January 29, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – At a January 27 in-flight press conference while returning from Panama, Pope Francis discussed the idea of ordaining to the priesthood so-called viri probati (morally proven men) who are already married, but to allow it only for remote areas where there is a shortage of priests.
In his explanations, the Pope mentioned Bishop Fritz Lobinger and his ideas about the ordination of viri probati. However, what the Pope did not mention is that Lobinger proposes to include women in that priestly ordination.
As LifeSiteNews reported yesterday, Pope Francis said that such a man whom he envisions could be ordained would be “an older, married man … but only for the exercise of the sanctifying munus: namely, celebrating the Mass, administering the Sacrament of Reconciliation and giving unction to the sick.” The Pope said this idea comes from Bishop Lobinger of Aliwal, South Africa, adding that “There is an interesting book by Fr. Lobinger.” He continued, saying: “Lobinger says the Church makes the Eucharist and the Eucharist makes the Church. In the islands in the Pacific, Lobinger (asks), ‘who makes the Eucharist’ in these places? Who leads in these communities? It’s the deacons, the religious sisters, or the laity.”
Pope Francis then added: “So Lobinger asks whether an elder, a married man, could be ordained, but only to perform the sanctifying role: to say Mass, give the sacrament of reconciliation, and the anointing of the sick.” Thus, the bishop would give these viri probati “only the license of santificandi.”
In an article, Bishop Lobinger actually added that he also had women in his mind when speaking about the ordination of married “Elders,” those accepted and respected leaders of a local community. He says: “Ordaining proven local leaders could thus be the starting point for a solution. Because the majority of proven local leaders are women, it is unavoidable that the question of their inclusion among ordained elders will arise, though present church law does not permit it.”
Bishop Erwin Kräutler – one of Pope Francis' close collaborators for the upcoming October 2019 Amazon Synod dealing with the shortage of priests – described Lobinger's position in a similar manner. He said in 2016 that “There are several approaches (to the lack of priests and the question who could be ordained a priest). One of them, which is appealing in my eyes, comes from a German bishop who has worked for a long time in Africa. He, for example, speaks of a 'team of elders.' In English, these are the experienced people – independent of age or sex (sic).” Kräutler himself is sympathetic to the idea of ordaining women to the priesthood.
As early as 2015, Pope Francis has manifested his interest in the ideas of Bishop Lobinger. As Cardinal Reinhard Marx revealed in 2017, the Pope had recommended the books of this bishop to the German bishops when they were visiting Rome for their ad limina visit and thus had an audience with Pope Francis. The Pope then told the German bishops: “I have read the three books from Lobinger.”
It would be worthwhile studying these books closely and more carefully – for we might well have to deal with Lobinger's ideas in the future soon.
However, Father Paul Zulehner – an Austrian priest who co-authored a book with Bishop Lobinger – predicted in 2018 that the Church will have married priests, before there will be female priests. He stated: “Before there will be female priests, there will take place an opening up of the Catholic-ecclesiastical office (sic – the priesthood) to the married. I guess that the Latin American bishops will decide this at the Synod for the Pan-Amazon region in 2019. The pope probably will back them up. This will then put others under pressure to follow the example of the Latin Americans. This way, the Church will change.”