Cologne cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki

German Catholic youth blast Synod-phobic Cardinal Woelki for ‘noes’ on women priests, Church democracy

“Dismay”.

That’s what the Federation of German Catholic Youth (BDKJ) has expressed in response to Cologne Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki’s repeated refusal to hold discussions important for Church reform, on subjects such as more democracy or women’s ordination.

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Driving the news

As katholisch.de reports, Cologne diocese BDKJ chairman Volker Andres said Tuesday that Woelki’s disdain for discussion and for incorporating the insights of the human and social sciences into Church life amount to a strengthening of fundamentalism.

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Go deeper

Andres’ criticisms of Woelki came after the cardinal warned in a sermon Sunday that “the Church is not the work of man. It is founded by Christ. But that also means that we cannot simply get rid of everything we want or decide by majority what faith and the Church should be today”.

“If we take this seriously, it is clear that the question of the priesthood of women, therefore, is not an issue that falls within our competence”, Woelki continued, pointing to the ‘noes’ of Popes John Paul II and Francis on this question.

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The cardinal also warned against turning the Church into “a purely sociological entity that has to adapt to the political and social current, in line with trends”.

Such a “sociological” Church would become nothing more than a “parliament”, Woelki explained, dependent on scientific insights “to negotiate on the faith and doctrine of the Church”.

Church leaders, in that case, would be nothing more “politicians” who “through democratically-approved majority resolutions carry out a so-called reform of the Church, behind which often nothing is hidden but an adaptation to the thought of the world”, Woelki further cautioned.

More responses to Woelki:

Key German layman defends “synodal process” from cardinal’s schism warnings

Why it matters

But BDKJ Cologne chairman Andres rejected Woelki’s warnings, and said the Church must take seriously the signs of the times and modern social and cultural realities.

Church youth associations “show not only theoretically, but also practically, that democratic and ecclesiastical structures are by no means mutually exclusive, but enrich each other”, Andres said.

More on the German Church’s “binding synodal path”:

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Cardinal Marx defends synodality, insists “tradition and reform are not opposites”

For the record

Cardinal Woelki’s repeated opposition to Church democracy and women’s ordination puts him at odds with a large part of the German Church.

That Church has been on a “binding synodal path” since March this year – with Pope Francis’ blessing – precisely to consider ways to build lay engagement and true gender equality, among other issues.

Just this week, Berlin Archbishop Heiner Koch lamented that ahead of the scheduled Synod start date in December some voices in the Church are already “discrediting the process, even before it has begun”.

On the subject of women’s ordination, the BDKJ said this week in a joint statement with Catholic youth organisations from Austria, Italy and Switzerland that “the Church must not stand in the way of the vocation of women to the priesthood by denying them the sacrament of Holy Orders”.

Another voice to come out this week in favour of women priests was that of the superior of the Oberzell Franciscan sisters in Germany, Katharina Ganz, who affirmed “we need drastic changes that bring about gender equality in our Church”.

“It is no longer possible in our culture to communicate that the door to women’s ordination remains closed”, Ganz warned.

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Cameron Doody

Director and editor at Novena
PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. Lecturer in ethics at Loyola University Maryland, Alcalá de Henares (Spain) campus. Religion journalist with 4 years experience.
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