The chairman of the German Bishops has said that the female diaconate is “very legitimate” and has warned that if women leave “the existence of the Church is in danger”.
– “The question is there and must be asked”: the proper place of women in the Church “is a matter of great concern to me”
Popes have wanted to “declare the question of the ordination of women closed… but we perceive that it continues to be there”, Bishop Georg Bätzing said in a second interview published September 18, this time with Deutschlandfunk radio.
Not only women but also men – laymen and priests and bishops – are asking themselves why women can’t be admitted to Holy Orders, Bätzing reflected, stressing that “the question is there and must be asked”.
Bätzing’s openness to the women’s diaconate was the second time in 24 hours that he contradicted Archbishop of Cologne Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki.
On Thursday, Woelki declared that the question of women’s ordination “has been definitively decided with the highest teaching authority by Pope John Paul II”.
As chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference since March, Bätzing – the Bishop of Limburg – has to steer between the different positions of German prelates, priests and laypeople on Church reform issues, which are being discussed in the German Church’s ‘synodal path’ reform process.
However, Bätzing told Deutschlandfunk that on the question of women’s ordination he didn’t consider himself just a neutral moderator.
Though he was careful to point out that “I am certainly not a feminist”, he nonetheless insisted that the issue of women feeling at home in the Church “is a matter of great concern to me”.
– “We have too few women involved in decision-making processes”
As for his reasons for supporting the female diaconate, Bätzing said it was not first and foremost a matter of women’s ordination in itself, but instead a response to the fact that “we have too few women involved in decision-making processes and in key positions in the Church”, and that in the area of Catholic women’s leadership there is still “considerable” progress that can be made.
On top of that lack of female Catholic leaders, Bätzing also cited as support for his position the great contribution Catholic women carry out in catechesis and other types of volunteer work, without which female inputs “the passing on of the faith stops”.
The bishop admitted that many Catholic women have approached him to say that they were leaving the Church to save their faith, in a dynamic Bätzing described as “the reversal of what we are actually striving for”.
If the contributions of Catholic women are lost, “then the Church is endangered in its existence”, Bätzing emphasised.
– Now is the time to act: “Quite a lot of women feel that they have lost their Church ties”
The bishop insisted that now is the time to act on the issue of the women’s diaconate, since in the same way as in the fight against climate change, “if you miss the moment to make certain decisions, it can have devastating effects”.
After with the workers who “have been lost to the Church” and the youth who are “very difficult” to win for Catholicism, Bätzing warned that the “next tipping point” for the Church is imminent, “because quite a lot of women simply feel that they have lost their Church ties or are losing them”, Bätzing warned.
Above all, the German Bishops’ head said including women in ordained ministries and in other forms of Church leadership is simply a matter of “the clear equality of all people” which the Church in its origins held to but later shed as a result of patriarchal cultural influences.
Just like the secular society it has shaped and formed, “we as a Church must at some point also take a stand and say: ‘Yes, there is no separation between male and female, for you are all one in Christ'”, Bätzing highlighted, in an echo of St. Paul’s words in his Letter to the Galatians (3:28).
– German Catholic women “pleased” with openness
Bätzing’s comments to Deutschlandfunk were met with praise from theologian and vice-president of the German Association of Catholic Women (kfd) Agnes Wuckelt, who said she was “pleased” with the bishop’s remarks and was taking them as a sign “that our decades of commitment to the diaconate of women is finally moving in the right direction”.
“We take Bishop Bätzing at his word that the question of women in ordained ministries is not yet closed for him”, Wuckelt continued.
At the same time, the kfd vice-president invited Cardinal Woelki – although “vehemently opposed to innovations” such as the ordination of women – to continue his input on the issue in the context of the synodal path discussions.