A German archbishop and an Austrian bishop are seeking more debate on the ordination of women, saying that on that question “the discussion is still alive”.

– John Paul II didn’t issue definitive ruling on female deacons and priests: Archbishop of Hamburg

On the ordination of women, “one must be allowed to think and discuss the issues”, Archbishop of Hamburg Stefan Hesse said August 19 at the Catholic Academy in the northern German city, in the first of four archdiocesan discussion evenings on the topics of the German Church’s ‘synodal path’ reform process.

Hesse – who is a member of the synodal path forum discussing possible changes to Church doctrine and practice with regard to women in Catholic offices and ministries – declared that Pope John Paul II did not issue a definitive answer on the question of the ordination of women with his 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis.

“The discussion is still there, it is alive, and it cannot be stifled by a piece of paper”, the Hamburg archbishop insisted.

According to Hesse, in the more than a quarter of a century since John Paul’s letter there have been new scholarly and pastoral findings that need to be brought into the debate on the ordination of women.

“The historical perspective is one – but it’s not everything”, the prelate explained, alluding also to the current theological consensus that the incarnation of Christ has to do with his becoming a person, not a man, for which reason many theologians now believe that women can indeed be ordained and can act in persona Christi.

Hesse was careful to point, however, that on the ordination of women as on the other topics of the synodal path he was entering into the debates with openness.

“If the results are clear at the beginning, I have no interest in the path”, he explained.

Hesse was optimistic that in the context of the synodal path German bishops, laypeople and outside experts would “thoroughly” examine the issues – which apart from the place of women also include compulsory priestly celibacy, Catholic sexual morality and the abuse of power in the Church – and that subsequently the bishop would report on the results to the Vatican.

“But I also have the realistic notion that this will not answer or solve the questions”, the archbishop admitted.

– Bishop of Gurk-Klagenfurt in Austria says he would be “glad” if there were ordained women

Along with Hesse, another bishop who has also called for more discussion on the ordination of women is the Bishop of Gurk-Klagenfurt, Josef Marketz.

In an August 20 interview with the Kleine Zeitung newspaper, the prelate in Austria’s Carinthian region said he would be “glad if women were to get into such offices” in the Church as deacon, priest and bishop.

Though he acknowledged that priestly celibacy had brought many positives over the centuries, Marketz still questioned the Church’s demand that its clerics observe perfect continence and refrain from marriage: a burden, he said, above all for lonely and elderly priests without relatives.

The Gurk-Klagenfurt bishop said he would not have any problems “if priests with families were allowed to practice their ministry”, though he admitted: “”At 65, I feel too old to act as a great revolutionary in these world Church issues, when pastoral care for the future in Carinthia requires all my energy”.

However, Marketz saved his strongest words for the recent instruction of the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy on pastoral care in parishes, and reserved particular criticism for that document’s indication that ideally the ultimate responsibility in a parish must be borne by priests and priests alone.

“I can sign the first part about the importance of parishes. This is also our Carinthian way”, Marketz said regarding the Vatican instruction.

“But we have 336 parishes and not even half the number of priests. So we must also integrate lay people into the leadership of the parish, We will find ways to do this. As much as we like traditions: Our times need new answers”.

On Novena, more calls for debate on the ordination of women:

Irish cleric calls for “radical reappraisal” of priesthood to turn around “abysmal” vocations slide

“You have the knowledge and experience”: support for female candidate for archbishop in France arrives from other side of world

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

Democracy, equal rights, trustworthiness… German priest urges Church to learn “basics of modern society” and regain relevance


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