A renowned German Benedictine and Pope ‘guru’ has claimed that “there are no theological reasons against the priesthood of women”.
– “Certain hope” female priests will be a reality within 100 years
Father Anselm Grün, who is also a prolific and highly-successful author of books of spiritual guidance – having sold 15 million copies of his writings in 30 languages all over the world – made the remarks on the priesthood of women to the Augsburg diocesan weekly newspapers Neue Bildpost and Katholische Sonntagszeitung.
Given the lack of theological impediments to female priests, Grün, a monk of the Münsterschwarzach Abbey, said he “certainly has hope” that they will exist in 100 years.
Talking to the diocesan publications, Grün also ventured some predictions on the state of ecumenism in a century, although on that point he was less positive than on women priests. A hundred years from now, there will be still be separate churches, the Benedictine anticipated.
But, Grün said, the still-separate denominations of the coming century “will not fight against each other, but will witness together to faith in Christ. And they will invite each other to make the love of Jesus visible in this world and thus become together the leaven of hope for this world”, the Benedictine explained.
– A long-time innovator and supporter of Francis
Though Grün’s 100-year time frame for the introduction of female priests may disappoint some advocates of women’s ordination, on the positive side this is not the first time the well-known Benedictine has broached the issue.
In a March 2018 interview, Grün highlighted that “there are no theological reasons that speak against an abolishment of priestly celibacy or against female priests, female bishops, or a female pope. Only here it is about historical processes”.
Such “processes” take time, the Benedictine pointed out, insisting that “the first step has to be now the ordination of women as deacons”.
Other time-dependent processes of Church reform Grün pointed to include the possible abolition of compulsory priestly celibacy – “that should be free for each individual to decide upon” – and the full acceptance of gay priests. The Benedictine said he knew and worked with some homosexuals in the clergy “and there are good priests”.
But Grün doesn’t just think about Church reform – he’s taking concrete steps on the ground, too, to make it happen.
The monk has openly admitted to inviting Protestants to receive Communion in the Masses he offers in his courses in the guest house of the Münsterschwarzach monastery, and proclaimed that the dogma of the Immaculate Conception can be applied to all humanity since “we all are, from the beginning of the world, chosen in Christ to be holy and without stain”.
Grün also put his name to a 2019 “Pro Pope Francis” signature drive countering the 2017 ultraconservative “filial correction” of the pontiff, denouncing at the time that “there are in Rome some very conservative circles who are blocking him [Pope Francis]”.
Grün also lamented in 2019 that Francis “finds himself in a certain tense situation” since “he would like to continue with his reforms” but “he also wishes not to provoke a split of the Church”.
At least, Grün continued, Pope Francis has been able to do away with the “system of denunciations” that reigned under Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and to bring “a new spirit” into the Church.
– The admiration is mutual: Francis has recommended books of Grün’s
But it’s not as though Grün’s admiration for Pope Francis is a one-way street, however.
In 2013, shortly after his election as pontiff, Argentina’s La Nación newspaper reported that Jorge Mario Bergoglio kept Grün’s book Wege zur Freiheit (“Paths to Freedom”) on his nightstand, using it with Catholics whom he offered spiritual guidance.
In a 2018 question-and-answer session with Roman clergy, too, the Pope recommended Grün’s Lebensmitte als geistliche Aufgabe (“Middle-Age as a Spiritual Task”) to priests in their forties and fifties going through mid-life crises.
Grün’s book “can help. It’s a spiritual-psychological dialogue on this moment”, Francis told the Roman priests gathered for the Q&A session.