The Catholic Women’s Association of Germany (KFD) is drawing “red lines” for that country’s Church’s ‘synodal path’ reform process: full equality in Church responsibility and a call to Rome for women’s ordination.
Driving the news
“There is an urgent need to change the structure of the Church”, KFD vice-president Agnes Wuckelt told katholisch.de.
“One key issue is women’s participation in leadership at all levels of the Church”, explained the theologian, who is, fittingly, a member of the synodal path forum on “Women in service and offices of the Church”.
Wuckelt explained that the Association she represents is pushing for the access of women to priestly ordination via the first step, if necessary, of the sacramental diaconate.
The KFD recognises that the German Church can’t take such a step on its own without the rest of the world Church.
But the Association does expect that if the synodal path calls for women’s ordination, the German Bishops will take that call to the Vatican.
With an eventual petition to Rome to ordain women, the German Bishops would send a signal that the desire for female priests is there “not only in the Church in Germany, but also in the world Church”, Wuckelt said.
“If that [petition to Rome] did not happen, in our eyes definitely a red line would be crossed”, the KFD vice-president warned.
The ordination of women aside, and “for now”, “we think it is essential that women come into all leadership positions that do not require consecration”, Wuckelt explained.
She added that leadership roles for women in the Church possible even now under current canon law are “far from exhausted”.
“The Bishops agreed at their spring plenary meeting in March that they want to increase the proportion of women in diocesan leadership to one-third. But we demand 50%”, the KFD vice-president affirmed.
Wuckelt warned that the German prelates have no excuses there, since “when it comes to women in diocesan leadership positions, the bishops do not have to ask questions in Rome”.
Without that 50% managerial quota for women, the German Bishops would cross another “red line” that could put KFD participation in the synodal path in jeopardy, the Association vice-president cautioned.
Other ‘red lines’ for the KFD in the German Church reform process include a renewed pledge from the Bishops to double down on and prosecute clergy sex offenders both civilly and canonically.
That’s a process the German Bishops are already working on, having published new anti-abuse guidelines just this past December 9.
“In addition, spiritual abuse has made women feel small and inferior in the Church”, Wuckelt said, flagging to the Bishops that “there is still much work to be done in this area”.
Another KFD wish is that future liturgical services accompanying the synodal path not be limited to Masses celebrated by men, but include celebrations of the Word of God so that women, too, can be present at the altar.
“That would be a nice signal”, Wuckelt reflected.
For the record
In the meantime, the German Bishops have put the final touches on preparations for the first synodal path plenary from January 30 – February 1 next year.
“Our bishops’ conference verified the issues – authority, participation, the separation of powers, sexual morality, the priestly form of life, women in church services and orders – and wishes to face these issues, especially because a vast number of believers await this,” said episcopate spokesman Matthias Kopp.
“The binding nature of the findings will be the responsibility of all those officially involved. Depending on the issue, the Apostolic See or the local bishop will be responsible for their implementation”, he added.
Bishop of Dresden-Meissen Heinrich Timmerevers also referred to the synodal path December 10 in an event in Leipzig, when he admitted to being torn by seeing Catholic women “suffer” at their exclusion but knowing that their push for more leadership roles “has the potential to divide our Church”.
On another synodal path topic – that of compulsory celibacy for priests – Timmerevers said: “I don’t want to exclude that there may be married priests – there are already some of them, and that’s fine – but I still find the ideal of an unmarried priest to be desirable”.
On the balance of power in the Church – another synodal path concern – the Bishop of Dresden-Meissen added: “A separation of powers helps, supports, makes possible a different way of dealing with mistakes, and I believe that is what is required of our Church”.