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OSNABRÜCK, Germany, September 4, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — In an apparent violation of Church law, Bishop Franz-Josef Bode of the German diocese of Osnabrück is allowing women to preach during Holy Mass, as part of the upcoming “week of action” entitled “Women proclaim the Word.”
Inga Schmitt works for the diocese in the area of communication of the faith. In an interview published by the diocesan website, she explained that the goal was to have “baptized and confirmed persons actively contribute their life and faith experience to the service of proclamation.”
Bishop Bode, who is also vice president of the German Bishops’ Conference, “wrote to the pastors of the congregations and asked them to make it possible for women to come before the congregation during the week of action in the worship service of their church, and from there proclaim the Word of God and interpret it from their perspective.”
“We are not interested in rebelling against fixed things like the order of the worship service,” Schmitt emphasized. “Rather, we see it as a clear option for the consecrated person to take responsibility for the organization of the worship service and the Word of God. If a priest makes it possible for a woman to preach during his worship service, the priest still has the main responsibility for the service.”
“The mission of preaching is also to make the Word of God fruitful for today’s world, and this can take many different forms,” she added. “We are many and there are many different life experiences. A priest or deacon can do this in his own way with his contribution, and from his life experience. But sometimes it takes other contributions from other life experiences and perspectives to make the Word of God fruitful for other people.”
According to Schmitt, “the consecrated person continues to take responsibility for the Word of God in his or her worship service, only by making it possible to bring other points of view into the worship service in addition to his or her own.”
The Code of Canon Law unequivocally states (can. 767), “Among the forms of preaching, the homily, which is part of the liturgy itself and is reserved to a priest or deacon, is preeminent; in the homily the mysteries of faith and the norms of Christian life are to be explained from the sacred text during the course of the liturgical year.”
At the same time (can. 766), lay people “can be permitted to preach in a church or oratory, if necessity requires it in certain circumstances or it seems advantageous in particular cases, according to the prescripts of the conference of bishops and without prejudice” to the fact that a homily is reserved to priests and deacons.
The 2004 Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum, published by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, and approved by Pope John Paul II, goes into more detail.
“The homily, which is given in the course of the celebration of Holy Mass and is a part of the Liturgy itself, ‘should ordinarily be given by the Priest celebrant himself. He may entrust it to a concelebrating Priest or occasionally, according to circumstances, to a Deacon, but never to a layperson. In particular cases and for a just cause, the homily may even be given by a Bishop or a Priest who is present at the celebration but cannot concelebrate,” the instruction states.
“It should be borne in mind that any previous norm that may have admitted non-ordained faithful to give the homily during the eucharistic celebration is to be considered abrogated by the norm of canon 767 §1. This practice is reprobated, so that it cannot be permitted to attain the force of custom.”
Additionally, the ban on laypeople preaching during Mass “applies also to seminarians, students of theological disciplines, and those who have assumed the function of those known as ‘pastoral assistants’; nor is there to be any exception for any other kind of layperson, or group, or community, or association.”
While Schmitt generally spoke only of “worship service” in her interview, the German term (“Gottesdienst”) can refer both to Holy Mass and any other liturgy, including lay-led Communion services.
A look at parish bulletins reveals that women are actually preaching during Mass.
The official list shows Claudia Hindriks scheduled to preach at 5 P.M. on September 12. The local bulletin shows a Mass to take place at this time.
Similarly, the official list shows Brigitte Hesse scheduled for 10:30 P.M. on September 13, which a look at the bulletin confirms to be a Mass.
At the very beginning of the interview, Schmitt admitted, and explained correctly, that only ordained men can preach during Holy Mass.
“In the Catholic Church, certain tasks are officially reserved for certain people,” she pointed out. “This concerns in particular the preaching service during Mass. According to Church law, only consecrated persons, i.e. priests and deacons, are allowed to preach during the worship service, all others are not.”
Nonetheless, the diocese of Osnabrück proceeded with launching the week of action, allowing women to preach from September 13 until September 20.
Bishop Marian Eleganti, who serves as auxiliary bishop in the Swiss diocese of Chur, recently explained the charism proper to the priest.
“Even if the priest can be surpassed individually by other non-ordained faithful in many things (intelligence, eloquence, leadership qualities, personal charisma, etc.), what remains unaffected is that he and only he can be the sacramental realization of Christ, the Head and Shepherd,” Eleganti pointed out.
“This can be seen above all in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, but not only. From this follows the unity of his ministries, namely to govern, to teach, and to sanctify. Everything that undermines or fragments this unity and leaves only a sacramental torso of the priesthood must be avoided.