Martin Bürger reports for LifeSiteNews –– Bishop Georg Bätzing, the new president of the German Bishops’ Conference, has signaled that he is open to asking Pope Francis for an indult allowing female “deacons” in Germany. An indult is a special permission granted by the Vatican.
In a radio interview on Sunday, Bätzing said he wanted to wait for the Synodal Path to be completed, arguing that a single bishop or even a bishops’ conference would not be able to get an indult from the Vatican.
“A very powerful demeanor is needed here,” he explained. “And it is more powerful if it is formulated jointly by the well-represented people of God in this synodal assembly of bishops and laity. That has more weight.”
The female “diaconate” “could be one of the decisions at the end of the Synodal Path. And if that is decided, I am ready to do so, and as a member of the steering committee I am even obliged to transport it to Rome,” the bishop of Limburg said.
Specifically, Bätzing was asked about the proposal made by German professor of canon law Bernhard Sven Anuth. He had told Zwei Köpfe in November 2019 that the German bishops should ask the Pope for permission to have female “deacons.”
“Not even the canon law for the world Church needs to be changed, but the Pope could create an exception for the area of a bishops’ conference,” Anuth is convinced.
He explained that this idea is nothing new. “This proposal was made by American canon lawyers back in the mid-1990s, and it has been on the table for 25 years. The Würzburg synod had already spoken out in favor of it in the 1970s,” the canon lawyer said. “And Cardinal Lehmann, in the last years of his life, referred to this vote and said that the German bishops should return to it.”
Pope St. John Paul II declared in his 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis that it is ontologically impossible for women to be “ordained.”
Anuth claims the first stage of the sacrament of Holy Orders, the diaconate, is not affected by a prohibition of female priests.
“Benedict XVI has specifically amended the Code of Canon Law to make it clear that deacons do not represent Christ as the head of the Church – which until then was always a central argument against the women diaconate. That was changed in the Catechism in 1997 and in 2010 in canon law,” Anuth elaborated.
He added, “Only after his ordination to the priesthood can a man represent Christ as the head of the Church. And with that, in my opinion, a theological argument against women deacons has been dropped.”
The former head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, argued differently in a 2002 interview. At the time, Müller was not yet a bishop, but a professor of dogmatic theology in Munich.
Müller explained that the sacrament of Holy Orders is one, “as the full exercise in the Holy Spirit of the mission, unique in its origin, of the apostles of Christ, exercised in its fullness by the bishop. According to its degree of specificity, the differentiated participation in it is called presbyterate or diaconate.”
Because of the unity of the sacrament, those three stages of participation cannot be separated from each other. Then, Müller said, “it would be a real discrimination of the woman, if she is considered as apt for the diaconate, but not for the presbyterate or episcopacy.”
“The Church does not ordain women, not because they are lacking some spiritual gift or natural talent, but because—as in the sacrament of marriage—the sexual difference and of the relation between man and woman contains in itself a symbolism that presents and represents in itself a prior condition to express the salvific dimension of the relation of Christ and the Church,” Müller continued.
He pointed out that even the Pope does not have the power to change the Church’s teaching on female “deacons.”
“Keeping the Church’s faith in mind, which is expressed in its dogmatic and liturgical practice, it is all together impossible for the Pope to intervene in the substance of the sacraments, to which the question of the legitimate receiving subject of the sacrament of orders essentially belongs.”