“Anyone who is against the admission of women to all ordained ministries is also against the genuine equality of rights between women and men”, German laypeople have cried.
– “Just as there is no such thing as ‘a little bit pregnant’, there is no such thing as ‘a little bit equal'”
The impassioned plea for gender justice in the Church was contained in an open letter 24 laypeople of the ‘Maria 2.0′ Church women’s equality and reform movement in the diocese of Hildesheim sent June 12 to the president of the German Bishops’ Conference, Georg Bätzing.
The motive for the letter was recent comments by Bätzing in a newspaper interview in which he said that the issue of women’s equality in the Church must be separated from the question of their ordination, since “the Magisterium of the Church has declared that it does not consider itself authorised to ordain women”.
But the 24 laywomen and men from Hildesheim didn’t buy Bätzing’s argument, and reminded the German Bishops’ head that “equal rights” for men and women in the Church means “EQUAL rights… in the sense [that men and women are] exactly the same”.
“For just as there is no such thing as ‘a little bit pregnant’, there is no such thing as ‘a little bit equal'”, the Hildesheim laypeople claimed.
“As soon as a single exclusion is made for the word [in German] ‘equal rights’ for which equality should not apply, it is no longer a question of genuine equality, but of a pseudo-equality, of concealment, of window-dressing, of whitewashing”, the local members of ‘Maria 2.0’ insisted.
The Hildesheim laypeople warned Bätzing and his fellow members of the episcopate that “anyone who refuses women admission to ordained ministries solely on the basis of their being endowed with female rather than male sexual characteristics is denying them their fundamental human right to equality between women and men”.
– Church affirmation of equality means nothing without affirmation of equal access to ordination
The members of the Hildesheim ‘Maria 2.0’ branch challenged their priests and bishops to be “sincere and honest” and to admit that if they believe that women can’t be ordained, then they believe too that men and women aren’t equal.
“Only no one dares to do that”, the Hildesheim laypeople observed ironically, noting that there is a basic acceptance of male-female equality in the Church, even if Church leaders only ever really pay lip service to the idea.
“But in actual fact”, the laypeople noted, the denial of ordination to women is an effective denial of their equal dignity with men, “and that is precisely why the subject of equality cannot be separated from the controversial question of the admission of women to the ordained offices”.
They declared that “genuine equality” between the sexes “and the equal admission of women and men to all ordained ministries are two questions that are inseparably linked”.
While the claim of male-female equality from Church leaders may be “meant honestly”, the Hildesheim ‘Maria 2.0’ members warned that the affirmation of equal dignity means nothing without “the affirmation of equal access for women and men to all ordained ministries”.
– “Who can still take such the Magisterium seriously today?”
In his newspaper interview, Bishop Bätzing also stated that “gender justice in the Church is the decisive question for the future”.
That was something that the Hildesheim laypeople finally agreed with the bishop on, even if they cautioned him that “gender justice” means “genuine equality” and as “the key question for the future of our Church” particular attention must be paid to it in the context of the German Church’s ‘synodal path’ reform process.
Only when women and men participate equally in the Church – particularly in its ordained ministries – and only when issues such as priestly celibacy, sexual morality, the abuse of power and the modernisation of church structures “are discussed by women and men on a truly equal footing will the face of the Church change in a sustainable and future-oriented way”, the Hildesheim laity warned Bätzing.
The laypeople concluded their letter to the bishop with a petition that he present their text in Rome, instead of hiding behind his duty as a bishop to repeat the argument of the Magisterium that the Church isn’t “authorised” to ordina women.
“A Magisterium of the Church that apparently does consider itself authorised to continue to classify women and men as creatures of God without equal rights – and that also still with reference to God’s will. Amazing, amazing… Who can still take such a Magisterium seriously today?”, the laypeople lamented.