The chair of the German Bishops’ Conference has warned that without more options for women’s leadership, “the Church will soon be finished”.

– “Good theological arguments” against veto of women priests

Bishop Georg Bätzing of the Limburg launched the ultimatum in the June 2 edition of the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger newspaper.

The prelate acknowledged that as a bishop he had a duty to say “that the Magisterium of the Church has declared that it does not consider itself authorised to ordain women”.

But he warned that the Church’s veto on women priests and the arguments involved in that “are no longer accepted by large sections of the people of God – not because of ill will, but because there are good theological arguments against it”.

Added to that, Bätzing admitted that as part of a society in which gender equality is a fundamental right, he personally could not see in the widespread demand for the ordination of women “to what extent there could be a mistake [there] that would put the life of the Church on the wrong track”.

For those reasons, the German Bishops’ president said he would support in the context of the German Church’s ongoing ‘synodal path’ reform process a petition to the Vatican “that the so far unanswered question of the ordination of women deacons be further pursued and positively answered”.

– “Gender justice in the Church is the crucial question of the future”

Outside of the synodal path, however, Bätzing warned Catholics about getting their hopes up in terms of a speedy resolution of the desire of many for women deacons and priests.

“Apart from demands on the Church leadership in Rome, which I’m quite prepared to make, nothing can be done” for the moment on women’s ordination issue, the bishop lamented.

Still, Bätzing insisted that women’s equality in all matters is “a broad field in which we can also achieve a lot in the Church”, at least by separating gender justice from the ordination question.

Further action in that field is of the essence, the prelate continued, explaining that for him “gender justice in the Church is the crucial question of the future”.

– Catholic women in Münster call on bishop to allow laypeople to preach in Masses

In contrast to Bishop Bätzing – who has his hands tied as Bishops’ president, although he has repeatedly come out in favour of the equality of men and women in the Church – one group moving actively towards gender justice in Catholicism is the Münster diocesan branch of the Catholic Women’s Association of Germany (kfd).

The Münster Catholic women wrote an open letter May 27 calling on their bishop, Felix Genn, to allow lay people to preach in Masses.

Prevailing Church law permits laypeople to give a testimony of faith only at a station at the beginning of a celebration of the Eucharist, but not in the Eucharistic sermon itself, the kfd in Münster recalled in its open letter.

Not only does the current practice not allow for laypeople to expound on the meaning of the biblical readings at Mass – nor fit “in any way” into the structure of the liturgy – but the use is also “leading to increasing lack of understanding among parishioners”, the Münster Catholic women lamented.

“When people, both men and women, with different life experiences preach, this is an enrichment for our faith”, the kfd continued, recalling that lay sermons are already “a long-established practice” in “many” parishes and one that is “largely appreciated by the congregations”.

It is time to bring lay sermons “out of the ‘grey zone'”, the kfd appealed to Genn, warning that “by excluding lay people from preaching, the Church’s witness of faith is reduced and the witness of women and the significance of the Gospel in female life contexts is hidden”.

Allowing lay men and women preachers “is an important step on the way to more gender justice in the Church, which you can make possible”, the Münster Catholic women told their bishop.

More on Novena on the ordination of women debate in Germany:

German theologian urges: “The vocation of women to the priesthood must be recognised”

German Bishops’ head wants world synod on ordination of women, blessings for gay couples

German Catholic women take to pulpit to fight against gender injustice, clericalism

Demands for women’s equality grow louder in German Church… Next stop, Rome

German laity cry: “The opening of the sacramental diaconate to women is overdue”


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