A nun has blasted clericalist priests, reminding them that “‘to be holy’ cannot mean uptight, superior, arrogant, contemptuous of women, hypocritical…”.

– “What a weird image of women is still present in the minds of clerics today”

“The times are over in which the believers saw themselves as a flock of sheep and followed the pastor, without paying attention to where and how they were being led”, Sister Hildegard Schreier, a Missionary of Christ, wrote in a September 3 open letter published on the website of the Catholic Women’s Council.

Schreier was addressing Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of the Regensburg diocese in Germany, who ahead of the German Church’s ‘synodal path’ regional conferences last week criticised a synodal path working document on the place of women in the Church.

Voderholzer accused that document’s authors of pushing “a one-sidedly falsified Bible theology to steer the participants in the regional conferences in a certain direction”, namely, the ordination of women.

But Schreier, in her open letter, pushed back against the bishop, lamenting “what a weird image of women is still present in the minds of clerics today and is certainly perceptible for women”.

– With the ordination of women “the Church would win back credibility”

Incredulous that Voderholzer should be primarily concerned about the level of theological reflection in the synodal path reform process when they are more pressing problems in the Church today, Schreier wrote to the bishop: “I ask you, should you not be more concerned about the fact that Jesus’ message of ‘overflowing’ life is not believed by Church members?”

The nun made a list of Church problems that in her opinion bishops should really worry more over, including that “believers are treated from above by priests and feel they are not taken seriously” and that “priests misuse the image of the shepherd and the flock in order to strangle charisms in the community”.

“Priests are called to sanctify themselves for the people of God and thus also serve as an example and motivation for the faithful”, Schreier acknowledged.

But the nun reminded Church leaders that it is unconscionable that in a moment of Catholic decline they ignore “the ‘faith of the people’ and think that the crisis of faith means simply to sit and wait until God sends more priests again”.

“I am aware that the admission of women to ordained ministries would not solve all the problems of the Church. But at least on this point, the Church would win back credibility, because then many believers would feel they were being taken seriously”, the nun wrote.

– Theological learning serves for little without practical pastoral know-how

Other Church problems Schreier urged Voderholzer and his fellow bishops to provide answers for included that many priests are seen by wider society as “hopelessly backward”, the “loveless reading of the Mass” in many places “and/or the homiletic incompetence of priests” and the hypocrisy that results “when the Church acts as a moral authority in matters of marriage and family, but its representatives live out their own (homo-)sexuality”.

Schreier also didn’t mince words when she denounced the fact that the Church’s insistence that parishes be led only by ordained male priests is leading to “parishes with 12,000 faithful”: a situation she said reminded her of “factory farming”.

“Follow-up pastoral care in a parish of this size is simply not possible for the parish priest”, Schreier decried.

The religious closed her letter with a warning to priests and bishops that theological learning serves for little without a practical sense of what Catholics need to live out authentic lives of faith.

“It is… of no use to the sheep if the shepherd has a doctorate in nutritional science and is full of enthusiasm about the beautiful theories, but forgets to let the sheep out of the pen…”, the nun concluded.

More on Novena on the clericalist plague in the Church:

Would-be female archbishop: “When there are more women in positions of responsibility in the Church, there will be less abuse”

German Catholic women decry “male dominance” in Church: “Instead of monarchy and hierarchy, democracy and empathy!”

Theologian warns Catholic women have had enough of being “silenced, subordinated and excluded from decision-making”

Priest urges Church to shed “ballast” of “hindering” tradition: “Why don’t we take the Holy Scripture and look at what is really in it?”


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