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Bishop Georg BätzingYouTube / screenshot

January 4, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) – Bishop Georg Bätzing, the head of the German bishops’ conference, supported in a new interview the idea of “ordaining” women to the diaconate and the priesthood and a blessing for homosexual and cohabitating couples. He also defended the idea of intercommunion. And he even claimed that the German bishops could make some of these changes without approval from Rome. In a response, both Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller and Cardinal Walter Brandmüller expressed their opposition to these ideas.

Bätzing revealed in an interview with the German Catholic journal Herder Korrespondenz that already in the 1980s, he participated in discussions about the female “priesthood.” He argued that there are “well-developed arguments in favor of opening the sacramental [priestly] office also for women.” That is why he himself “often mention[s] the female diaconate, because I see there some more possibilities.” Mentioning the fact that Pope John Paul II and his successor “unanimously” stated that “this question has been answered,” the German bishop sees that “nevertheless, it [the question] is on the table.”

The bishop of Limburg also raised the question of the married priesthood (viri probati), asking how much “substance,” that is to say priestly vocations, “that we could have as an asset for the Evangelization” is being lost “because we hold on to the traditional conditions for admission [to the priesthood]?” Later on, he refers back to the question of the married priesthood, wondering “which authority finally decides whether or not the process [of discernment] has been accomplished,” and saying that “at some point, there needs to be a decision.”

When asked by the journalists whether this authority was not the Pope himself, Bätzing commented that “it is not in all questions up to the Pope. The Pope is responsible to make decisions only in clearly defined questions of the Faith.” But then, after mentioning the bishops and the college of bishops as part of the government of the Universal Church, he admitted that the question of the so-called female priesthood “cannot be answered by us here in Germany,” but, rather, only on the level of the Universal Church. But he proposed that not only women, but really all laymen should be able to deliver homilies during the sacrifice of the Holy Mass, something that heretofore was only possible for priests.

But with regard to the possibility of a liturgical blessing of so-called irregular couples – homosexual and cohabitating couples – the German bishop claimed that such a decision can indeed be taken by the German bishops “without Roman approval.” Bätzing then went on to say that he, however, is of the opinion “that we should change the Catechism in this respect.”

Bätzing is one of the two presidents of the so-called German Synodal Path which aims at reforming the Catholic Church in Germany. It especially aims at changing the Church's teachings regarding these above-mentioned topics such as female “ordination,” homosexuality, cohabitation, and lay governance. This Synodal Path has received much opposition in Germany, as well as in the world.

The German bishop also defended a document that argued in favor of a decision of conscience of the individual Christian – Protestant or Catholic – with regard to the question of whether or not he wishes to receive (Catholic) Holy Communion or the (Protestant) bread of the Last Supper. This document, which was written by an ecumenical group headed also by Bishop Bätzing, found strong criticism from the Vatican, with Cardinal Luis Ladaria Ferrer writing an opposing letter to this German bishop.

These comments by Bätzing provoked strong opposition first from Cardinal Brandmüller and then from Cardinal Müller. Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, in a short open letter to the head of the German bishops' conference, first asked the German bishop: “Did you really claim, against the the uninterrupted Tradition of the Church and while disregarding the final and infallible declaration by Pope Saint John Paul II, that the ordination of women to the diaconate and to the priesthood is possible, yes, even desirable?” He then went on to say that, if this is the case, “one should remind you that, before your episcopal ordination, you had confirmed your loyalty to the teaching and order of the Church with an oath. Without this oath, you would have never been consecrated.”

Cardinal Gerhard Müller responded today to the words of Bishop Bätzing, in an interview with Petra Lorleberg of the Austrian website Kath.net. “The so-called Synodal Path of the German dioceses has no authority whatsoever in order to introduce a teaching and practice in questions of Faith and Morals that stand in contradiction to the binding doctrine of the Catholic Church,” he stated. He even went so far as to say the attempt to impose upon the faithful such “decisions against the Faith” made by the German bishops is “null and void” since it is “in opposition to the Catholic Church's constitution.”

“The disciplinary power of the bishops,” Cardinal Müller continued, “may never serve the enforcement of heretical teachings or immoral acts.”

The former head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith went on to explain that many of the themes of the Synodal Path are based on “an anti-Catholic resentment” and remind him “somehow of Nietzsche's idea of the ‘eternal return of the same.’”

Cardinal Müller also commented on the German bishop’s proposal to re-write the Catechism with regard to homosexual and cohabitating couples. “To think that one can arbitrarily rewrite the ‘Catechism of the Catholic Church’ by making revealed truth a function of human desires (blessing sexual relations outside of marriage),” the German cardinal wrote, “is to invert the justification of the sinner by God’s Grace into the justification of sin by man’s disobedience.”

Concerning the question of the “ordination” of women to the diaconate and to the priesthood, Cardinal Müller re-affirmed in this new interview the Church’s judgment “that only a baptized man can validly receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders in all of its three degress.” Neither sociological, nor naturalistic or historical analyses can here be quoted.

Finally, Cardinal Müller also rejected the idea of Intercommunion, even if only individuals were to decide to participate in it. He pointed to the “inner relationship between Church and Holy Eucharist” and “its reciprocal constitution” which are “alien to the normal Protestant way of thinking.”

The differences between Protestant and Catholic positions here concern “both the nature of the Church and, in addition to the five other sacraments not recognized by the Protestants (Confirmation, Penance, Extreme Unction, Holy Orders and Holy Matrimony), especially the Eucharist (as a sacramental realization of Christ's sacrifice),” Müller expounded. “The Catholic celebration of the Eucharist is by no means identical with the Protestant Lord's Supper, not only in its external rite, but also in its dogmatic content.”

“A Catholic cannot at all go to the Last Supper without contradicting the Faith of the Catholic Church,” he concluded.

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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.

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