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Bishop Schepers (far left) with the 13 new ‘deacons in the spirit’Ansgar Dlugos/Waldbreitbach

UPDATE: This report has been updated to include a statement from German bishops conference spokesmen on Bishop Bätzing’s link with the event and Bishop Schepers’.

ESSEN, Germany (LifeSiteNews) — Thirteen German women have been “commissioned” as “deacons in the spirit” by a local bishop following a three-year “female deacons” training plan, in an event praised by the president of the German bishops’ conference.

On April 13, the auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Essen, Bishop Ludger Schepers, commissioned 13 women who had completed a three and a half year training program with the “Women’s Diaconate Network.” The Franciscan community of Waldbreitbach who hosted the event described the women as being commissioned as “deacons in the spirit.”

Schepers celebrated a Mass and certificate-awarding ceremony for the 13 women in his capacity as a long-standing friend and supporter of the movement. The bishop has a long history of heterodoxy and was the first German Catholic bishop to attend a homosexual “blessing” in 2022. He was recently appointed by the German bishops as the first “commissioner for queer pastoral care.”

In his homily, which he delivered jointly with Sister Edith-Maria Magar, the superior of Waldbreitbach, he called for the recognition of women as deacons. A summary of his words stated that he “emphasized that women are also called. Women rightly felt discriminated against in the Church and excluded with their calling.” 

READ: Head of German Franciscans defends homosexuality and transgenderism, attacks Catholic teaching

According to the report by the local Franciscan group, Schepers is “angry that this imbalance is not seen as a grievance that needs to be remedied.” 

For her part, Sr. Magar stated that the event “should not be underestimated as a political sign, the graduates are very happy about it.” 

The nun criticized how “unlike men, they cannot expect to be ordained as deacons, and only because they are women.”

While not present at the commissioning, the president of the German bishops’ conference, Bishop Georg Bätzing, who openly rejects Catholic teaching on a number of subjects, issued a special message of congratulations to the women who completed the course.

“They are a blessing for our church,” he claimed, according to the Waldbreitbach report.

However, in response to this reporter’s questions, spokesman for the German bishops conference Matthias Kopp denied that Bätzing commissioned “deaconesses of the spirit.” Kopp told LifeSite that in Bätzing’s letter to the group “he wished God’s blessing on the training course ‘Diaconal Leadership Services for Women in the Church,’ just as I wish you God’s blessing on your work.”

“Bishop Bätzing did not say or write anything about women deacons,” said Kopp. “For him, the women who have dedicated themselves to the training course are a blessing – as are many other people in our church.”

Meanwhile, Schepers spokesman told this reporter that for the auxiliary bishop, “it is a matter of course that after more than three years of further training, the conclusion is celebrated in a festive church service. None of the women were commissioned by Auxiliary Bishop Schepers for a special ministry in the church during the service.”

READ: German bishops declare that ‘transsexual’ persons should not be ‘excluded’ from priesthood in 38-7 vote

Bätzing, like Schepers, is no stranger to supporting the group. In autumn 2021, he gave a “real sign of hope” to the group when he visited the group during their training in Waldbreitbach. 

The Women’s Diaconate Network describes itself as a group of “more than 200 individuals and over 50 groups and organizations promoting the sacramental diaconate of women.” 

Among its goals are the official declaration of a “female diaconate”:

a diaconal church in which men and women live together and on an equal footing with the service of Jesus Christ and perform diaconal leadership services. The introduction of the sacramental permanent diaconate for women in the Roman Catholic Church.

The recent ceremony marks the conclusion of the third of its multi-year training programs known as “diaconate circles,” the first of which began in 1999. 

Its “diaconate circle” is a three-year training for women to prepare themselves for the “vocation” of being a deacon. While noting that many of the liturgical actions proper to the ordained deacon are performed by laity in the modern rites of the Church, the Network holds that “for reasons of gender justice, it makes a considerable difference whether this commissioning is consolidated by an ordination.”

READ: Pro-LGBT German bishop authorizes 13 women to perform baptisms due to ‘lack of priests’

As such, “spiritual accompaniment also plays a prominent role in the training in the diaconate circle,” and somewhat in imitation of a seminary formation, the participants are to find a spiritual director who “will support her in dealing with the question of her own vocation.”

Amongst their English language promotional description, they cite Pope Francis’ statements and his Evangelii gaudium, claiming that “the development of this evangelizing and serving mission of the Church makes it imperiously necessary to admit women to the ordained diaconate, for this mission of Jesus Christ is animated, practically carried out, coordinated and led by women, to a great extent – of over 80% – in the communities, parishes, pastoral units and diocese.”

Both Bätzing and Schepers have long been promoters of the “female diaconate,” and in March 2023, Germany’s heretical Synodal Way voted in favor of a text calling for a “female diaconate” and further research and studies into the possibility of women being “ordaining” deacons, priests, and bishops.

Approved by over 93% of Synodal Assembly and over 80% of the 58 German bishops, the voters called for “female deacons” through the entire Church.

READ: German bishops vote 42-10 in favor of women deacons for entire Church  

Pope St. John Paul II declared in his 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis that it is ontologically impossible for women to be “ordained.”

In 2019, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), spoke with LifeSite’s Dr. Maike Hickson about the issue of “female ordination,” issuing a categorical clarification about the Catholic prohibition on the matter of women as priests or deacons:

It is certain without doubt, however, that this definitive decision from Pope John Paul II is indeed a dogma of the Faith of the Catholic Church and that this was of course the case already before this Pope defined this truth as contained in Revelation in the year 1994. The impossibility that a woman validly receives the Sacrament of Holy Orders in each of the three degrees is a truth contained in Revelation and it is thus infallibly confirmed by the Church’s Magisterium and presented as to be believed.

Indeed, in 2018, then-prefect of the CDF Cardinal Ladaria Ferrer, S.J., defended the teaching of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis as bearing the mark of “infallibility,” with John Paul II having “formally confirmed and made explicit, so as to remove all doubt, that which the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium has long considered throughout history as belonging to the deposit of faith.”


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