Young German Catholics have appealed for gender equality in the Church as their Bishops have accepted – with a catch – a dialogue with the Vatican on its recent polemical instruction on parishes.

– Catholic Youth Community: “We want to keep putting pressure on”

“We want to keep putting pressure on and demanding not only that young people get a right of co-responsibility in the Church, but especially that women… play a role in the Church in a completely different way. Especially in positions where decisions have to be made and where it is important to take responsibility in leadership”, Noah Herschbach, a voluntary diocesan leader of the Catholic Youth Community (KjG) in the Cologne archdiocese, told Domradio in an interview August 23.

Herschbach said that although the issue of gender justice in Catholicism had made itself felt in the Cologne KjG as recently as last week in an archdiocesan conference, in truth the concern has accompanied the 80,000-strong national Catholic youth association since its founding in its current form fifty years ago this year, from the merger of young Catholic men’s and young Catholic women’s groups.

The KjG is now itself committed to gender equality in all of its structures.

As for his Community’s relationship with the German Bishops’ Conference, Herschbach celebrated that with their demands for youth and gender co-responsibility “we are being noticed” and “heard”.

“We have convictions and we stand behind them. And we will stick to them because we are convinced that it is important that everyone has the right to speak their mind and to help shape how they want to live the Church”, the Cologne KjG representative insisted.

“Of course it is frustrating” that change on women’s and youth issues take so long to come in the Church, Herschbach lamented, warning that that lag is causing “frustration” and “resignation” on the part of young Catholics.

But he said that what distinguishes the KjG “is that we have a very clear idea that we are part of the Catholic Church and that we want to remain a part of it”, and explained that organisation members are committed to bringing their “reality” as young people into the heart of Catholicism.

– German Bishops “suggest” dialogue with Vatican on parish instruction be held also with laypeople

Herschbach’s renewal of the KjG pledge to work for gender justice in the Church came just before the German Bishops accepted this August 24 a Vatican invitation to a dialogue to clear up “doubts and perplexity” over the Congregation for the Clergy’s instruction on parish mission.

No shortage of German bishops criticised that documentissued July 20for its clericalist undertones.

But this Monday the German Bishops’ Permanent Council accepted the offer of talks with the Congregation for the Clergy, with Bishops’ chairman Georg Bätzing “suggest[ing]” that the conversation be held not only among prelates but also with the steering committee of the German Church’s ‘synodal path’ reform process.

Though the Vatican document’s focus on evangelisation and mission “as central elements of parish life” are “beyond question”, according to a press release Monday from the German Bishops’ Conference, it is also indisputable that “bishops, priests, deacons and laypeople are equally addressed in the instruction”, for which reason the dialogue must not be limited to bishops alone.

Along with Bishop Bätzing and his deputy at the head of the Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Franz-Josef Bode, the president of the lay Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), Thomas Sternberg, and his deputy, Karin Kortmann, also form part of the synodal path steering committee.

In the meantime the synodal path is continuing apace even despite the coronavirus crisis, with five regional conferences with a maximum of fifty participants each getting underway this Monday in Berlin, Dortmund, Frankfurt, Ludwigshafen and Munich.

More stories on Novena on the German Catholic Church:

German bishop says need for Catholic renewal not about saving Church but rediscovering gospel

“The discussion is still alive”: German archbishop, Austrian bishop want more debate on ordination of women

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German Catholic parish hoists 8-metre-high rainbow banner to show LGBT+ people “can be at home in our church” (photo)

German Bishops advertise in national newspaper for new (lay?) secretary in move Catholic women hail as positive step


PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.