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European theologians call for end to priestly celibacy

By on Monday, 7 February 2011

Germany's bishops said they would discuss the proposals at a meeting in March (Photo: CNS)

Germany's bishops said they would discuss the proposals at a meeting in March (Photo: CNS)

More than 140 Catholic theologians from universities in Austria, Germany and Switzerland have called for the Church to end priestly celibacy, ordain women and allow lay people to help select bishops, among other changes.

The 143 professors said their appeal was made in response to the clergy sexual abuse scandals that surfaced in Europe last year and that they no longer could remain silent in the face of what they say is a lingering crisis within the Catholic Church.

The theologians, who also called for the Church to welcome same-sex couples and divorced and remarried couples, said their statement was issued to open a discussion about the future of the Church.

“We have the responsibility to contribute to a new start,” the statement said.

Judith Konemann, a professor from Munster and one of the signatories, told the German daily Suddeutsche Zeitung: “It looks like we struck a nerve.”

Most of the changes sought by the theologians have no chance of being adopted by the Catholic Church. The Church teaches that it has no right to ordain women to the priesthood, and that any sexual activity outside of marriage, understood to be between a woman and a man only, is sinful.

Regarding divorce and remarriage, in the Catholic Church civil divorce doesn’t exclude one from the sacraments. A person cannot receive the sacraments if he or she remarries outside the Church while still bound by a previous marriage.

The German bishops’ conference said it would discuss the proposals at a meeting in March. Pope Benedict XVI will visit his native Germany on September 22 to 25.

The theologians’ appeal comes two weeks after a group of prominent German politicians urged the bishops to ordain older married men because of the dwindling number of priests.

The German bishops have said two-thirds of all parishes will not have their own priest by 2020 and have embarked on an effort to merge parishes in response.

The statement said that enacting the reforms would attract people back to the Church.

“The Church needs married priests and women in Church ministry,” the theologians said. The Church should not “shut out people who live in love, loyalty and mutual support as same-sex couples or remarried divorced people”, they said.

The professors also questioned actions by Pope Benedict that have brought back older worship practices. “The liturgy must not be frozen in traditionalism,” they said.

  • Cllist

    Bishops should be elected by their clergy, nuns and laity in their diocese. They have a tremendous responsibility and impact on their priests and nuns

  • Canonist

     Many people talk about sense, non sense, fairness etc. The church talks about truth and the bible and cannot u turn easily. Both Popes (JP1 and B16 indicated they were notinfallible. Both popes were keen to deconstruct the idea of papal primacy. Both were keen to kin of overhaul their offices to make them “First among equals” only. But sad to say nothing happens. This Popesaid that in theearly church there were women preachers, there were Prophetess in the bible. Who is Ruth and Esther then? meaning he had no objection to women priests. He also pointed outin one of his many preachings that St.Peter was married, indicating he could consider married priests.

    Now he goes leaving everything hanging….. I think the sexual abuse scandal and the betrayal by the butler, a Judas like betrayal (whom he looked on as a son) just overwhelmed him. There is no problem with this Pope. he was the first to deal with the scandal when the CDF was assigned responsibility in 2001. Others like Cardinals Re and Gantin did nothing. This Pope is not the problem. How can this Pope be the problem…. He is intelligent, knows his theology inside out, holy, courageous, humble (a humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord? Remember? He himself said he was humble without boosting?)

    He might want to do many things but his hands are tied by previous Popes decisions and previous Councils doctrines. If you ignore the previous councils and the early church fathers you might soon get to to the point to say that the magisterum of the church cannot and has no right to teach. If you get there everything comes undone. That is a very dangerous place to lead to….