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It is really high time!

· ​Intervention at the Synod on Young People ·

The Instrumentum laboris criticizes that “The rage of young people in the face of rampant corruption, growing structural inequality, contempt for human dignity, human rights violations, discrimination against women [in the Church too] and minorities, organized violence, and injustice does not seem to be taken into due account, if we look at the responses given by the Bishops’ Conferences” (n. 128).

Jean Guitton “The Church at the Time of the Council” (1962)

In 2013 the German Bishops with a declaration engaged: tangibly to increase the number of women in those leadership roles in the Church that are accessible to all lay people, to extend from the both theological and pastoral points of views the participation of women (and of lay people in general) in the tasks of leadership in the Church and to promote a gender-sensitive form of pastoral care in theology, as well as in practice.

In order to put this declaration into practice various projects were initiated.

In 2015 the German Bishops confronted one another theologically in Gemeinsam Kirche sein (“being Church together”), with questions of leadership in the Church by women too.

A monitoring programme for women in the Church (Hildegardis-Verein, together with the German Bishops’ Conference) has clearly shown the multiplicity of leadership functions in the Church and has trained almost 100 women for a leadership task in the Church.

In the course of a study day the German Bishops were involved in the debate on gender and faced broader issues too, concerning anthropology and sexual morality, the theology of the sacraments and ministries, as well as a greater gender justice in the Church going beyond the traditional gender roles and egalitarian role models.

The thorough study in 2018 Sexueller Missbrauch an Minderjährigen durch katholische Priester, Diakone und männliche Ordensangehörige im Bereich der Deutschen Bischofskonferenz (“Sexual abuse of minors by priests, deacons and members of Catholic orders in the context of the German Bishops’ Conference”) points out above all “clerical structures and a clerical management in the Catholic Church”, which have contributed to such widespread sexual abuse and to its cover up in the Church. Women in leadership positions make a crucial contribution to breaking the closed clerical circles.

If, as the Instrumentum laboris asks, the Church wishes to promote the dignity of women (cf. 158), it is not enough to repeat the pertinent texts of the Magisterium. We must face the requests of young people, often inconvenient and pressing, for the equality of women in the Church too. We can no longer reacquire a culture of confrontation in order to insert ourselves, by arguing and offering guidelines in social debates on important issues of humanity such as sexuality, the role of women and of men and the way in which human relationships relations are formed. And, out of love for credibility, we must increasingly involve women in leadership tasks at all levels in the Church, from the parish to the diocese, to the Bishops’ Conference and even to the Vatican itself. We must really want this and must also put it into practice!

The impression that whenever it is a question of power the Church is basically a Church of men should be overcome both in the universal Church and here in the Vatican too. Otherwise young women will not find with us a true possibility of fulfilment. It is really high time!

Reinhard Marx,
Cardinal Archbishop of Munich and Freising,
President of the German Bishops’ Conference




St. Peter’s Square

Sept. 20, 2019