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CATHOLIC CHURCH

‘Women give the Catholic church a future’

Catholic women are determined to achieve equality in the lay section of the church - and say the move made by Germany's top bishop this week when he said the idea of women deacons was no longer taboo, was not enough.

'Women give the Catholic church a future'
Photo: DPA

Ute Hücker, spokeswoman for the German Catholic Women’s Association (KDFB) told The Local it was important that the church reflected modern life in the rest of the world – and recognized the work conducted by women for the church and their wider communities.

Archbishop of Freiburg Robert Zollitsch, who chairs the German Bishops’ Conference, said at the weekend the idea of women deacons was no longer out of the question, but added that they would not be full deacons as men can be. What is now being considered is a compromise – a special new kind of semi-pro deacon position created specifically for women.

This is not enough, the women say. “We say the time is right for a votive office for women as deacons. The deacon work is pastoral, visiting the sick and the poor for example; it is the basic work of the church and is crucial. All these things are being done by women in any case.

“We say the leadership jobs in the church must be made available to women and men equally. In Germany men can become full-time or half-time professional deacons. They are inducted by a bishop and it is this that women are barred from. Yet women are doing this work voluntarily already. The jobs should be available to women as well as men.”

Women give the church a future

Deacons can lead Liturgy of the Word services, but not conduct Mass, they can prepare children for their first communion and conduct burials. And although they cannot conduct marriages, they can assist at wedding ceremonies.

“Eighty percent of the active members of the German church are women. Women are the ones who can give the church a future – quite literally. It is necessary in today’s world where women are dealt with equally in an increasing number of areas – this must be possible in the church too.”

She said the fight to promote women to leadership positions in business and academia should be matched by a move to open the way to women within the non-priest areas of the Catholic Church.

The Bishops’ Conference this spring produced an assurance that the church leadership wanted to see more women in responsible roles, something which Hücker said was welcomed by Catholic women’s associations.

“The bishops have realized it is good for the church. It was a real change of heart. Many women in Germany are turning their back on the church because they are not being taken seriously,” she said.

Not gunning for priesthood

Although the push from Catholic women for equality in the lay sectors of the church might seem surprisingly strong from an outside perspective, they are not intent on getting into the priesthood.

“That is not possible from a theological point of view. There are women who do not accept this, but that is not what we are calling for. More Catholic women in Germany want to see deacons who are women. We have been working for this for many years. We know that we are not alone in this. There are many people who say this is necessary, it is a sign of the times, and crucial if the church wants to build a future.

“We were initially pleased with what Archbishop Zollitsch said but he also said what he was proposing was not a votive position, it was a special new job, a second-rung position. We want the full office of deacon, and the training that goes with it to be made available for men and for women.

“We will be watching what happens next. Women will need patience in this, but we have that patience and we are also very determined.”

Hannah Cleaver

hannah.cl[email protected]

twitter.com/hannahcleaver2

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RELIGION

Pope rejects German bishop’s offer to quit over abuse scandal

Pope Francis on Thursday rejected an offer by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, a top German bishop, to resign over the mishandling of sexual abuse and cover-up scandals.

Pope rejects German bishop's offer to quit over abuse scandal
Marx following a service in Haar, Bavaria on Sunday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Matthias Balk

“Continue as you propose (in your pastoral work) but as Archbishop of
Munich and Freising,” the pope wrote to Marx, referring to the position he was offering to vacate.

Marx announced earlier this month that he had offered the pope his
resignation over the church’s “institutional and systemic failure” in handling
child sex abuse scandals.

READ ALSO: German bishop resigns over Catholic Church’s ‘failure’ in abuse scandal

The stunning decision came after the church in Germany, like in many places elsewhere, was shaken by allegations of wide-ranging abuse by clergymen against minors.

In his letter, the pope agreed with Marx in calling the clerical sexual
abuse scandals “a catastrophe” and the way the Catholic Church dealt with them “until recently”.

“The entire Church is in crisis because of the abuse issue” and “the Church
cannot proceed without tackling this crisis. The policy of burying the head in
the sand leads nowhere,” he wrote.

In his original letter to the pope dated May 21st and published on June 4th by his archdiocese, Marx said: “It is important to me to share the responsibility for the catastrophe of the sexual abuse by Church officials over the past decades.”

Investigations and reports had “consistently shown there have been many
personal failures and administrative mistakes but also institutional or
‘systemic’ failure,” added Marx, who was president of the German Bishops’
Conference from 2012 to 2020.

Slamming colleagues who “refuse to believe there is a shared responsibility
in this respect”, he said the Church was at “a dead end”.

Marx — who was never personally accused of abuse or cover up, and who
would have remained a cardinal even if Francis had allowed him to quit as
archbishop — added that he hoped his resignation would offer a new beginning for the Church.

Speaking to journalists, he confirmed the pope had given him permission to
publish the letter and that he would continue in his role until he received a
response to his offer.

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