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Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg, Germany.Bistum Limburg / YouTube

WALDBREITBACH, Germany (LifeSiteNews) — The head of the German Bishops’ Conference has reportedly given a “real sign of hope” to a group lobbying for the ordination of female deacons. Cardinal Gerhard Müller said such a move stands “in contradiction to the defined doctrine of the Church.”

Bishop Georg Bätzing, the president of the German Bishops’ Conference, met on October 8–9 with the “Network Diaconate of Women” at the Franciscan convent in Waldbreitbach. The group was conducting its third “diaconate circle,” an event described by as “an advanced training course designed to qualify women for diaconal leadership functions.”

Bätzing took “a lot of time” to talk with the members of the conference, and prayed vespers with them, in a meeting which was described as putting “additional fresh wind in their sails.”

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

Speaking to, Irmentraud Kobusch, the Network’s chairwoman, described the meeting as “a real sign of hope” to the movement pushing for female ordination to the diaconate, and one which Bätzing would apparently use as a guide in Germany’s Synodal Path.

“It was a very good encounter,” added Kobusch, who stated how Bätzing had been “open to the hopes of the women, but also to the pains and injuries they had experienced in the church system.”

Female diaconate training unsanctioned by the Church

The Network’s third “diaconate circle” is a three-year training ground 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.”

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.”

Further imitating the seminary style formation, the “diaconate circle,” set to last until 2023, addresses both “spiritual growth” and practical abilities, as the Network pursues its goal of “a diaconal church in which men and women live out the ministry of Jesus Christ together on an equal footing and exercise diaconal leadership ministries.”

“The establishment of the sacramental permanent diaconate for women in the Roman Catholic Church” is the main aim of the group.

The multi-year “diaconate circle” training process was born out of the desire of dissident women who had applied to join the male training for permanent deacons, but were rejected by the German Bishops’ Conference, resulting in the first three year “circle” running from 1999 through 2002.

Bishop Bätzing’s continued support for female deacons, contrary to doctrine

The “real sign of hope” given to the dissident group is not without precedent, as Bätzing has previously expressed his support for such a move. In March 2020, the bishop of Limburg gave a radio interview, hinting at female deacons as an outcome of Germany’s troublesome Synodal Path.

The “female diaconate … could be one of the decisions at the end of the Synodal Path. And if that is decided, I am ready to do so, and as a member of the steering committee I am even obliged to transport it to Rome,” Bätzing said. He then repeated his support for female deacons in another 2020 interview, saying he deems “the female diaconate to be very legitimate.”

Indeed, in a more recent interview with the German Catholic journal Herder Korrespondenz, Bätzing noted that in the 1980s, he had argued there were “well-developed arguments in favor of opening the sacramental office also for women.” That is why he himself “often mention[s] the female diaconate, because I see there some more possibilities.”

His position has not gone unchallenged. Cardinal Gerhard Müller said, “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.”

Pope St. John Paul II declared in his 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis that it is ontologically impossible for women to be “ordained.” This letter, Müller explained, refers to the diaconate, as well.

“It is certainly 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,” declared Müller. He further noted how “the impossibility that a woman validly receives the Sacrament of Holy Orders in each of the three degrees [deacon, priest, bishop] is a truth contained in Revelation and it is thus infallibly confirmed by the Church’s Magisterium and presented as to be believed.”

Müller has previously spoken in forthright terms against the possibility of female deacons, declaring that any attempt to so ordain women, or alter the sacraments, would be “invalid.”

“No synod — with or without the Pope — and also no ecumenical council, or the Pope alone, if he spoke ex cathedra, could make possible the ordination of women as bishop, priest, or deacon. They would stand in contradiction to the defined doctrine of the Church,” stated Cardinal Müller.