Cardinal Reinhard Marx has joined the growing chorus of voices for more women’s leadership in Church, saying that the matter is “urgent”.

– No other point on which the need for a new social form of the Church is more evident

The latest comments of Cardinal Marx, the Archbishop of Munich and Freising, were contained in a lecture by the prelate entitled “Women in church leadership positions” and given at a meeting of Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinal Advisers, of which Marx is a member, in Rome on December 2 last year.

The lecture was published today by the German Bishops’ Conference in its series of contributions on Church matters by presidents of the national episcopate.

Marx, 66, was the head of the German Episcopate from March 2014 until March this year, when he stepped down in a surprise move he said was motivated by his conviction that “it should be the turn of the younger generation”.

Commenting today in Bonn on his text on the subject of women’s leadership in the Church, Marx said that “changes in this field are urgent and must be pushed ahead”.

“We speak a lot about [the need for] a new social form of the Church. On no other point in our time is this more evident than on this issue”, the cardinal insisted.

– Churches must work together against “political and cultural appropriation and instrumentalisation of religions”

The other text by Marx released today is entitled “Visible unity in reconciled diversity – On the goal of ecumenism from a Catholic perspective”, and is a meditation, by the cardinal’s own admission, of how the Churches must continue to further deepen their mutual dialogue after the great advance that was the joint commemoration of the Reformation in 2017.

“The dangers of political and cultural appropriation and instrumentalisation of religions, including Christianity, encourage us to make the voice of the gospel audible together and not to deepen divisions, but to build bridges”, the cardinal insisted with regard to that second text.

– A long history of arguing that greater women’s involvement in the Church is “necessary and overdue”

Marx’s call for the “urgent” promotion of women in Catholic leadership comes days after Archbishop of Paderborn Hans-Josef Becker also pleaded with his brother bishop to increase the proportion of female leaders beyond the 30% quota the German Bishops have already committed, saying that on the issue of women’s authority in Catholicism “there is still room for improvement” and “everyone in the Catholic Church must move” on the issue of gender equality.

But Marx hardly needs to be pushed by his fellow bishops on the cause of gender justice, given that he has long been a defender by his own lights of greater feminine involvement in the Church.

Reflecting in January on last October’s Amazon Synod of Bishops in the Vatican, for example, Marx said that “in the future, I cannot imagine 200 men sitting together at a synod and discussing the Church on their own. That is not a good thing”.

Referring to the German Church’s two-year ‘synodal path’ reform process, Marx asked on that occasion: “Why shouldn’t there be a proposal at the end of the synodal path that synods take greater account of laypeople and especially women, at world level or at national level, not only as consultants but also with a voice?”

“Do we want future episcopal conferences where there are never women or even laity at all? We don’t want to talk about the future of the Church in a closed circle”, Marx cautioned.

Last September, too, ahead of the German Bishops’ Autumn Plenary Assembly in Fulda, Marx told a group of Catholic gender justice demonstrators picketing that meeting that in the Church “the role of women is extremely important”.

Saying that he finds it “understandable” that “many women from our parishes, from organisations” continue to push for gender equality in the Church, Marx told the protesters “I know, we need movement. I urge and bring pressure, but sometimes things happen slowly”.

Marx had admitted he was in favour of opening up the sacramental diaconate to women at the Amazon Synod, saying at the time that the greater involvement of women in the Church is “necessary and overdue”.

More stories on Novena on the women’s rights push in the Church:

French Catholic women push bishops for German-style ‘synodal path’ “to envision the Church of tomorrow”

Canon lawyer backs Catholic women’s proposal that laypeople preach in Masses

German archbishop Becker demands Church increase quota of women in leadership positions

Church leaders from Vatican, world to offer online course on feminism and Catholic identity

Female deacons commission member warns of danger of Church “where women exist only in the imagination of men”

Belgian Jesuit calls for women cardinals: “It is vital that the world not always be seen through male eyes”

German Bishops’ chair warns without more women’s leadership “the Church will soon be finished”


Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.