“Disarm verbally”

Father Bernd Hagenkord © Francesco Pistilli (CBA)

The spiritual director of the Synodal Way, Father Bernd Hagenkord, has called for moderation in the debate within the Church. "Nerves are on edge, the tone is getting harsher, and instead of debate, inflexibilities are clashing".

One should not leave the field to the "extremes," the Jesuit warned with regard to the conflict over the theologian Johanna Rahner and Passau's Bishop Stefan Oster in the church newspaper of the diocese of Linz.

If one allows "that these statements carry the debate, then it breaks apart," said Hagenkord. "We are massively scaring people off by the internal church bickering." One should "take a breath, not get loud and think: What is the background for the fact that Professor Rahner is mistaken in terminology? What is the background of Bishop Oster's reaction?? One can talk about it. But the prerequisite is that we first disarm verbally."

Bishop Oster criticized church media

Rahner, a theology professor from Tubingen, had made a connection between discrimination against women in the church and racism at a conference. The exaggeration that a person who is against the ordination of women is a "racist" did not come from Rahner.
Bishop Oster sharply criticized the statement. He saw Catholics "loyal to the magisterium" vilified, questioned the funding of church media because Rahner's statements had been reported, and asked whether "of all things, our own media must deliberately exacerbate existing polarizations".

Hagenkord stressed that the majority of delegates to the Synodal Way are interested in "constructively shaping the structure and content of church life for the future. But there are also the extremes who are quick to speak of division," stressed the former head of the German-language section of Vatican Radio. "This is loud, comes mainly from outside Germany, but is repeated here by interested parties," Hagenkord said.

In the Synodal Way, German bishops and lay representatives have been discussing the future of the Catholic Church since 2019. The starting point is a years-long church crisis that the abuse scandal has exacerbated. The debate is primarily about power, priesthood and sexual morality, as well as the role of women in the church.

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Christina Cherry
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