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Canon law expert predicts married priests in the West after Amazon Synod

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May 30, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — Thomas Schüller, a German canon law expert and university professor, predicts that the upcoming Amazon Synod will ask for married priests for the Amazon region, after which the German bishops will also “for sure” ask for them.

“This [Amazon Synod] will encourage the bishops’ conferences and the regions of the Universal Church — which are also affected by the lack of priests — to make a similar request while at the same time honoring a freely chosen celibacy.” Rome would “surely examine such a request with a benevolent attitude,” he explains.

The German professor predicts married priests in Germany as well.

Speaking with the diocesan online newspaper Kirche und Leben, the professor from Münster argues that the majority of German bishops have already shown interest in the introduction of married priests in Germany.

Schüller expects that the Amazon Synod this fall will make a decision in favor of married priests for the West (Leute-Priester — “people’s priests”) in the face of the lack of priests in Latin America generally. He says: “As an answer to the lack of priests in Latin America, there will be People's Priests.” These new priests would be “married men with an experience of marriage and family life who would  fulfill their priestly duties on the weekends.”

This new model of the married priest seems to assume that the priest has a civil profession during the week and thus sustains his family.

When asked as to whether these married priests – the viri probati – will really come, Schüller responded with the words: “for sure!” This introduction after the Amazon synod will then encourage the German bishops to ask for the same in Germany.

“The overwhelming majority of the German bishops,” Schüller said, “have already positioned themselves to be in favor of it [married priesthood]. Why should they not send such a request to Rome?”

In any event, the German professor is of the opinion that regional bishops’ conferences should be able to go their own ways. He presented his ideas at a May 24–25 conference in Münster, in the presence of Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck, who recently announced that after the Amazon Synod, “nothing will be the same as before” in the Church. Professor Thomas Sternberg, the head of the German Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), a strong proponent of liberal Church reforms, was present as well.

Professor Hermann Josef Pottmeyer was also among the speakers at that conference. He is an opponent of papal centralism and of a “preconciliar ecclesiology” and stated in 2010 with regard to the role of the pope: “In other words, the bishop of Rome should normally make no decrees and no decisions affecting the universal church without formally [first] inviting the participation of the local churches and their bishops. Further, the local churches and their regional associations or bishops’ conferences should decide any regulations that do not threaten the unity of the whole Church.”

Pottmeyer was also one of the speakers at a seminar dedicated to the theme “The Reform and the Reforms of the Church and in the Church,” organized by Father Antonio Spadaro, S.J., a papal confidant. The seminar had taken place before the second Family Synod in 2015 and aroused suspicion due to its secret character.

Professor Schüller stated in his interview in light of the conference on the role of the national bishops’ conferences that “it is important to maintain unity in the essential matters, but at the same time to make possible a plurality which nevertheless is Catholic.”

As an example, he mentioned the admission of Protestant spouses of Catholics to Holy Communion. This question is more important in Germany than in Italy, where there are barely any Protestants. “Why, in such cases, should a national bishops’ conference not go down its own path?”

Another theologian, the Austrian professor Paul Zulehner, earlier argued for this kind of approach. He is a proponent of married priests and even claimed, in a January 2018 interview, that there will be “first married priests” and then “female priests.” In this 2018 interview, he stressed that there is taking place in Rome a change of attitude and that Rome wishes now to learn from the local bishops’ conferences.

He then told the Austrian newspaper Kurier: “Before there will be female priests, there will take place an opening up of the Catholic ecclesiastical office [the priesthood] to the married [in the Latin rite]. I guess that the Latin American bishops will decide this at the Synod for the Pan-Amazon Region in 2019. The pope probably will back them up. This will then put others under pressure to follow the example of the Latin Americans. This way, the Church will change.”

Speaking about the change of attitude in Rome under Pope Francis, Zulehner explained that “now the bishops’ conferences are being asked to decide about things which are important for us and then to inform the Vatican and then the Pope can say: Do it exactly that way!”

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Maike Hickson

Dr. Maike Hickson was born and raised in Germany. She holds a PhD from the University of Hannover, Germany, after having written in Switzerland her doctoral dissertation on the history of Swiss intellectuals before and during World War II. She now lives in the U.S. and is married to Dr. Robert Hickson, and they have been blessed with two beautiful children. She is a happy housewife who likes to write articles when time permits.

Dr. Hickson published in 2014 a Festschrift, a collection of some thirty essays written by thoughtful authors in honor of her husband upon his 70th birthday, which is entitled A Catholic Witness in Our Time.

Hickson has closely followed the papacy of Pope Francis and the developments in the Catholic Church in Germany, and she has been writing articles on religion and politics for U.S. and European publications and websites such as LifeSiteNews, OnePeterFive, The Wanderer, Rorate Caeli, Catholicism.org, Catholic Family News, Christian Order, Notizie Pro-Vita, Corrispondenza Romana, Katholisches.info, Der Dreizehnte,  Zeit-Fragen, and Westfalen-Blatt.