Maike Hickson


German bishops’ vice president expects Amazon synod to propose married priests ‘with civil job’

Celibacy 'should be enriched by other priestly forms of life,' the bishop argues.
Wed May 8, 2019 - 12:02 pm EST
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Bishop Franz-Josef Bode, vice president of the German Bishops' Conference.

May 8, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Bishop Franz-Josef Bode, the Vice-President of the German Bishops, states in a new interview that he can “very well imagine that there are also priests with family and [civil] job, similar to our deacons, some of whom are married and have a job.” This model of married “priests with a civil job,” he predicts, will “probably be presented to the Pope by the Latin American bishops at the Amazon Synod in October.”

Speaking with the regional newspaper Osnabrücker Zeitung, Bishop Bode makes it clear that he is in favor of “rethinking the link between celibacy and the priesthood.”

“Priests with a civil job” could “celebrate the Eucharist” and also provide “the corresponding priestly services,” he says.

In Bishop Bode's view, this model will “probably be presented to the Pope by the Latin American bishops at the Amazon Synod in October.” He explains that “the high and proper estimation of celibacy shall always be preserved, but it should be enriched by other priestly forms of life.” In that same interview, the German bishop also speaks in favor of female deacons “as a sign of recognition, esteem, and change of status of women in the Church who are today in large numbers active in charitable fields and in the field of the diaconate.”

Bishop Bode's idea of a sort of part-time priest who is married and has a full-time civil job similar to a deacon is an idea that may be found in the writings of Bishop Fritz Lobinger of Aliwal, South Africa. Lobinger has written several books in which he calls for a new community-based priestly leadership that consists of a “team of elders” who all have their ordinary jobs and families and who together run a parish and celebrate Holy Mass and administer the Sacraments. He thinks that women should be able to become priests, as well.

The problem with this model is that these “priests with a civil job” have very little time to receive a thorough theological formation. Lobinger thinks that the priestly formation could take place during the weekends and intermittently during a one-week seminar or so.

The result could be a sort of a priest with an attenuated theological formation.

Pope Francis, not long ago, publicly praised the work of Bishop Lobinger and his model of married priests who are not the same as the traditional priests who are celibate.

Bishop Bode is now the second German bishop who points to the Amazon Synod as the moment where the Church will open herself, most probably, to some fundamental changes.

Significant here is that Bishop Erwin Kräutler – a proponent of married male and female priests – is the author of the working document for the upcoming October 2019 Amazon Synod.

Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck of Essen just made a similar statement, calling for a new “image of priest” in light of the fact that, in the Amazon region, there are often women religious who are influential in the local parishes. “The face of the local church is female,” explained Overbeck, who is himself the head of the German bishops' own Latin America commission, which provides financial and pastoral support to Latin America.

Overbeck also recently called for a discussion of celibacy, especially in light of the current clerical sex abuse crisis.

He now claims that the Amazon Synod will lead the Catholic Church to a “point of no return” and that, thereafter, “nothing will be the same as as it was.”

  catholic, franz-josef bode, german bishops, married priests, priestly celibacy

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