“Why are bishops, cardinals and popes afraid of women in the ministry?”, a theologian has asked.
– “What bad can happen when a woman distributes bread and wine?”
“What bad can happen when a woman distributes bread and wine, blesses marriages, baptises children? It makes the face of all Churches more human!”, German Evangelical theologian Margot Käßmann wrote in a column September 27 in the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.
Käßmann – who from 1999 to 2010 was the bishop of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Hanover, and from 2009 to 2010 the first chairwoman of the Evangelical Church of Germany (EKD), the federation of the Lutheran and Reformed Churches in the country – criticised the German Catholic Bishops’ Conference for having “again rejected” women’s demands for access to ordained ministries at its autumn plenary assembly last week.
With regard to the ongoing Catholic veto on female ordination, Käßmann explained that “the argument that women could not be trusted with leadership functions has long been refuted by reality”.
In the Churches, “it is women who volunteer, who pass on the faith, who faithfully attend services”, the theologian and former bishop highlighted.
The resistance of the Catholic Church to female ordination is not based on sound theological reasons, Käßmann continued, since after his resurrection Jesus first entrusted women with the task of proclaiming the Good News.
And as for the argument that the Protestant Churches have sold out to the spirit of the times by ordaining females, she insisted: “No! Women pastors are the result of a long theological learning process. And how good it is that Churches can learn”.
Käßmann recalled that the full equality of males and females is enshrined in law in Germany, and indeed beyond. “Can religions actually exempt themselves from this? I don’t think so”, she explained, insisting that due to that legal and social equality, on women’s rights “it is high time for the Churches, indeed all religions, to move” on gender justice.
– “The continued rejection of women reinforces the impression that the Church is distant from people”
German Catholic women were insistent last week in their demonstrating for equal rights outside the Bishops’ assembly in Fulda, gifting the prelates with “PowerMeters” in a show against their marginalisation and also organising a protest week with events around the country to visibilise their struggle for equal dignity in the Church.
At the conclusion of the assembly, German Bishops’ vice-president Bishop Franz-Josef Bode of Osnabrück, Bishop of Fulda Michael Gerber and Auxiliary Bishop of Munich and Freising Wolfgang Bischof met with around 100 male and female demonstrators from the ‘Maria 2.0’ Church gender equality movement to hear from the protesters that if the “promised land of gender equality and freedom from paternalism by clerics” is not reached soon, a silent exodus of male and female Catholics from the Church will come.
Bishop Bode listened patiently and reminded the group that “the journey to the Promised Land was long and arduous”. He encouraged gender justice campaigners to be patient, since despite the difficulties and resistance there is still a “strong tailwind” behind the push for equal rights for women in the Church.
But even if Bode in that way expressed a certain understanding of the pain of women’s marginalisation in the Church, German Catholic women themselves are still hoping for more.
“The continued and rigid rejection of women who want and are able to bear spiritual and diaconal responsibility together with men reinforces the impression that the Church is distant from the world and people”, German Catholic Women’s Association (KDFB) president Maria Flachsbarth said in comments reported by German Catholic news agency KNA. She added that women’s equality in the Church is not a minor matter, but rather an issue “to do with the same dignity, the same image of God in all people”.
“The Catholic Church has to ask itself: Are we going into the future together and continuing to be what we were and in parts still are: a relevant force in our society?”, asked for her part Mechthild Heil, the president of the Catholic Women’s Association of Germany (kfd).
“If the Church would change something and really treat women on an equal footing and give them the same rights, then it would do an infinite amount for the women of the world and thus also for the children of the world”, added for her part Lisa Kötter, a co-founder of the Maria 2.0 movement.