A German theologian has claimed that Pope Francis’ post-Amazon Synod apostolic exhortation Querida Amazonia seeks to end the “clerical monopoly” in the Church and clear the way for women cardinals.

– Pope has desire to give women real “leadership positions”

Thomas Schüller, a theologian and canon lawyer who is a professor at the University of Münster, made the claim in an essay in the May edition of the Catholic journal Herder Korrespondenz, in which he wrote that Querida Amazonia (“Beloved Amazonia”) reflects Pope Francis’ desire to give women real “leadership positions” in the Church and to “seriously reflect in a courageous manner about the cardinalate” for females.

– Women to the fore, male priests reduced to “administrators” of sacraments

Schüller based his claim on a key passage in Querida Amazonia (101) in which the Pope writes:

“The Lord chose to reveal his power and his love through two human faces: the face of his divine Son made man and the face of a creature, a woman, Mary. Women make their contribution to the Church in a way that is properly theirs, by making present the tender strength of Mary, the Mother”.

For the theologian:

“This sentence nearly seems to indicate as if there had taken place a two-fold divine incarnational event, a male one in Jesus Christ with its continuation in those men who work as clergymen, and a female one in Mary which empowers women to be tender and powerful witnesses of the Gospel. Both are said to be faces of God”.

According to the Schüller, QA 101 represents an attempt by Pope Francis to circumvent John Paul II and Benedict XVI’s ‘noes’ to the women priesthood based on the old theological argument of only men being able to serve in persona Christi.

The theologian asserted that Francis does that by introducing a new theological locus – in personae Mariae – by which women act as representatives of the divine “in order to rule with tenderness and proclaim the Gospel in an inspired manner”.

So it is for Schüller then that by revealing God’s Marian face, “women should be in the future the primary and initial proclaimers of the Gospel. They are the true prophets”.

In practical terms, Schüller explained that his reading of Querida Amazonia would see women not only leading and presiding at Liturgies of the Word and reading the Gospel and giving the homily during Masses, but also assuming, without ordination, “real leadership authority… with authority to make decisions” in dioceses and in the Roman Curia.

That much would come, according to the theologian, at the expense of the power of male clerics, who would wind up becoming mere “administrators” of the sacraments of the Eucharist, Penance and Extreme Unction.

And indeed, Pope Francis does seem to moving in this direction. Not only has the number of women leaders in the Vatican tripled in the past ten years, but just last week the pontiff appointed two women to key roles in the Vatican Financial Information Authority and the Apostolic Library.

– German bishops hoping “discussion will continue”

In the meantime, and in other news on the women’s rights front in the German Church, German Bishops’ Conference chair Georg Bätzing has, in an interview with Italian newspaper La Repubblica, repeated his argument that “different popes have explained and underlined that women’s access to the priesthood cannot be decided by the Church, and Pope Francis is no exception”.

Insisting that his ‘no’ to women’s ordination is “not a question of fear” but instead of “the magisterium of the episcopal college cum Petro et sub Petro” being “the decisive instance” for doctrinal disputes in the Church, Bätzing insisted that the papal veto “does not mean that we cannot continue to talk about the issue of the ordination of women, because it is a question presented by the Church itself!”

The arguments the Church puts forward to deny women access to Holy Orders “are no longer accepted” among large groups of the faithful, Bätzing further warned.

Another German bishop who has referred to the issue of women’s ordination recently is Bishop of Osnabrück Franz-Josef Bode, who in a webinar with 150 young German Catholics June 15 warned that “we will not be able to avoid really discussing this question in the future Church”.

On possible preaching ministries and further leadership opportunities for women, and even on the female diaconate, Bode told Domradio that “I have the hope that in many points the discussion will continue”, even if he ruled out women priests “in the foreseeable future”.

More on Novena on the Amazon Synod and Querida Amazonia:

German Amazon Bishop insists debate on married priests, female deacons not over

More on women’s rights in the Church:

German laywomen warn bishops: “It is not for anyone to deny us vocations just because we are women”

German laypeople cry: “Anyone who is against the ordination of women is against the equality of women and men”

Canon lawyer Thomas Schüller backs Catholic women’s proposal that laypeople preach in Masses


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