Dear Bishop Voderholzer,
Via the announcement on www.katholisch.de I have heard about your open letter to the participants of the Synodal Way, in which you take issue with the original agreement not being respected and you criticise the low level of theological discussion. You may well be right in this. Whether it is helpful for the further discussions in the Forum to choose this open letter approach, will be decided by those concerned ….
In the following I will try to tell you what concerns me as an “outsider” in this context:
Basically, it is probably always problematic to argue with biblical quotations; it is interesting in every case, to know which positions are used and which are not, which in relation to others are given more weight and which ones fall under the table. I think that it is always important not to take the words of the Holy Scriptures literally, but seriously, especially with reference to the words of Jesus. But taking them seriously also means to reflect their origin in the context of that time. In the context of the social conditions of the time it is self evident, of course, that Jesus for the circle of twelve (as representatives of the tribes of Israel) could only choose men; women had a different role and through their responsibilities in the home were responsible for the sanctification of the people.
I do not need to go into the whole discussion on this subject here; in the Synodal Way there are enough competent theologians represented – it is in any case not that long a time ago, when women were not even considered capable of studying at a university… What a weird image of women is still present in the minds of clerics today and is certainly perceptible for women, would be a different topic.
You are concerned about the level of theological reflection? I ask you, should you not be more concerned about the fact that Jesus’ message of “overflowing” life is not believed by church members,
- when the church or clergy are experienced as hopelessly backward,
- when believers are treated from above by priests and feel they are not taken seriously,
- when the faithful, Sunday after Sunday, experience the loveless reading of the mass and/or the homiletic incompetence of priests,
- when priests and pastoral staff are afraid to speak openly about what they think,
- when priests constantly scrape close to burn-out, because they are overburdened with the responsibility or the amount of work and are incapable of delegation and cooperation,
- when clergy withdraw to administer the sacraments, but otherwise are not able to approach people and communicate with them,
- when foreign-language priests speak German so badly that neither the Gospel nor the read sermon is understandable,
- when priests misuse the image of the shepherd and the flock in order to strangle charisms in the community,
- when the church acts as a moral authority in matters of marriage and family, but its representatives live out their own (homo-) sexuality,
- when clerics own disturbed relationship to physicality and sexuality is clearly noticeable, or they assault children because they cannot cope with their sexuality,
- when monasteries function as “gay communities”, in which the hierarchy is determined by the sexual relationship with the superior,
- when the faithful experience that priests have for years and even decades been in sexual or marital relationships, but that remarried divorced people are not permitted to receive the sacraments,
The list could go on for a long time.
Priests are called to sanctify themselves for the people of God and thus also serve as an example and motivation for the faithful. But “to be holy” cannot mean uptight, superior, arrogant, contemptuous of women, hypocritical, …
And the attribution of the special priesthood to the general priesthood cannot consist in clerics ignoring the “faith of the people” and think that the crisis of faith means simply to sit and wait until God sends more priests again.
I am aware that the admission of women to ordained ministries would not solve all the problems of the church. But at least on this point, the church would win back credibility, because then many believers would feel they were being taken seriously.
The times are over in which the believers saw themselves as a flock of sheep and followed the pastor, without paying attention to where and how they were being led. Parishes with 12,000 faithful also tend to evoke for me the image of factory farming. Follow-up pastoral care in a parish of this size is simply not possible for the parish priest.
And, to stay with this picture:
The shepherd is dependent on the sheep because they represent his livelihood. He should beware moving the herd to a sparse pasture when rich grass is growing next door. The sheep know very well where there is something to eat. Accordingly the shepherd “in real life” often runs beside or behind the sheep …
It is also of no use to the sheep if the shepherd has a doctorate in nutritional science and is full of enthusiasm about the beautiful theories, but forgets to let the sheep out of the pen…
In this spirit, I wish you fruitful discussions!
Munich, 03 Sept. 2020
Sr Hildegard Schreier
Missionary of Christ
Translated from the original German text by Colm Holmes