“We need a kind of woman church within our church where women can discover and live their own strengths, abilities and charisms — in the sense of empowerment”, an influential German female theologian has insisted.

– Without female leaders, women are leaving the Church

Agnes Wuckelt, the vice-president of the German Association of Catholic Women (KFD) warned RNS February 17 that in the absence of female leaders, many women are leaving the Church.

Wuckelt’s KFD is proposing to the German Church – in the context of its two-year “synodal path” process of the reform of doctrines around sexual morality, ecclesial power and authority, celibacy and the role of women – a plan to catapult more females into Church leadership.

The German Bishops have already agreed to increase the women’s quota in positions of responsibility and management in the Church to 30% by 2023.

But the KFD is pushing to make that quota totally equal, half men and half women, in what Wuckelt called “a transition to a gender-appropriate Church” and with the ultimate goal of working towards the ordination of women.

– Towards the ordination of women… despite the Amazon exhortation

Wuckelt told the RNS that she’s hoping for a kind of snowball effect.

Once women are ordained deacons – and allowed to preach, baptise, marry, distribute the Eucharist and preside at funerals – it’s only a small step from there to a situation in which “more and more bishops can imagine women as priests”, according to the theologian.

But the cause for women’s ordination took a hit last week with Pope Francis’ post-Amazon Synod apostolic exhortation, Querida Amazonia, in which the pontiff, while hailing the “remarkable devotion and deep faith” of women, appeared to limit them to “ecclesial services… that do not entail Holy Orders”.

In conversation with RNS, Wuckelt lamented the Pope’s ambiguity.

“On the one hand, he [the Pope] repeatedly emphasizes the high importance of women for the Church. He wants women to participate fully in all decisions in the Church… However, he rather represents a classic image of women, as it has been represented by Rome for decades”, the theologian rued.

– On women priests, if the German Church raises its voice loudly enough, the Pope will “get involved”

Wuckelt’s inspiration is the classic text of St. Paul’s: “There are no more Jews and Greeks, not slaves and free people, not male and female; for all of you are one in Jesus Christ”.

Although Paul’s cry has “been forgotten time and again in the course of the Church’s history”, the theologian is still certain that the vistion “still challenges male and female Christians alike”.

That’s why, given the chance, Wuckelt said she’d challenge the Pope in person to find “a wise approach to the theological arguments for the priesthood of women”, and to the “official and sacramental recognition” of other disadvantaged social groups too.

But for now, and in the absence on the horizon of any meeting with the pontiff, Wuckelt is buckling down on making a difference in the synodal path, on which, if the German Church raises its voice loudly for the ordination of women, the theologian is certain the Pope will “get involved” on the question.

– Opposition to the German synodal path, “just an excuse to protest against change and the sharing of power”

The synodal path process in the German Church is designed to reform those Church structures that allowed 3,677 children and young people to be abused by a total of 1,670 pedophile priests and religious during the years 1946-2014, according to the results of a 2014-2018 clergy sex abuse investigation.

Some, however – even bishops – have questioned whether the abuse issue is just being used as an excuse to push a liberal agenda onto the Church.

But theologian Wuckelt has no time for the synodal path sceptics, saying that, in her opinion, their opposition to reform “is just an excuse to protest against change and the sharing of power and a feeble means of self-defense”.

Wuckelt added that the Church’s management of the clergy abuse crisis would have looked very different if women had been involved in responding to the scandal.

On preventing and responding to pedophilia, “we need to discuss this issue from a gender perspective”, Wuckelt said, adding that, “in any case… it must be assumed that the just participation of women in all services and ministries will change the Church”.

Not that that “just participation” is coming any time soon, according to the theologian, who nonetheless has high hopes.

Even those Church reforms “take a long time… perhaps our great-granddaughters will achieve this goal” of a gender-equal Church, Wuckelt concluded.

Next on Novena:

Cardinal Woelki: “We need more women superiors of priests”

Catholic women raise stakes after Amazon exhortation ordination denial, call for abolition of all Church hierarchies

Despite Amazon exhortation letdown, German bishops, laity pledge to fight on in synodal path for married priests, female deacons

Austrian Catholic women join sisters in Germany, Switzerland and Italy in demanding equal access to ordained ministry

Women to take over pulpits for a Sunday in Germany in push for Church gender equality

‘No’ to clericalism, ‘yes’ to co-responsibility: the keys to the first assembly on the German synodal path

Catholic women plead for end to Church oppression: “Every woman wants to be respected in her dignity”


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