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September 10, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the President of the German Bishops' Conference, has given a new interview in which he shows himself for the first time to be more openly in favor of married priests in light of the upcoming Amazon Synod. This interview comes together with the news that Pope Francis appointed him to participate in the October 6-27 Pan-Amazon Synod.
LifeSiteNews was able to confirm with the press speaker of the German bishops, Matthias Kopp, that this piece of news is correct. However, Kopp could not give an explanation why Marx was chosen, since he does not stem from the Amazon region.
So far, the Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops has said that mostly bishops from the Amazon region will participate at the Amazon Synod, together with some representatives of the Roman Curia. As the Rome Correspondent Edward Pentin reported in June 2019, the Amazon Synod “will comprise all the bishops from the vast region that encompasses Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, French Guyana, Guyana and Surinam, along with experts, heads of relevant Curial departments and several papal appointees.”
Cardinal Marx told the national newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung that he could “well picture that one can come to the conclusion that it is good to admit married priests in certain regions, under certain conditions.”
Priestly celibacy is going to be discussed in Germany, as well, concurrently with the Amazon Synod in Rome. The German bishops decided in March 2019 to start a “binding synodal path” that was to question priestly celibacy, the Church’s teaching on sexuality, and the role of women.
“It is not about celibacy alone,” Marx said in the new interview, “but about the future of the priestly form of living.” For him, it is important to see “whether and how celibacy is being lived in such a manner that…gives a positive sign and that it does not damage priests in their lives.”
He spoke these words also in light of the grave clerical sex abuse crisis in Germany, after in September 2018 a national Church-funded report uncovered large numbers of sex abuse cases.
Critics of the German synodal path, such as Cardinal Gerhard Müller and Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer, fear that the discussions in Germany will lead onto a “path of destruction,” or, in Cardinal Rainer Woelki's words, into “schism.” Another German bishop, Zdarsa, even called this synodal path a “label fraud.” He insisted that he had not voted in favor of this new project in Germany.
Archbishop Georg Gänswein, the private secretary of Pope emeritus Benedict XVI and Prefect of the Papal Household, told an audience in April 2019 that “he who wishes to invent a new Church and who wants to tinker with the so-called DNA [of the Church], is on the wrong track and abuses his spiritual authority.”
Cardinal Marx’s new words in support of the married priesthood come to some observers as a surprise, since, only two years ago, this prelate purportedly was very concerned about tinkering with priestly celibacy. At a press conference of the German bishops in March 2017, Cardinal Marx said about the idea of laxening obligatory celibacy: “I have always been skeptical, I always said, one cannot treat this form of living in a playful manner; this is a grave incision and lesion.” In Marx’s eyes, the “history and spirituality of the Church” were at stake.
He also raised the question about the possible effects of such a reform on the currently celibate seminarians and priests in his diocese, to whom this debate might be “a devastating signal.” This debate should not, according to Marx, bring about a “relativization of this form of living.” The cardinal concluded these remarks with the words that the Universal Church has to decide about these matters and that “I do not see in the Church a development of the will to change this [priestly celibacy].”
It remains to be seen what will be decided at the upcoming Amazon Synod with regard to the married priesthood. But the fact that Cardinal Marx's support for this idea is getting more expressive might give us some hints here, especially in light of the fact that the German Bishops' Conference has heavily financed the preparations for this synod.