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German bishops’ new Synodal Path working doc demands female ‘ordination,’ ‘new council’

‘For theology, too, there is no one central perspective, no one truth of the religious, moral and political world, and no one form of thought that can lay claim to ultimate authority.’
Tue Feb 9, 2021 - 9:53 am EST
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Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck Bistum Essen / YouTube

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February 9, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — German bishops and laity on the so-called Synodal Path are pushing for an expanded role for women in the Church, including preaching during Mass and even female ordination, according to a working document recently published in an unofficial but accurate English translation. The document also demands elections for leadership positions, as well as “a new council,” in an effort to promote a synodal structure of the Church.

In addition, the document appears to embrace what can be called relativism: “A handling of complexity that is attentive and sensitive to ambiguity can be regarded as a basic signature of intellectual contemporaneity — and also encompasses today’s theology. For theology, too, there is no one central perspective, no one truth of the religious, moral and political world, and no one form of thought that can lay claim to ultimate authority.”

“In the Church, too, legitimate views and ways of life can compete with each other even in core convictions,” the text continued. “Yes, they can even at the same time make the theologically justified claim to truth, correctness, comprehensibility and honesty, and nevertheless be contradictory to each other in their statements or in their language.”

The wide-ranging document was adopted on December 3 by Forum 1 of the Synodal Path, which is concerned with power and the separation of powers within the Church. One of the two leaders of the forum is Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck of Essen. While some members of the forum, among them Overbeck, can be characterized as willing to change Church teaching, others — like Bishop Florian Wörner, an auxiliary in Augsburg, and Marianne Schlosser, a theologian teaching in Vienna, Austria — are more conservative. Most members, however, are not well known.

Other forums include Forum 2 on priestly lifestyle, and Forum 3 on the role of women. Forum 4 focuses on the Church’s moral teachings, specifically regarding sexuality.

The document has not yet been voted on by all participants in the Synodal Path, which includes a number of bishops and laity opposed to the proposals made in the text.

“The question of the admission of women to ordained ministry, which will also be discussed in the Synodal Path’s Forum 3, is also a question of power and separation of powers because of the exclusivity of access,” the document stated.

“Pope John Paul II, in his Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, stated that the Church has no right to ordain women to the priesthood,” Forum 1 admitted in the text. “However, due to new insights into the witness of the Bible, into the developments of Tradition, and into the anthropology of gender, the coherence of his argumentation and the validity of his statement are often questioned.”

“It is necessary to reconnect again the witness of Scripture and Tradition with the signs of the times and the sense of faith of the people of God,” the text continued. Earlier, it had built up “the signs of the times” and “the sense of faith of the people of God” as important interpretative keys to argue for changes to the Church’s teaching.

Accordingly, “Forum 1 proposes that the church in Germany, during the Synodal Path, should also give a reasoned vote on the question of the admission of women to ordination, which includes an invitation to the universal Church and the Apostolic See to study anew the questions raised, and to find solutions.”

Given that the demand for female ordination directly contradicts what Pope John Paul II said less than 30 years ago, the document also asked for other — less outrageous — changes: “The Apostolic See is requested to respect the formative rights of diocesan bishops that serve to organize local pastoral ministry and promote evangelization. Examples include the preaching of qualified faithful, commissioned for this ministry, in the celebration of the Eucharist and the organization of parish and community leadership.”

Regarding leadership positions in the Church, the document stated, “For the Catholic Church, it is important that decision-making processes are tied back to the interests and ideas of the faithful, which are rooted in their sense of faith.”

“An essential form of participation is the right to vote,” the document pointed out. “Whoever is entrusted with a leadership office in the Catholic Church must be elected for this purpose by the people of the Church, if necessary through elected representative bodies. As long as universal Church law does not provide for elections, suitable forms must be found under diocesan law for the people of God to participate effectively in the selection of persons to assume a leadership office in the Church.”

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The most prominent leadership office in the Church is that of bishop, followed by that of parish priest. In other words, Catholics in Germany could vote for a new bishop in their dioceses, should the Synodal Path’s proposal be accepted.

Other ways to increase participation in the Church’s life include the building up of synodal structures. While this applies even to the local parish level, on the level of the universal Church, the document demanded “a synodal forum … an assembly of the universal Church, a new council, in which believers within and outside of ordained ministry deliberate and decide together on questions of theology and pastoral care as well as on the constitution and structure of the Church.”

It appears the bishops and members of the laity pushing for these reforms during the Synodal Path are willing to change the Church to fit categories established by modern democratic states.

“A look at the democratic societies of the present day in politics, in economy and administration, in education, as well as in associations and societies, reveals vested rights and organized processes of participation, characterized by elections and separation of powers, by accountability, control, and limitation of terms of office, by participation and transparency,” the document stated. “If the Catholic Church wants to remain faithful to her mission, inculturation into societies characterized by democratic processes is necessary.”

According to a report by The Pillar, a senior official at the Congregation for Bishops said the document is under review by the Vatican. It remains to be seen if the Vatican will intervene regarding a mere working document which has not yet been approved by the participants in the Synodal Path.


  catholic, female ordination, florian wörner, franz-josef overbeck, german catholic bishops, marianne schlosser, synodal path

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