Bishop Bätzing

Bishop Georg Bätzing

Martin Bürger reports for LifeSiteNews : The president of the German Bishops Conference said he considers “the female diaconate to be very legitimate.”

During an interview last week with Deutschlandfunk, a public radio station in Germany, Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg talked extensively about the role of women in the Church, not only signaling his openness to women “deacons” but presenting arguments that could also be used to introduce female “priests” or even “bishops.”

Bätzing said his position on female “ordination” “is very clear.”

“I became a priest,” he said, “and as a bishop I am bound in obedience to the teaching of the Church. Pope John Paul II made it clear in (Ordinatio Sacerdotalis): This is binding teaching of the Church. He at least wanted to make that clear.”

“There is also fundamental theological doubt as to whether this is already really binding. But in this respect for me it is a question of obedience. In discussions – and you can imagine that I am actually always asked about this – try to meet this obedience by presenting the arguments as they are called.”

Then Bätzing proceeded to question his “very clear” position. “But I also say to this, and I say this also to Rome and in Rome, that I notice, that in many cases, these arguments are not taken up anymore. And what is an argumentation, which cannot be understood or not accepted? In this respect, I say: for me the question is not closed, but it is there in the church as an open question and must be treated as such.”

The bishop said that traditionally, Catholics argued for an all-male priesthood by referring to the fact that the priest represents Christ’s relationship to the Church, thus reflecting “the relationship of a love between bride and bridegroom.”

Bätzing continued, “The question is crucial: How can this basic law, this watermark of the Church, be represented? Does it need a man for this, who then represents Christ the priest? Or can this also be done by a woman? This is certainly the case today in the completely different culture of discussion and social culture, where one can abstract from it, than it was in earlier times.”

He referred to Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

“This is related to baptism,” Bätzing said. “But can it end with this, with baptism? That is the question for me. The ‘Jews and Greeks’ already the apostles, the very early church had to clarify, in the question of the mission to the Gentiles and what is imposed on those who are not already Jews before they become Christians. In the Council of the Apostles, there were fierce arguments about this. The question has been clarified.”

“On the question of ‘slaves and free,’ it is not so long ago that we recognized the clear equality of all people within the Church,” he continued. “Then we had to laboriously accept again something that had emigrated from the Church and came to us through the Enlightenment and the demands of the revolution and the democracy movement.”

“I sometimes wonder whether we are not at this point today in the question of ‘male and female,’ to say: Here, Christian values have driven the social discussion so far and brought it so far that we as a Church must at some point also take up the issue and say: ‘Yes, there is no separation between male and female, because you are all one in Christ.’”

According to Bätzing, the sensus fidelium or sense of faith “plays a role in the development of teaching, alongside Scripture and Tradition and the Magisterium.”

This sense of faith, on the question of female “ordination,” “is not only present in women, but also in many men, that this is felt to be something unjust, that there is exclusion at this level of the sacramental for women. In this respect, I would say: I am not only a moderator, but I also make this my own.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes the sensus fidelium not as a vehicle to change Church teaching but as “this appreciation of the faith, aroused and sustained by the Spirit of truth,” whereby “the People of God, guided by the sacred teaching authority (Magisterium) … receives … the faith, once for all delivered to the saints … the People unfailingly adheres to this faith, penetrates it more deeply with right judgment, and applies it more fully in daily life.”

Bätzing made clear that he did not see the demand for female “ordination” in and of itself as an extreme position.

“I said: access to all offices NOW, that is an extreme position, it is not to be expected. The question: ‘Can women be incorporated into these sacramental offices?’ – only a council will be able to answer that. Who else should have such authority?”

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