“Courageous women can also be needed today”

Abuse debate, ordination of women priests and the "synodal way" of the German bishops: Cardinal Emeritus of the Curia Walter Kasper looks forward to developments in the Church. With one of these topics, however, he sees no leeway.

Cardinal Emeritus of the Curia Walter Kasper says he is eager to see the possible results of the reform debate announced by the German bishops.

At the same time, in an interview with the Frankfurter Rundschau (Tuesday), he expressed skepticism about the ability to make decisions on ies of Church-wide significance within the framework of the desired "synodal path," which, moreover, has not yet been clearly defined. Binding decisions can only be made by a synod "on a clear canonical basis".

After intense wrangling, the German bishops had decided on a "binding synodal path" in the spring of 2019. The main ies are power, ecclesiastical sexual morality and the way of life of priests. With the cooperation of lay Catholics and external experts, the bishops want to clarify their positions on these ies. The abuse scandal had plunged the church into a crisis of confidence, with calls for reform growing louder.

Amazon synod as an example?

The Amazon Synod convened by Pope Francis in the fall could serve as an example, Kasper continued. "Eight regional bishops' conferences are responsible there."If, for example, the bishops were to ask by common consent that married men – so-called viri probati – be ordained priests, "in my estimation, the pope would in principle be prepared to do so," the cardinal said.

To the objection that then again it could be said that questions of faith must be decided uniformly throughout the world church, Kasper answered that the "viri probati" are not a question of faith. "The celibacy of ordained ministers has an inner closeness to it, but it is not a dogma, not an unalterable practice. I am very much in favor of maintaining celibacy as a binding form of life with undivided commitment to the cause of Jesus Christ. But that doesn't rule out married people taking on priestly ministry in special situations."

"Ordination of women to the priesthood not possible"

Meanwhile, Kasper considers the ordination of women to the priesthood in the Catholic Church impossible. Pope John Paul II. Has "definitively stated" that the Church has no authority to ordain women priests. Kasper went on to say that Pope Francis also sees himself bound by this.

For the priestly office there is "on the basis of the New Testament an uninterrupted tradition not only in the Catholic Church, but in all churches of the first millennium, according to which the ordination of priests and correspondingly the ordination of bishops is reserved for men," Kasper said. "This tradition was also true in the Lutheran churches and in the Anglican churches until about the last third of the 20th century. Century."

In the discussion about ordaining women deacons, the 86-year-old, who is considered an important theological guarantor of the pope, sees "little movement at the moment". The interpretation of the historical evidence among respected experts varies, he said. The pope had specially appointed a commission for this purpose, which, however, did not come to a clear result.

Quiet criticism of initiative "Maria 2.0"

Not all leadership roles in the Church require ordination, however, Kasper stressed. "It seems to me more important that already today women are doing ten times more as parish and pastoral ministers, as communion helpers and lectors, in charity and catechesis, theology and administration, than the deaconesses of that time ever did." Every diocese and every parish would "collapse tomorrow" without this service of women, the cardinal underlined. "It would be important to make this ministry liturgically visible and to recognize it publicly."

Kasper expressed concerns with regard to protest actions such as "Maria 2.0" or the "Day of the Deaconess", with which Catholic women campaign for an opening of the ordination offices. He doubts that a church strike is an appropriate method: "In any case, one should not instrumentalize the Blessed Virgin Mary for this purpose." However, this does not exclude "the need to respond to the questions raised and to take the steps that are possible as soon as possible".

Kasper further emphasized, "St. Catherine of Siena was neither a deacon nor a priest, but she accomplished far more than all the cardinals of the time combined."St. Hildegard of Bingen publicly read the riot act to the clergy of Cologne and elsewhere in sermons in a way that no bishop or pope could afford today, the cardinal said: "Such courageous women, filled with the Spirit of God, can also be used today."

In favor of ecclesiastical administrative tribunals

"Reappraisal and prevention" are the order of the day in the fight against abuse in the Catholic Church, according to Cardinal Emeritus of the Curia Walter Kasper. It is necessary to create "spaces of openness," Kasper said: "Spaces where those affected can speak openly, where they find open ears and where consequences are then also drawn in all openness."

The former bishop of Rottenburg-Stuttgart explained that in his time as bishop he had had the problem in dealing with suspected cases that the families of the victims had often stonewalled "massively": "They wanted to prevent at all costs that what had happened would become public in any way. This meant that my hands were pretty much tied as a bishop with the legal possibilities of that time. So, awareness is the be-all and end-all."

Unlike his brother Gerhard Ludwig Muller, for example, the cardinal spoke out in favor of ecclesiastical administrative courts as instances where complaints could be lodged. Muller had suggested that laymen could not possibly sit in judgment on bishops.

"I see it differently," Kasper said. "After all, it is not a question of judging people, but their decisions. Administrative acts of the Church must comply with the rules of the Church. This should actually be a matter of course and a basic prerequisite for episcopal action."

In addition, an administrative court itself does not make laws, but only checks compliance with the existing laws. "If something like this happened in the Church, it would immensely sharpen every bishop's sense of fidelity to the law and conformity to it. Requiring a bishop to comply with his own laws or the laws of Rome is neither unreasonable nor does it unduly restrict the bishop. It would not take anything away from his authority in the theological sense, but on the contrary, it would strengthen his authority, contribute to more transparency and credibility."

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Christina Cherry
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