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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.

  • http://twitter.com/Christomicro Christopher Wright

    What more can I do than pray through gritted teeth for charity towards these **********?

  • Paul

    Obviously these are theologians with no understanding of the roots of Catholicism. There is no authority to ordain women.

  • wojtek

    Is it possible to see the full text not just reports

  • Mtmajor

    Yasmin…

  • http://queering-the-church.com/blog/ Terence Weldon
  • http://queering-the-church.com/blog/ Terence Weldon

    What I found the most important and encouraging aspect of this statement is not just the call to end compulsory celibacy, to ordain women, and the other overdue and vitally necessary specific reforms, but rather the insistence on the urgent need to reform the entire culture of the institutional church. We need, to say, to get away from the legalistic emphasis on moral rigour, and the rigid hierarchical structure, and replace it with – guess what? The Good News of the Gospel.

    “The church has the mission to announce the liberating and loving God of Jesus Christ to all people. The Church can do this only when it is itself a place and a credible witness of the good news of the Gospel. The Church’s speaking and acting, its rules and structures – its entire engagement with people within and outside the Church – is under the standard of acknowledging and promoting the freedom of people as God’s creation. Absolute respect for every person, regard for freedom of conscience, commitment to justice and rights, solidarity with the poor and oppressed: these are the theological foundational standards which arise from the Church’s obligation to the Gospel. Through these, love of God and neighbor become tangible. ”

    Now, it often seems as though the Gospels are the last thing that rule-book Catholics would like to consider, but really, these German theologians are right. I pray that their statement is widely read – and properly considered.

  • http://queering-the-church.com/blog/ Terence Weldon

    What I found the most important and encouraging aspect of this statement is not just the call to end compulsory celibacy, to ordain women, and the other overdue and vitally necessary specific reforms, but rather the insistence on the urgent need to reform the entire culture of the institutional church. We need, to say, to get away from the legalistic emphasis on moral rigour, and the rigid hierarchical structure, and replace it with – guess what? The Good News of the Gospel.

    “The church has the mission to announce the liberating and loving God of Jesus Christ to all people. The Church can do this only when it is itself a place and a credible witness of the good news of the Gospel. The Church’s speaking and acting, its rules and structures – its entire engagement with people within and outside the Church – is under the standard of acknowledging and promoting the freedom of people as God’s creation. Absolute respect for every person, regard for freedom of conscience, commitment to justice and rights, solidarity with the poor and oppressed: these are the theological foundational standards which arise from the Church’s obligation to the Gospel. Through these, love of God and neighbor become tangible. ”

    Now, it often seems as though the Gospels are the last thing that rule-book Catholics would like to consider, but really, these German theologians are right. I pray that their statement is widely read – and properly considered.

  • Francisco Javier

    The Thing is that the Anglican Church order women, and admit all the things that this people had reclaim and…

    SURPRISE!! They are loosing MUCH MORE parishioners than the catholic Church every year.

    So in my opinion, some aspects could be discussed as: “Celibacy” (because it’s just a discipline)…. But others mmmm

    It will be the End of the Church :)

  • António Feyo

    Altough I disagree with all the proposed chnages, the worst of all is the poposed democratic election of Bishops. This is would be the perfect way to destroy the Catholic Church from the inside.

    Plus there is no need for these theologians to remain catholic, they can join any number of protestant churches that cater to their wishes.

  • PhilipH

    The ordination of women in the Anglican Church has not stopped or slowed the decline of that church – it is hardly a resounding success. It is also noticeable that those liberal parts of that church that were most in favor of women priests are those that seem to be declining most rapidly.

  • RJ

    An emphasis on moral virtue, lived by the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, as part of the Good News, might have avoided the abuse scandals. Is that “rule-book” Catholicism? We can have both social justice and personal virtue.

    The Church is hierarchical, as Vatican II taught in Lumen Gentium. It’s not everything but it is essential. Again, it’s not either/ or.

    The ordination of women is not possible: this isn’t just some human regulation. It is rooted in an authoritative discernment of the Lord’s will, as expressed by John Paul II in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. If one doesn’t recognise the Pope’s authority, which is given to protect the Church (and is therefore good news), then one is weakening or breaking the communion that binds us together (and that communion of heart and mind is also part of the Good News).

  • Grandad

    Who defines what a “Catholic theologian” is? Do I ‘qualify’ as I pray to God and wonder why I was made?

  • Francisco Javier

    “If the liberal parts are declining more rapidly” it’s because they don’t offer anything.

    Thay have just becomes AS THE WORLD… Not Salt, not Light… Just as the World. They give the world what they want and… They become part of it just in opposition to Jesus: “They World Hate you because you are not from this World”…

    So they try to “atract” the World… And Finally they reach the total decadency of the Church… BEcause if the Church is just as the World sais… which deferences has it (the church) with a ONG? xD So it doesn’t mean anything to belong to the Church anymore.

    I don’t know how are things in England… But here in Spain you can detect these tendecy towards it leads…

    There is a Journal called Religión Digital and as they want to please the Worl so hardly they have reached this positions:

    “Everyone is going to reach Heaven.”
    “Christ was only a Man”.
    “The church must be rulled by laity and priest must dissapear”.
    “Every sin is admitted because Jesus forgiven them” (For example: Adultery is licit because Jesus forgave that woman”…

    You see the consequences of mmm “Liberal people”…

    For me they are not heretics… They are just not christians.

    So as I said, if they take the control of the Church… It will be the End ;) Specially if the manage to be able to elect bishops or priests… They will elect just the ones who “allows more to the parishioners” and not the saint ones.

  • RJ

    “Canon law deserves its name only when the faithful can truly make use of their rights.”

    One right I can think of is that of the faithful and especially seminarians, to receive the Gospel unadulerated by dissident theology. That would be a major step forward. Moral confusion may be one cause of the abuse crisis.

  • Stewart Griffin

    “The German bishops have said two-thirds of all parishes will not have their own priest by 2020″, the faith does not change because pews are not full. If the early Christians could deal with being thrown to the lions then contemporary Germans can deal with a vocation crisis. As an aside: if you want to increase vocation then turn towards tradition, not away.

    “ordain women”, this goes against the infallible teaching of the Church. If this is ever enacted it would be clear and unequivocal proof that the Church is a fraud using superstition to justify itself as an institution.

    “allow lay people to help select bishops”, popularity does not a Bishop make. This is a Protestant notion, much like everything else these Bishops seem to want. If these are their true desires, why are they still Catholics?

    “Most of the changes sought by the theologians have no chance of being adopted by the Catholic Church”, of course: “And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18)

  • Anonymous

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

    Really? Most of the “reforms” that have been forced on the Faithful since Vatican II seem to have had just the opposite effect according to the near-empty seminaries and the greatly depleted Mass-goings.

    “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 Church’s need for married clergy and women priests is about as great as its need for these 143 “Catholic” Theologians. How much notice will the German Bishops take of these professorial proposals? Will they consign them to the waste paper basket, or will they lend their support? Forty years ago, it would not have been necessary to even ask the question.

    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.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but since when have these professors (and the German Bishops, come to that) thought that they had any say in the shepherding of the Flock? The Roman Catholic Church is not a democratic organisation. It is hierarchical and its leader was put in authority by Christ Himself.

    Surely the German Bishops have more pressing needs on their September agenda than to discuss dissenting proposals such as the 143 professors are putting forward?

  • James

    All the proposals are bogus, except for one – one which should be introduced with immediate effect:

    The possibility for priests to marry!

    It already happens in certain sections of the Catholic Church (Uniate churches – Maronite, Greek-Catholic etc). They are Catholics, their head is the Pope and they MARRY.

  • chrriss

    These theologians should leave us alone and go join the churches they are talking about. They already exist, so go to them. Shame on you for calling yourselves Catholic!

  • Ryan

    I read the bible and think about God a lot. Am I a Catholic theologian? The thing is they sure as heck don’t seem very Catholic. Where is their sense of Catholic Christian tradition?

  • TomSammy

    They are not the only ones shouting for an end to celibacy. Check out these links from IRELAND and look what the neo-Redemptorists are at….. SHOCKING!

    Newly ordained Redemptorists on The Late Late Show – wouldn’t St. Alphonsus be so proud of them!
    So embarrassing…
    Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=saMYwJZhckA
    Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNfik3g9MQk
    Part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hIMEYJ8eXM4&feature=related
    Part 4: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xHk7rMxxBYU&feature=related

    Newly ordained Redemptorist Priests on TV (Part 6) – Watch all 6 parts on youtube.

    Rev. SUPERIOR at his best

    “Rev. Woman Priest” proclaiming the Gospel AND preaching

    Fr. Tony Rice’s INAPPROPRIATE jokes – watch from 3:40 on

    Very sad indeed……..

  • http://lxoa.wordpress.com Shane

    How exactly did the Church in western Europe get hijacked by fifth columnists and why hasn’t anyone done anything about it?

  • RJ

    On a point of detail: they are called for “women in church ministry” rather than women’s ordination. From my own acquaintance with people from this school of thought, I don’t think it would be the same thing. Of course, one may think that there is too much ‘ministry’ these days – the tea-making ‘ministry’, the church cleaning ‘ministry’ etc.

  • RJ

    Sorry: I meant “calling for…”

  • Karl

    Are you sure these are not American Theologians?

  • RJ

    Do you think that would dramatically improve the situation? Other factors come to mind: a moral renewal, reliable doctrinal education, a new evangelisation…

  • Rosanne Santos

    According to CARA, the Vatican’s own statistical source, there are over 50,000 churches and 100,000 missions in the world that have no priest. And yet, priests who marry are kicked out. Mandatory celibacy unnecessarily constrains the number of priests. There is no shortage of priests in denominations that do not require celibacy. A cross-denominational research study published in America magazine concludes “the Catholic Church is unique [among religions] in several areas: the dwindling supply of priests, the increasing number of lay people per priest, the declining number of priests per parish, [and] the increasing number of priestless parishes” (Davidson 2003). While celibacy rules constrain the number of priests, they are not necessary. In a July 18, 1993 New York Times article, “Pope Seeks to Clarify Reasons for Celibacy” Pope John Paul II said that celibacy “does not belong to the essence of priesthood.”

  • Anonymous

    I hear the Anglicans are looking for priests, they would be made very welcome there,as the liberals are doing a very good job at distroying that church, maybe these 140 misguided theologians could give them a hand, and finish off the English church once and for all.

  • LeFloch

    We certainly need women in the tea-making and church-cleaning ministries! Not to mention flower-arranging!
    Clearly these ‘theologians’ do not qualify for the name ‘Catholic’. If you thought things couldn’t get any worse in the crazy post-conciliar world, people (including bishops) seem to be taking these lunatics seriously.

  • LeFloch

    Ok, I’ve considered it. It’s garbage. Next……………

  • Peter

    Is there any authority to invite a female minister of a Protestant denomination, i.e. Methodist, to preach the sermon during mass in a Catholic Church? Yet this indeed is what is happening. It is the thin edge of the wedge to get us accustomed to the eventual arrival of female ministers in the Church.

  • Diffal

    The theology of the Me-gesterium: “and We shall make god in Our own image” did any of them bother to nail it to a church door this time round?

  • GFFM

    pseudo Catholic universities and colleges in the US. The lack of imagination, the 1960s arguments, the tired and topical “theology” they spout I have heard for years. They have not read anything new, nor have they had a new idea since their leader Hans Kung said all of this 30+ years ago. What we have here is the same old, same old: a functional and instrumental view of the priesthood, an unbiblical view of the indissolubility of marriage, a purely relativistic view of human sexuality, an unenlightened and base view of human fertility, a repudiation of the sacred, and a view of male and female differences informed by a passe Marxist viewpoint. It’s all been said before by every tenured and entrenched radical in the Church.

  • Anonymous

    Not one of those 150 theologians any longer holds the Catholic Faith, every one is a heretic. It was principally German, Austrian, Swiss and Belgian theologians who inserted ambiguous “time bombs,” as Michael Davies called them, into the documents of Vatican II, which were later interpreted and applied in a non-Catholic way to the Faith. Now the same liberal Nazis are trying to despoil the Church of her morality.

    I wonder how the Church ever managed for two thousand years without married clergy, homosexual unions, women priests and divorced couples!! The truth is that the Faith is disappearing as a result of the liberal Vatican II. The sooner the Pope rediscovers his authority and uses it as his predecessors did with heretics and dissenters, the sooner all things will be restored in Christ.

    Note the last statement of the article above: “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.”

    There’s the real crux of the matter, these people have a diabolical hatred for the Catholic Mass in the Tridentine Latin rite, the Mass of the ages which expresses perfectly the Sacrifice of Our Lord on Calvary. They thought they were rid of it, just like their fellow Protestants of the XVI century. Now they are clawing and scratching because the Pope has restored that sacred rite that sanctified the saints and martyrs. They are furious.

    If anyone wants to know why the faith is in decline and why there are so many scandals, including clerical abuse of minors, there’s the answer. When the Tridentine Mass went, the spiritual heart was ripped out of the Catholic Faith.

  • Anonymous

    António, democracy was introduced into the Church with Collegiality at Vatican II. This is the re-surfacing of an old heresy called ‘Gallicanism,’ which essentially means that the Pope is now considered merely as “the first amongst equals.” Why do you think all these Bishops’ Conferences now exist? They exist to relieve bishops of their divine duty to individually rule, subject only to the Pope, their own dioceses, and impose a democratic ‘majority vote’ system to force through unilateral liberal changes. So now if a particular bishop disagrees with a change that he thinks dangerous to Catholic faith and morals, but is voted down by a majority of other bishops, he has to go with the majority.

  • Anonymous

    And what about the Gospel condemnation of divorce and adultery? What about St. Paul’s clear condemnation of homosexual activity? What about Our Lord’s choosing of men, not women, as His Apostles? What about the example of the celibate St. John of the Cross, the only disciple who stood firm at the foot of the Cross with the Virgin Mother, whose purity won for him the singular title of “the disciple whom Jesus loved?” If this is not a clear image of a celibate priesthood deigned by God, then I don’t know what is.

    You view matters from a purely natural perspective, my friend, just like Protestants and philanthropists. The Catholic Church is supernatural. She’s there by divine ordinance to save souls for eternity, not alter her teaching to suit an immoral and indifferent generation! Salvation doesn’t come with ease, but by warfare. You would do well to remember that, it’s part of the “Good News of the Gospel.”

  • Anonymous

    No, celibacy must never be discussed because it is much more than a discipline, it is the very heart of the sacred priesthood. Our Lord was celibate, as was the “disciple whom Jesus loved.” The priest is “another Christ,” hence he must be like Christ. He wears black to symbolise his death to the world and to the flesh that he may be worthy of the grace of his vocation.

    The divine love of Our Lord in a celibate priest should exclude all longing for carnal things. But if the priest be both spiritual and carnal, then, doesn’t that mean he is like the “house divided” that Our Lord referred to in the Gospels. You’ll generally find that when divine love becomes weak in souls there is a natural gravitation towards earthy forms of comfort and pleasure. That’s why sex has become such an obsession in our time. The love of God is dying in souls today, more than it has in any other period of history, and so, since God created the soul to desire happiness, people are turning to earthly carnal pleasures in a forlorn attempt to satiate that desire. But the desire is for heavenly happiness. It cannot be satisifed with sex.

  • Anonymous

    I think it’s the Communist Party that defines today what a Catholic theologian is, Grandad. After all, they’re almost all revolutionaries!

  • Anonymous

    I take it your prayer is replete with colourful metaphors? I pray that God will send us a witchfinder general to rid the Church of these malicious influences!!

  • Anonymous

    Simple, Ryan, they’ve lost it.

  • Anonymous

    Those 150 theologians should be dubbed “The Red Brigade!”

  • Anonymous

    Exactly, GFFM. The difference now, though, is that there are many more of them crawling out from under the floorboards and they’re bordering on formal schism. Germany is particulary close to formal schism with Rome on a number of issues. The Pope should act decisively with these dissenters.

  • http://victor-undergo.blogspot.com/ Victor

    For what “IT” is worth, we must try to remember that Our Lord Jesus Christ started The Catholic Church through His Apostles Pierre which is French for Peter and for a few months I’ve been praying the Rosary for our Priest and I’ve asked God in prayer what He thinks we Christians should do about these issues of priest getting married and woman in the priesthood just to name a few and to make a long story short, this is what I think He quietly said to me.

    Victor, if you look at The 3RD Glorious Mystery, you can see The Beginning of My Church and you can’t see any Glorious Building but only My Faithful Apostles and their Mother who I gave to them and as you know in Faith The Holy Spirit has always been with them and He still is now. Tell all My Children that they have nothing to fear because, I, ME, Myself is still with all of My Children and tell them that I stands for Jesus Christ, Me, The Holy Spirit and Myself is The Father so in other Words “I” AM “The Blessed Trinity” and during “Eternity” I want to share “IT” with every “ONE” of My Children and they should know that nothing is impossible for Me. “IT” is also true that I want all Gentle People to have a chance to share the same “JOY” in “TIME” and they will if they keep the “Faith” just like some in the pass did.

    Victor tell them to look into their heart and not to harden what they might feel so strong about at this time because remind them that just “ONE” MAN with the help of My Father and The Holy Spirit brought this all about and for anyone, no matter how many supporters they might have on there side will not make “IT” Right to try and speed “IT” UP in their own way because time is but a momment for Me.

    Victor, tell them that if they really do truly want to speed “IT” UP then, tell them to sell all they own and give “IT” to the poor and then go out day and night, taking nothing with them but their clothes on their back and no money in their belt but be assured that the world will call them crazy. Tell them that if they truly believe in The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit, they will not worry about how many Churches they might need to close down because that is the last thing that I am worried about but I ask you Victor do they really truly believe in Me or AM I just a nice guy who once walked the earth.

    Victor, don’t worry about what might happen and send this now cause writing a hundred books would not help if My Children have lost their faith and Love in Me.

    God Bless Peace

  • Ronk

    That is incorrect. There is nothing in Church law which requires any bishop to go along with any decision made by his national or regional bishops’ conference, even if the decision was unanimous bar one. A bishop doesn’t even have to join or attend any bishops’ conference if he doesn’t want to. The purpose of national and regional bishops conferences is merely to allow individual bishops to coordinate their actions insofar as they wish to do so. The only bishops conference which has any power over a bishop is the universal bishops’ conference, i.e. an ecumenical council, and then only when its decisions are ratified by the Pope.

  • http://catholicwithattitude.blogspot.com Shaun (Catholic with Attitude)

    ‘I hear the Anglicans are looking priests’

    You’ve hit the nail on the head here. The Church of England, which ordains women and married clergy (and in America at least, clerymen and women of homosexual orientation) YET…. they’re still short on clergy. We’re not going to resolve the issue of few priests in our countries by just scrapping celibacy and allowing women, which we can’t anyway. When less and less people are getting married and those who do get married often end up divorsed, why on earth is this seen a sustainable method for ‘recruiting’ new priests? I think on a deanery level, relationships between priests and parishes need to be tightened. Priests should come together maybe once a month for supper and perhaps there ought to be an evening of prayer in one of the parishes, gathered for Vespers and Adoration perhaps, in order to strengthend collegial bonds between brother priests. Having a wife is not the only option for solving lonliness – strengthening that bond of love, through prayer particularly, between friends is just as important.

  • Francisco Javier

    I didn’t admit Celibacy is a wrong discipline… I am of your opinion because I consider celibacy is marvelous for priests.

    But we can’t denay that Ordinariate of Walsham will have married priests or Catholic Ortodoxian Churches have married priests…

    So the thing is able to be discussed because is not a Dogma, just a Discipline… A wonderful discipline, but not fixed forever (or maybe yes).

    The Church is the One that has to study this.

  • The Pilgrim

    So the Catholic Church, which a whole lot of people actually attend, needs to be more like the Episcopal church in the United States, which almost nobody attends anymore. What am I missing here?

  • Anonymous

    You’ve explained how it’s supposed to work in theory, while I’ve explained what goes on in practice. You really should read about the events that took place at the USCCB when Communion in the hand was illicitly proposed and pushed through. Besides that, when was the last time you heard of any bishop anywhere taking a different stance from the Bishops’ Conference? Never, I’ll bet.

  • Anonymous

    I wasn’t having a go at you, Francisco. I just wanted to emphasise the importance of priestly celibacy. I know we both share the same Catholic belief in the matter. God bless.

  • Conchúr

    Wrong, wrong, wrong. No Catholic or Orthodox Church allows priests to marry. Never have and never will. Married men have and are ordained priests, a completely different thing altogether.

  • Wilbert

    Correct!