June 19, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — Bishop Erwin Kräutler, primary author of the June 17, 2019 instrumentum laboris (working document) for the upcoming October 2019 Amazon Synod, is a strong supporter of the ordination of married men and women to the priesthood.
As The Tablet writes: “Bishop Erwin Kräutler, a proponent of married and female priests, is the author of the working document for the upcoming Synod.” While the bishop may have had other collaborators, Pope Francis himself entrusted Kräutler with this overall task.
In June of 2018, LifeSiteNews reported on a 2016 book written by Bishop Kräutler, in which he argues in favor of female priests. The title of this book is Be Courageous! After pointing out that in the Amazon region, there are many women who are already leading the Liturgy of the Word (in the Novus Ordo) on Sunday, the Austrian bishop proposes here that they could also be prepared “so that they could preside over the Eucharist for their parish. For their parish! This limitation seems to me important.”
For Kräutler, Pope John Paul II’s 1994 document Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, which definitively reiterated the impossibility of female ordination, “is not a doctrine de fide.” He even states that Pope Francis — with whom Kräutler had discussed the ideas of Bishop Fritz Lobinger concerning the ordination in the West of married priests — would be open to such an idea. The bishop explains, “Nevertheless, I do not believe that he would say a strict ‘no’ to the ordination of women.”
Kräutler further explains in his 2016 book that since Pope John Paul II’s statement on the question of female priests “is very determined,” Pope Francis “will not do anything alone concerning the question of priesthood, celibacy and female ordination, but, if so, then it will be together with the bishops.” Any decision in that regard “certainly” should not be “immediately implemented world-wide,” but only regionally at first.
“Certain convictions and interpretations, which once were presented with vehemence, and even defended as being unchangeable,” the prelate adds, “have often, nevertheless, completely changed during the course of history.” He refers for example to Vatican II's text Dignitatis Humanae, “which did away for good with” the Syllabus of Errors of Pius IX, especially with regard to religious liberty.
Thus, it is worthwhile to study the positions of this bishop to whom Pope Francis has entrusted so much and whom he asked in 2014 to make “courageous proposals.” At that same audience, Pope Francis discussed with the Austrian bishop — who was appointed Bishop of Xingu, Brazil in 1981 and retired in 2015 — the work of Bishop Fritz Lobinger, who, together with the pastoral theologian Paul Zulehner, proposes to ordain married male and female priests. Zulehner explains their model in a recently published article in the German journal Herder Korrepondenz.
These new part-time priests, Zulehner and Lobinger explain, would have families and their own professions, while volunteering as priests in their local communities, together with several other “team members.” A celibate priest would then be “responsible” for several such teams. The formation of this new type of priest, explains Zulehner, would be assured with the help of a three-year-long course, possibly connected with a local university. Lobinger and Zulehner call these priests “priests of a different kind,” and they speak not of “viri probati,” but rather of “personae probatae,” since this expression “keeps the possibility open whether the parishes cannot also choose women as personae probatae.”
Bishop Kräutler’s and Bishop Lobinger’s names thus indicate that Pope Francis, by giving both of them prominence, might truly be open to some sort of female ordination. Only recently, on May 10, the pope pointed out that the discussion on the female diaconate is still open, referring to changes in the Church:
This is true, but the Church develops on her journey in fidelity to Revelation. We cannot change Revelation. It’s true the Revelation develops. The word is “development” — it develops with time. And we with time understand the faith better and better. The way to understand the faith today, after Vatican II, is different from the way of understanding the faith before Vatican II. Why? Because there is a development of knowledge. You are right. And this isn’t something new, because the very nature — the very nature — of Revelation is in continual movement to clarify itself.
Let us return to Bishop Kräutler to understand the spirit of the new working document of the upcoming Amazon Synod, which he has helped to prepare.
In a 1992 book entitled My Life Is like the Amazon River (“Mein Leben ist wie der Amazonas”), the prelate explains with regard to the native Indian tribes that “we will respect their culture, learn their language, and be at their side when they defend their rights” (p. 64). He does not mention that he wishes to convert them to the Catholic faith. According to a report in the German newspaper Die Zeit, for Kräutler, the mission among the Indians “does not mean conversion.”
Father Franz Helm, an Austrian missionary priest, recently quoted Bishop Kräutler as saying: “I have not yet baptized an Indian, and I also will not do it.” (LifeSiteNews reached out to Bishop Kräutler asking him to verify this quote.) Helm added in remarks to LifeSiteNews that, in the 1990s, when he was the general secretary of Missio Austria (a pontifical missionary work), this quote “was transmitted to me.” He also explained that as long as “Christianity is not inculturated” in the Amazon region, “an Indian can hardly be also a Christian at the same time. Because, in order to become a Christian, an Indian has to give up his Indian being.” As examples, he pointed to the Roman Liturgy along with social forms and offices that are not sufficiently adapted to the Indian culture.
An Austrian source, a journalist, confirmed to LifeSiteNews that the above-mentioned quote from Bishop Kräutler is well known and has never been denied by the bishop, even though it has been repeatedly mentioned in the media.
In a 2000 report, Bishop Kräutler, was quoted in a talk as saying: “We wish for a Christianity and a Church that also have indigenous traits. No longer is the fastest possible formal conversion to Christianity by baptism at the center of the Church’s work for the Indians, but an inculturation that asks which traces God also left in the natural religions.”
About the problem of infanticide among the native tribes in the Amazon region, Bishop Kräutler wrote a statement in 2009, in which he admits that “among some few tribes of the Brazilian Indios, there still exists the cultural institution of infanticide.” He even recalls one specific incident where an Indian woman buried her baby alive, saying she gave her daughter “back to the Earth” because she could not handle twins at the same time. “That is to say,” Kräutler explains, “it was the custom, in case of the birth of twins, to entrust [sic] to the earth one of the children.” Thankfully, this buried baby girl was then rescued.
Kräutler explicitly rejects the idea that the state could prosecute those who commit such crimes. He is, rather, in favor of “convincing the people, with pastoral patience, that the culturally prescribed death of a child is anachronistic and undercuts their own strategy of life.”
“We have always fought for the physical and cultural survival of the Indians,” he continues, “and we do so on the foundation of the Gospels, and not with help of the gospel of fundamentalism.” Thus, he rejects ideas of penalizing infanticide, because “here, in the name of human rights and under the pretext of suppressing infanticide, a broad ethnocide, a cultural murder, is being installed.”