Excluded from Offices: Catholic Church: Theologians call for equal rights

In the discussion about the role of women, women's associations and theologians see the church on the move. The local church is under pressure to face the discussion about more participation and influence of women in the church, says theologian Dorothea Sattler from Münster.

“My impression is that due to the many initiatives, the bishops are well aware that you have to deal with the question at least argumentatively and not just pronounce prohibitions.”

Today, Osnabrück Bishop Franz-Josef Bode wants to present a study on women in church leadership positions at the Episcopal Conference. At the beginning of the conference, the chairman, the Munich cardinal Reinhard Marx, said that in the dioceses there was a lot of work to do to promote women. That is not a self-runner. The cooperation of men and women is doing a good thing.

For many women and theologians, this announcement of the bishops should not be enough. For example, the Catholic German Women's Federation (KDFB) and the Catholic Women's Association of Germany demand a gender-equitable church. Also the church folk movement “We are church” demands a clear confession of the bishops to a diaconate of the woman. This would also be consecrated to women, which has not been permitted in church law in the Catholic Church so far.

From the theological point of view, there is no argument to deny women access to consecration, said the Tübingen Catholic theologian Johanna Rahner. “The only real reason I know is the reference to tradition, because we have not had it yet.” But that was a very weak argument, especially as the tradition of the church was not so clear. In the Catholic dioceses something had to change enormously so that the principle applied there as well: where decisions are made, women must also be involved equivalently, said Rahner. She hopes for a corresponding majority vote of the bishops.

Ultimately, only the pope can decide on a women's diaconate. The German Bishops' Conference could give a strong signal that she supports this diaconate, says theologian Margit Eckholt from the University of Osnabrück. Given the pastoral situation in Germany, the Episcopal Conference should lead the way and give such a signal. “The time is more than ripe for this in Germany.”

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