The Catholic Church in Germany is at a point where serious debate – including on priestly celibacy and the role of women – and openness to doing things in a new way must encouraged, said the president of the German bishops’ conference.
“Shakeups demand special proceedings,” Cardinal Reinhard Marx, conference president, said at the end of the bishops’ spring meeting in Lingen.
The sexual abuse scandal and demands for reform have changed the German Church, the cardinal said.
“The Church in Germany is experiencing a break. The faith can only grow and deepen if we are liberated from blocked thinking, in order to pursue free and open debates and the ability to take new positions and go down new paths.
“The Church needs a synodal advancement. Pope Francis encourages this,” said Cardinal Marx. “We will create formats for open debates and bind ourselves to proceedings that facilitate a responsible participation of women and men from our dioceses.
“We know about the cases of clerical abuses of power. It betrays the trust of people searching for firm footing and religious orientation. What must be done to achieve the necessary reduction of power and to construct a fairer and legally bound order will be to clarify a synodal path.”
Germany’s bishops said they are still working on how to move forward following the sexual abuse scandal and other pressing issues.
“Many voices can be heard saying that there must be a concrete list of measures. I can only say in reply that we have this catalogue and we are still working on the points named there,” Cardinal Marx said.
During the meeting, the bishops heard the analyses and opinions of theology professors, female administrators within the Church and Church officials on issues pertaining to the sexual abuse crisis, Church law, women in Church administration and Catholic sexual morality.
He said debates on celibacy require further study.
“We treasure celibacy as an expression of religious commitment to God. How far it must adhere to the witness of priests in our Church, we will find out,” he said.
Cardinal Marx also said Catholic sexual morality is in need of development. “We perceive that we are often not versed in questions regarding modern sexual behaviour,” he said.
The cardinal said he was aware that the results of the conference would not satisfy many people.
“Not all of the findings of our discussions will meet with your understanding,” he said. “For this reason, we ask for your accompaniment in prayer, your support and your critical voice. Only thus can we advance together as the people of God.”
Picture: German Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich listens during a news conference at the bishops’ spring meeting in Lingen on 11th March 2019. The sexual abuse scandal and demands for reform have changed the German Church, the cardinal said on 14th March. (CNS photo/Harald Oppitz, KNA).