Bavaria lamented in a statement November 14 after an online autumn plenary assembly.
The group hailed the emergence of Catholic women’s rights movements such as ‘Maria 2.0’, but observed that the fact that women still feel the need to organise themselves into associations to push for the full recognition of their equal dignity as Catholics shows that the move in the Church towards gender justice has still not made sufficient progress.
– A call for “a new culture of participation”
In a departure from its habitual practice, the Committee devoted its assembly this time not to theological controversies but instead to the lived experiences of women in the Church.
From the stories participants heard first-hand of women’s exclusion, sexual harassment, intimidation and dependence on men, they concluded that the Church must make more space for women’s dignity, integration and leadership.
In that sense, the Bavarian laity deplored that even if “there are now increasing numbers of women in the leadership” of some German-speaking dioceses, “there are still relatively few options for women in the Church sphere when it comes to being significantly involved in planning, decisions and actions”.
For that reason, the State Committee of Catholics in Bavaria expressed its support for the forum on “Women in ministries and offices in the Church” in the German Church’s ‘Synodal Path’ Church renewal process, which has as one of its stated goals that of “promoting a new culture of women’s participation” in the Church.
– Women’s ordination must be on the table
Getting more women involved in lay leadership is not enough, however, the Bavarian laity warned.
“In addition… the options for women’s access to ordained ministries should be examined and taken up”, the Committee insisted.
Since at least the run-up to last October’s Amazon Synod in the Vatican, the Church has been discussing the possibility of ordaining viri probati, married men of “proven” virtue.
But according to the Bavarian Catholics, that Latin term on Catholics’ lips should become personae probatae, to honour “how diverse the vocations of women are” and to debate “how they can be developed further”.
Though there remains still much to be done, in wider society the equality of men and women has been achieved at least in principle, the Catholic regional committee noted. But it said that fact stands in stark contrast to the reality in the Church.
For the Church to finally achieve gender justice, the Bavarian Catholics suggested that the Vatican and individual bishops look to the example of Catholic lay movements, associations and even some religious orders, which it said have had more success to date in promoting structural equality, democracy and accountability.
– Catholic Women’s Association of Germany decries that in Church “maintaining power takes precedence over the suffering of the victims” of abuse
Though the focus of their autumn assembly was on the inclusion of women, the Bavarian Catholic committee said the Church must aim even higher than that laudable goal and integrate into its structures the overlooked talents of as many believers as possible.
“In addition to women, this naturally includes men, younger and older people, single people and those living in marriage or relationships, as well as people with disabilities, the healthy, the sick, the rich and the poor”, the laypeople claimed, insisting that all those groups must find a place in Church leadership.
But specifically on the integration of women in the Church, a reminder of what benefits more feminine voices in the hierarchy could bring came November 16 from Düsseldorf, where the Catholic Women’s Association of Germany (kfd) called for a full investigation of the sex abuse scandals currently rocking dioceses like Aachen and Cologne.
“Abuse should no longer be dismissed as the ‘wrongdoing’ of individuals, but rather should be named for what it is: crimes that, together with their cover-up, were only possible because the system in the Catholic Church is… a clerical, strictly hierarchical system in which maintaining power takes precedence over the suffering of the victims”, denounced kfd national president Mechthild Heil.
Since the clergy sex abuse crisis exploded in Germany in 2018 with the MHG Study that revealed that 3,677 minors were abused by 1,670 clerics between the years 1946-2014, the kfd has been calling on the German Bishops to thoroughly clean house by appointing independent abuse commissioners and by abolishing unhealthy Church power structures and the overly-restrictive tenets of Catholic sexual morality.