The vice-provincial of the Pallottine German-Austrian province has called for women’s ordination and part-time married priests, reasoning that “something must change” in the Church as a response to a new call from God and to stop the hemorrhage of faithful.
– For women’s ordination: “The first witness of the resurrection was a woman”
Fr. Michael Pfenning made the call in remarks to the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper to be published this Wednesday.
“Something must change, the priesthood must be opened to women”, the Pallottine father said, insisting that the access of females to Holy Orders is “a question of equality”.
But not only are women priests a matter of equal rights, according to Pfennig, but the ordination of females has been made necessary by the fact that women are leaving the Church in droves.
“On the signs of the times we’re deceiving ourselves!”, Pfenning exclaimed, wondering why Church authorities are paying so little attention to the mass exodus from the Church, particularly of female Catholics, or attributing those departures to unbelief or loss of faith.
“God wants to take a new path with his Church. Every baptised woman and every baptised man is called to service in the Church”, the priest insisted.
And on the sign of the times of the female flight from the Church, Pfenning said it wouldn’t do just to continue to deny women ordination on the basis of the argument that Jesus called only men to be apostles, since that reasoning is “not theologically sound enough”.
“The first witness of the resurrection, for example, was a woman”, recalled Pfenning in that sense.
The Pallottine vice-provincial questioned the validity of John Paul II’s ‘no’ to women priests, since he doubted a Pope alone had authority to rule on such a weighty question.
“And even if I realistically do not see an opening for the priesthood of women in the coming years, it must be advocated for now and in all clarity”, Pfenning continued. “Thank God the German Catholic Women’s Association [KDFB] or the Central Committee of German Catholics [ZdK] does that”, he added.
– “There are already part-time deacons, why shouldn’t there be part-time priests?”
The overhaul of priestly ministry that Pfenning proposed didn’t end with the ordination of women to the priesthood. Furthermore, the religious also proposed the ordination of so-called viri probati, married “men of proven virtue”.
“Every village, every parish, could choose from among its own proven men and women who would be trained accordingly and then sent to the priestly ministry – virtually as a part-time job. There are already part-time deacons, why shouldn’t there be part-time priests?”, the Pallottine proposed, adding that the future of the Church will by necessity – due to the falling numbers of priests and faithful – will be shaped not by structures but by spirituality.
The Pallottines – or as they are officially known, the Society of the Catholic Apostolate (SAC) – has about 2,300 members (of those, 1,700 priests) in 12 provinces, 8 regions and 300 local communities in 45 countries around the globe.
Key notes of the Society’s spirituality – as defined on its German/Austrian provincial website – include being “open and diverse”, recognising that “God is everywhere”, “connecting across boundaries”, being “attentive and open to the world” and celebrating “dynamism and change”.
The German/Austrian province that Pfenning is deputy head of is based in Friedberg, near Augsburg in Germany. Possible future official ministries for women in the Church and the dispensing of compulsory clerical celibacy are both topics presently being discussed in the German Church’s ‘synodal path’ reform process.