Bishop felix gmur: credible catholicism cannot avoid the equality of women and men

The book "Frauen ins Amt! Men of the Church show solidarity". Among the 102 authors are also voices from Switzerland: for example, Bishop Felix Gmur, the Benedictine Martin Werlen, the Jesuit Niklaus Brantschen and pastoral office director Franz Kreissl.

"Because God wants it that way – women tell of their vocation to be deacons and priests."This is the title of the book that caused a sensation a year ago. Now follows a collection of texts with male answers to them, most of which are two to three pages long.

Bishop Felix Gmur: Inculturation must continue

The book contains texts by 102 men of different generations and positions – from laymen to Cardinal Reinhard Marx. They show solidarity with women’s demands for more participation and leadership responsibilities.

Among the authors are also men from Switzerland. The Bishop of Basel, Felix Gmur, is not explicitly in favor of female Catholic priests. However, he sees "no fundamental theological obstacle" to a woman’s being able to "represent Christ sacramentally and ecclesiastically". "A Catholicism credible in our culture cannot avoid the equality of women and men, which has its reason in the same dignity, but is not exhausted in it, but also needs the arrangement of equal duties and rights. Inculturation in the local culture is not complete. It is a process that continues."

Rethinking the theology of ministry

Gmur writes that he is being scolded as a brakeman when he urges "that it makes sense to reconsider the theology of ministry first, or at least at the same time". But for him the question arises "whether the ordination of women does not contribute to the clericalization of the whole church, which is constantly denounced, also by women. Therefore, I would like to broaden the horizon and ask: What does the church need in order to be a sacrament, a salvific sign for people??"

A revival of the tradition of various ordinations and spiritual commissions promises "not only a new accentuation of the various ministries in the church". She also counteracts clericalism".

Martin Werlen: "Driving was only a distant memory"

The former abbot of Einsiedeln Monastery, Martin Werlen, elaborates on the experience of the double monastery Einsiedeln-Fahr. Self-critically he writes: "In the center was the monastery of Einsiedeln. If at all, the monastery of Fahr was only mentioned as a distant memory."A confrere had once even warned him about the Benedictine Silja Walter, who lives in the Fahr monastery: she has "the impudence to question or rebuke even the priest".

Martin Werlen liked this cheekiness. In his encounters with his fellow sisters, he "realized more and more how deeply rooted the contempt for women is in our community and in the Church.".

Sacrament of Holy Orders is based on Baptism

While there would have been progress in the last decades. Nevertheless, they are still "driving with the handbrake on. In all important decisions in the men’s and women’s community it is the men who decide in the end. Or in other words: the Benedictine nuns of Fahr Monastery run their monastery themselves – as far as the men allow it. This is obviously still far from equality."

Silja Walter

Werlen emphasizes that the sacrament of ordination is based on baptism – and not on the gender of a person. "So I hope that women’s communities will also soon be able to implement what St. Benedict envisions for Benedictine communities: If they need someone with the power of ordination, the person in charge should have a suitable member from the community ordained," Werlen writes.

Niklaus Brantschen: "Without gender-responsive action, the church has no future"

Jesuit Niklaus Brantschen elaborates on his friend Pia Gyger, who died in 2014: "For years I was friends with her. It was a relationship on the level of the heart, a celibate partnership."Pia Gyger has "experienced and witnessed the universal, cosmic dimension of Christ. She knew how to connect the absolute and the relative, eternity and time, heaven and earth in her life and in her teachings."

Niklaus Brantschen, Jesuit and Zen Master

Brantschen is convinced: "None of the arguments used against a priesthood for women holds up. Least of all the sentence: The woman is subject to the man."For the Jesuit it is certain: "Without gender-fair acting the church has no future."

Daniel Bogner: "As a man, I have to live a kind of semi-christianity"

Daniel Bogner is a professor of moral theology and ethics in Freiburg, Germany. "The man as the ‘normal case’ of being human – that is the message that the church sends out with its gender order, sometimes openly, sometimes subtly," Bogner writes. He sees himself as a "crisis winner". Although he is not a cleric, he still has advantages as a man: "Not being a woman can help when it comes to having a say in church committee meetings, to asserting oneself within the dominant male mainstream."

He says it’s "shameful" for him to admit "the shortcuts and byways you’re offered as a man to pragmatically come to terms with the church’s status-programmed basic order. And because one recognizes that one has used these trails of survival so far every now and then."

Bogner is convinced, "As a man, I must be living a kind of semi-Christianity if I forgo so many resources for communicating the faith".

Franz Kreissl: "Opening the Paths of Admission"

The deacon Franz Kreissl heads the pastoral office in the diocese St. Gallen. He describes how he grew up "in a circle of women": "besides my mother, there were five older sisters, all of whom had learned a profession.". But the question of women in the church only became an issue for him later on. Over the years, he says, "the arguments against the diaconate of women – and ultimately against the priesthood of women – have become more and more incomprehensible to him. At the same time the helplessness and powerlessness has grown."

Kreissl formulates six perspectives. Among them: "Acknowledging and overturning historical missteps: Freeing the image of the priesthood from the parenthesis of historical developments (exaltation and monopoly-like position for men in the church) and learning to understand it anew as a charism. Where a relative priesthood is lived, i.e. related to a community, the priest also takes on a completely different role."

And: "There are many excellent women theologians and religious educators, catechists and volunteers, not only in the German-speaking countries. It is only a matter of opening up the channels of admission."

Wolfgang Muller remembers Junia

Wolfgang Muller, deacon and parish chaplain of the diocese of Basel

Wolfgang Muller is a deacon in the diocese of Basel. "Celibacy cannot be justified biblically. In the New Testament, of course, there are married bishops, priests and deacons, and even a female apostle, Junia (Rom 16:7)," Muller writes. He asks "to be touched anew by Jesus of Nazareth and to follow him and not the Essenes or some other monastic ideal". Jesus had built "a fraternal church, not one separated by gender and asymmetrical to each other, but a catholic one (for all) of equal dignity in the best sense".

Nicolaas Derksen: "The consecration of women is a matter of will"

Nicolaas Derksen is a trainer in bibliodrama leadership in Wislikofen AG. He writes: "I often attend liturgical celebrations in Switzerland in parishes where women are leaders, and I experience them as priests. I am happy about that, they do me good, because they often show their faith in a warmer, more communicative, softer and more grounded way. Then it is also important that they receive – Eucharistic – authority, not only from Jesus and their own vocation – they already have that – but also from the church leadership."The refusal to "give women their place" is based on "the fear of men" to lose their power: "The ordination of women is a matter of will."

Parish leader Dorothee Becker leads the communion celebration in the church St. Franziskus in Riehen BS

The book has two other references to Switzerland. Matthias Kloft, a church historian from Limburg, reports on a retreat he went on as a young theology student with the Benedictine nuns in Bruges, Belgium. The prioress at that time had been Sister Felicitas, a Swiss woman. The positive experiences in Bruges also led Matthias Kloft to the conclusion: "Spiritual leadership by women can also be an indispensable enrichment for the ‘ordo sacer’."

Ignatius Lockemann leads the Catholic university community in Mainz. He describes how he participated in an altar consecration in a Christian Catholic church in Switzerland: "The pastor at the time, a dear friend, invited me. There I sat together with many others in liturgical dress in the altar room – touching and (salutary) disturbing at the same time: men and women of all Christian confessions, priests, deacons, pastoral workers, pastors, religious. All together, mixed, of course," writes Lockemann.

Here he experienced "what doesn’t really exist or actually does exist: a community of women and men, a church made up of many and diverse people". Together we celebrated Christ as our center – dreamlike and visionary."

The book "Women into office! Men of the Church stand in solidarity" will be published on 31 December. January 2022 in the Herder publishing house. Published by Philippa Rath, Benedictine nun of Saint Hildegard Abbey in Rudesheim-Eibingen, and Burkhard Hose, university pastor in Wurzburg.

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