MARTIN BÜRGER reports for LifeSiteNews — As they push to make celibacy optional to Catholic priests, one German bishop implied that praying for vocations to the priesthood does not work.
Speaking in a condescending tone, Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck of Essen told a press conference yesterday, “You must have a lot of trust in God not to despair in the face of the success, or the little success, that we see not only here but also in Latin America.”
The question of prayer “has to be connected with the concrete realization of such a request, because God has to use people to realize this request.”
Overbeck is one of the most left-wing bishops in Germany.
In 2019, he showed his openness to female “priests.”
“Can one, for instance, make a connection between access to the priesthood and the Y chromosome by justifying it with the will of Jesus?” Overbeck asked.
Yesterday’s press conference at the spring meeting of the German Bishops’ Conference focused on Pope Francis’ post-synodal apostolic exhortation Querida Amazonia.
Alongside Overbeck, who is responsible for the subcommittee on Latin America of the German Bishops’ Conference, there were archbishop Ludwig Schick, head of the commission on the worldwide Church; Monsignor Pirmin Spiegel, who is involved with Misereor, a relief organization active in Latin America; and Father Michael Heinz, who works for another relief organization, Adveniat, which is also active in that area.
Asked by LifeSiteNews at what point the panelists would stop the debate on celibacy and female “ordinations,” and why 2,000 years of tradition are not convincing, Archbishop Schick responded that women cannot be ordained. Pope Francis affirmed this in Querida Amazonia, Schick argued.
However, all panelists had admitted in the past, as well as at the press conference, that the final document of the Amazon Synod remains valid. In it, the synod had requested “the permanent diaconate [sic] for women.”
On the questions of celibacy, Schick said it was “basically resolved.”
“It is possible that married men are ordained. We see that in the entire oriental tradition of Catholicism. We see that, as exceptions, when somebody from the Protestant church, as pastor, converts to the Catholic Church,” Schick told LifeSiteNews.
“This could be expanded; that would actually be nothing new,” Schick said. He was hopeful to find a solution with which “as many people as possible” can live.
Later, he explained that he can imagine “a dispensation” given to bishops in the Amazon, which would allow them to ordain properly formed married men to the priesthood.
Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, recently pointed out that making exceptions regarding celibacy for those living in the Amazon region is a mistake.
“An exception is transitory by definition and constitutes a parenthesis in the normal and natural state of things. This was the case of Anglican pastors returning to full communion. But the lack of a priest is not an exception. It is the normal state of any nascent Church, as in the Amazon, or dying Churches, as in the West,” Sarah said in an interview.
He also expressed his fear that the exception would become “a permanent state,” leading to a weakening of the principle of celibacy.
Cardinal Sarah explained that historically, “things are very clear: from the year 305, the Council of Elvira recalls the law, ‘received from the apostles,’ the continence of priests. As the Church was just emerging from the age of martyrdom, one of her first concerns was to affirm that priests must abstain from sexual relations with their wives.”
Cardinal Gerhard Müller, former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said in January that celibacy was asked from bishops, priests, and deacons from the very beginning.
“In the Eastern Church – departing from the tradition of the early Church, and by no means in its continuation – it was allowed to priests and deacons by the Quinisext Council (691/692), which was characteristically held in the imperial palace and not in a church, to continue married life,” Müller clarified.
Nevertheless, he went on, married clergy were still asked to abstain from the marital act “some time before the celebration of the Divine Liturgy.”
Msgr. Spiegel, who, just like Fr. Heinz, was not dressed as a priest, claimed that the statues thrown into the Tiber during the Amazon synod by Austrian Catholic Alexander Tschugguel were not actually Pachamama statues.
He directly contradicted Pope Francis, who told the members of the Amazon Synod, “I would like to say a word about the Pachamama statues that were removed from the church at Traspontina, which were there without idolatrous intentions and were thrown into the Tiber.”
According to Spiegel, the statues only showed “life and abundance of the Amazon region.”
He said there was “no apostasy or idolatry” featuring the Pachamama statues in various religious ceremonies in the Vatican. Instead, he claimed in vague terms, those ceremonies were an expression “of joy, of abundance, also of a vision of fullness of life. This is connected to water.”
Spiegel also said that the people in the Amazon region were not offended by Tschugguel throwing the statues into the Tiber, since water is so important to them.
“He should have been better informed,” Spiegel said, insinuating that Tschugguel’s goal was to offend the indigenous. In reality, his intention was to remove the pagan statues from a Catholic church.