German bishops and lay organizations support making priestly celibacy optional


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The Synodal Way, in which the German Catholic Church works for a reform of the institution, approved this Friday with 86% of the votes a relaxation of priestly celibacy and he will propose to Pope Francis a reflection in this sense together with the rest of the conclusions of the process, for which an unhindered ratification is expected in the vote that will take place in the autumn assembly.

According to the statement issued by the German Episcopal Conference, the proposal is part of the text entitled “The celibacy of priests. Strengthening and opening” and which emphasizes the value of celibacy as a way of life for priests but requests the admission of married priests by the Pope or by a council, as well as granting permission so that Catholic priests who so wish marry and remain in office, in the same way that the Byzantine churches and the Protestant church allow it.

During the debate in the plenary assembly, with 200 in-person delegate participants and which took place on Friday in Frankfurt, several interventions criticized the fact that the text contains a positive assessment of the life in chastity and requested that he stay formally associated with “risks” and “secondary effects”, referring to cases of child abuse. Before the vote, the Cardinal and Archbishop of Munich Reinhard Marx, and the President of the Commission of the Episcopal Conferences of the EU, Jean-Claude Hollerich, had spoken in public.

Marx had declared in an interview granted to Süddeutsche Zeitung that «some priests would be better off married, not only for sexual reasons but because it would be better for their lives because they would not be alone (…) and some will say that if we no longer have compulsory celibacy, then everyone will run off to get married, and my answer is that it would be a sign that, indeed, it is not working well. “It’s a precarious way of life.”

Hollerich, for his part, had told the French newspaper La Croix: “I have a very high opinion of celibacy, but one wonders if it is essential because I have married deacons who exercise in a wonderful way, whose homilies really touch people, more than us celibates». And he continued: «If a priest cannot live this solitude, it must be understood, not condemned».

women’s ordination

In the afternoon session, the plenary assembly of the Sinodal Path voted on a second and also controversial document on the women’s ordination which will be sent to the Forum as a working basis for further processing. The text deals with gender equality in the Church and states that “women are not justified in being admitted to all services and offices of the Church but excluded from priestly ordination, for which he defends that “there is no clear line of tradition” and demands a “questioning and fundamental change of the structures and prevailing power relations.

These two documents, although “historic” according to the participants in the assembly, are not yet binding. There is still a crucial debate, which will take place throughout this Saturday, on “Sexual Morality” and “Homosexuality in the Church”, with which the current session will close. But already on Thursday two texts were approved, the first binding ones, which include changes of depth and give the measure of the scope that the process intends to have. Both obtained the necessary two-thirds majority of the bishops present.

With 178 votes in favor and 28 against, the voting members approved a call guidance text with which the reform project fixes its theological foundations. Since the text was also accepted by the bishops present with 41 votes against 16, it becomes binding.

Subsequently, a “Basic Text” on “Power and Separation of Powers in the Church” was approved by similar majorities. The orientation text, which was characterized in terms of language and content as “by theologians for theologians”, aims to open a “path of conversion and renewal” for the Church, which is considered irreversible in the face of the “signs of the times”.

Throughout its 20 pages, it emphasizes that “the most important sources for Christians are the Bible, tradition, the magisterium and theology”, and includes among these sources “the signs of the times and the sense of faith of the people of God”. The discussion delved into what the Church can understand by “signs of the times” and the Salzburg theologian Gregor Maria Hoff called for them to be recognized as a “source of knowledge.” Franz-Josepf Overbeck, Bishop of Essen, added its character as “a work of the Holy Spirit”.

The Synodal Way has been shown in this assembly very largely in favor of “fundamental changes in the constitution of the Catholic Church”, as a different distribution of power between bishops, a time limit for the exercise of leadership positions in the Church, the participation of believers in the appointment of bishops and accountability for their administration.

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