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Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich arrives for the opening session of the Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment at the Vatican Oct 3. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

WASHINGTON (CNS) — German Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising called for change in long-standing church teachings as the German bishops' conference prepares for a workshop debate to "review" the issue of celibacy for priests.

In his homily at New Year's Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady in Munich, Cardinal Marx said the church must, "in light of the failure" surrounding the clergy sex abuse crisis, be open to modifying church teaching in response to changing modern times.

"I believe the hour has come to deeply commit ourselves to open the way of the church to renewal and reform," Cardinal Marx said, according to an audio of the homily posted on the archdiocesan website. "Evolution in society and historical demands have made tasks and urgent need for renewal clear to see."

"I believe the hour has come to deeply commit ourselves to open the way of the church to renewal and reform."

The cardinal, who is president of the German bishops' conference, said that current measures to address sex abuse are not enough without revisiting church teachings. "Yes, matters are about development and improvement and prevention and independent reviews—but more is also demanded," he said.

"I am certain that the great renewal impulse of the Second Vatican Council is not being truly led forward and understood in its depth. We must further work on that," he said. "Further adaptations of church teachings are required."

The cardinal's statements coincide with plans to openly debate the issue of celibacy at the German bishops' permanent council meeting in the spring. The bishops have said the workshop during the meeting is a direct response to the abuse crisis.

Despite the Vatican's call for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops not to vote in November on several proposals for responding to the sexual abuse crisis because of a lack of time given the Vatican to study the proposals and potential conflicts with church law, the German bishops plan to host numerous ecclesiastical and secular professionals from various disciplines to analyze celibacy.

Pressure to end mandatory priestly celibacy has risen in Germany following the renewal of the sex abuse scandal last year. The history and purpose of priestly celibacy is now a hotly contested issue in Germany, as sexual freedom is a core principle of modern German culture.

Secular media outlets have advocated the abolition of celibacy saying it is an outdated practice. German Catholics also have become skeptical of celibacy because of the tremendous influence of Protestantism on Christianity in the country. Last November, the lay Central Committee of German Catholics has voted by a large majority to abolish mandatory celibacy for priests.

"Truth is not final. We can recognize it deeper in the shared path of the church," Cardinal Marx said in his homily. He said he will take new stances on issues because it is his "duty as a priest and a bishop" to do so.

He added that Catholics must "leave behind categories like left and right, liberal and conservative and concentrate on the path of the Gospel in a concrete point in time."

"Turn yourselves to a new thinking. To risk this thinking is important at the end of year and the beginning of a new year -- not a flight into the rhetoric of the past," he said.

"Naturally we stand in a great tradition -- but this is not a complete tradition. It is a path into the future."

In conclusion, Cardinal Marx said that 2019 will be filled with "unrest and opposition" within the church because of any proposed changes in church teaching, "but this new thinking is required."

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Sharon Younes
5 years 4 months ago

I agree. Celibacy should be a choice. All i see it in my lifetime? Probably not. But i pray it becomes an open door in the future..

Nora Bolcon
5 years 4 months ago

More Facts for Catholics who actually care about ending pedophilia in our church - optional celibacy is not the answer to that problem but may in fact increase it.

And here is evidence just this past month - this married Anglican Archbishop was dismissed due to sexual misconduct and he is married.
Anglican Archbishop Ntahoturi to leave Rome after sexual misconduct allegation
by a staff reporter
21 December 2018

Mathilde Ntahoturi, is the wife of the Archbishop Ntahoturi

Ending celibacy does not result in less pedophilia or less abuse of women, it actually will likely result in increases of both in our church. However, evidence does exist in good quantities that prove ending the sexist ban against one gender being made priests, and above will lessen both evils in our church because sexism directly causes both abuses towards women and children and it increases these wherever sexism is present in the world.

I am not stating that allowing married priests, bishops, etc., after we have repaired and repented of the sinful, abusive bias against women, by allowing equal access to all sacraments and all levels of church sacramental and governmental ministries and positions to women, would be necessarily that bad to do. However allowing married priests or optional celibacy while we continue the ban against women being allowed equal sacraments and authority will do very real damage to women and our church. This is because sexism (merely different treatment of men and women and especially any lesser treatment of one gender) is abusive itself, unless based on the physically inability of one gender to perform the work. There is nothing a priest does a woman cannot equally physically perform as well as a man.

So the order of ordaining only married men first in our church cannot avoid creating the greater abuse and sin against the humanity of women by gender segregation if we are still a patriarchal church. This order married men now and hopefully women later, will always lead to greater sexism and the greater side effects of sexism which include, in our church, and the world effected by our global church: increases of poverty, the sexual, physical, emotional, and spiritual abuse of women, children and even vulnerable men, rape, sex trafficking, terrorism, disease, polygamy, slavery, war, violence, terrorism, etc.

I gave the above not to condemn married clergy, as the Anglican Church, (although still dealing with some sexist sections) allows women priests, but to remind folks that this German Bishop is intentionally pushing a false reason for driving for optional celibacy - married men do not abuse children less than single men or celibate men, they abuse more often. FACT: Lessening sexism, lessens the occasion of pedophilia and all the other evils which come from sexism in the church and the world.

Below is a list of how our sexism directly supported the abuse of our children in the past and how it will continue to support it unless we first ordain women equally to men before we start allowing married priests. Injustice harms - sexism does as much if not more damage than racism.

- optional celibacy is not a human justice issue, it is merely a required sacrifice for ministry.

- Sexism is a human justice issue.

Sexism and Pedophilia in Catholicism - How One Supports the Other

During the mandatory abuse prevention video trainings lay ministers must now take in the Catholic Church we are informed that there is no link or evidence that either homosexuality or celibacy causes child abuse of any variety. This is true.

However, why does our hierarchy not also inform us that there is a most certain and proven link between all-male leadership in religion and pedophilia?

Below are just five of the many ways single gender or all-male leadership in our church has been directly linked to our church's pedophilia crisis. (These are a sample only)

1. Because women abuse children not even near half the rate men do (6-10% compared to men), including married men (who have a slightly higher rate than unmarried men), simply having a hierarchy consisting of half females would have lowered our rate dramatically and automatically since less pedophiles leads to less victims.

2. Women, because they are often victims of sexual abuse, are more likely, statistically, to point out and report abusive behavior against children, teens, and women than men. This reporting is far more frequent when the women are at the same authority level, or higher level, than the abusing males.

3. Male priest abusers tend to use their state of high prestige due to clerical exclusivity, respect, and admiration from women to "groom" them, in order to gain access to attack their children. This was often the case in our church crisis, as many predatory priests narrowed in on and sought to become more intimate friends with recently divorced and widowed women or single women with mental disabilities who had children still living with them. Having no concern for the women, they used their priestly aura and believed spiritual potency to enchant these vulnerable and often lonely women, gaining them greater and more intimate access to their vulnerable children. Why is this sexism? - these priests intentionally did not go after the kid, in the family, whose father was present and an ex-marine.

4. If we had priests who were male and female, (and if this pool were still not sufficient, then perhaps even married priests, as well, along with celibate priests,) we would have no vocation crisis. Protestant churches with gender integrated hierarchies do not have any vocation crisis. This would give us ample candidates for priesthood and therefore we would be able to deny more of the questionable priestly candidates applying. When there are few choices to pick from, desperation has led our church into choosing candidates it knew had problems even before ordination. When I worked in a rectory during the late 1980s - early 1990s (for seven years), our pastor was a psychologist (rare at that time) so they sent him a couple of new priests that had issues, in the hopes he could somehow make them into capable priests. One of them was let go later on because he spread rumors from what some people had told him, only in the confessional, to other parishioners he had culled into his personal click. The other one, later on, was found to be a pedophile priest with multiple counts against him. We are still likely doing this, even now, that is picking candidates from desperation, because our candidates are still very few given our needs.

5. Already, through a rather low on the totem pole ministry, altar serving, we have taken a big hit at abuse access by allowing this ministry to become gender integrated. In the 1990s this change had still not spread into many of the parishes. By 2005 many parishes had well gender integrated alter server pools. Before this ministry was gender integrated, most parents of adolescent boys would allow a trip to the pastor's or associate pastor's family retreat at the beach or cabin in the woods, etc. because they trusted their priest and it was all boys so what is the worry? However, this type of access or these trips led to many male altar servers being victimized and often in multiple amounts. Having female altar servers in the mix makes this kind of trip offer uncomfortable for the priest to make. How does a priest offer a trip only to the boys without upsetting the girls? Most parents are not going to allow young girls on a trip with young boys with only a priest as a chaperone. Gender exclusivity allows greater access to male children and teens within patriarchy and has them treated less as children and teens by priests.

The above are only a portion of how sexism in our church causes evil and violence in our church. This does not even touch on the other horrors our religious sexism causes in our world. Our witness as Christians is soiled as we promote the view that women are not as sacred as men, or capable of representing Christ equally to men, ignoring what Christ has taught, that the flesh is nothing and the Spirit in a person is everything. People watch what we do more than what we say. As our witness of 'Sexism is ok with Jesus' takes place on our altars, and within our laws and teachings, we promote sexism in the workforce, governments, and family life outside our churches, on a global scale. What evils have already been proven to be promoted by religious sexism (including Catholicism's), in our world, include the following: war, terrorism, poverty, child abuse (sexual and otherwise), sex trafficking, disease, forced illiteracy, forced polygamy, rape, murder, female genital mutilation, and the list goes on.

Unlike other flesh biases, religion is perhaps the largest sponsor of sexism in the modern world. We must act within our religions to put an end to it, or there is little point fighting sexism in society, as it will only return, again and again, continually being re-energized by religion.

5 years 4 months ago


Nora Bolcon
5 years 4 months ago

Shame on this German Bishop! As he pretends that ending celibacy for priests will lessen child abuse - No - IT WILL NOT! Married men have a higher rate of sexually abusing children not a lower rate. What does lead to lesser child abuse is gender equality. In FACT our refusal to ordain women priests, bishops, and make them Cardinals and Popes does and has directly caused much of our sexual abuse in our church. How obscene to then suggest that we should install outright gender segregation in our church and raise all men in both sacramental and governmental authority over all women! Every Catholic should protest any married man being ordained priest before women are ordained priests, as this act directly proclaims that men are more sacramentally valuable than women which is false and a grave sin to install in our customs against all women. It makes imbalance even in all marriages since they are no longer marriages of equals. If a man can be allowed to perform sacramental acts upon his wife which we claim she is born unable to preform back upon him then one person is greater, more sacred, and powerful than the other. This is a heinous devilish witness and it will fall back on our heads with more and greater destruction. Shame on all of us if we allow the sacrament of ordination to be further treated as weapon against the women of our church. Of course what we shall likely see first is an increase in child abuse since this is where we have been paying for our past sins of misogyny. Our church must come to see that the abuse of children and the abuse of women's humanity are the same subject. Where one is allowed the other will prosper too. But I am sure we will lift our pleas to God when the increase comes and say again "Lord, How could YOU let this happen?" Brothers and sisters it is time to rebel against the hatred of women in our church - much more abusing of women and there may not be a Roman Catholic Church left to be saved. There will be priests but no parishioners. Orthodox have married priests and are losing people, especially their young even faster than we are.
I teach a faith formation class and I can tell you it was a male teen who brought up why should we keep these sexist tradition and the other students agreed and one of the girls said why even bother going to church if we keep treating women this way and a person can be a good person and not go to church? If we do not offer our youth a Just church for all, a canon law that is unbiased in regards to everyone's flesh, we will lose these members because they are better Christians than we are and our hierarchy is.

Mike Macrie
5 years 4 months ago

Nora, I agree with you but the leap to Ordination of Women is huge for a Conservative Church. My thoughts would be to start Immediately in allowing women to be Deacons. I believe minds and hearts will change when they hear Homilies given by women and over time Ordination will come.
Failure to validate women to be Deacons in the current sex abuse scandals, must be a given in the meetings.

Nora Bolcon
5 years 4 months ago

Thanks for your overall support. But I can't agree with you since Deacons have no authority and if giving them this means that this hierarchy will push to have optional celibacy for priesthood for only men, then you still have created the worst and most abusive treatment of women in our church's entire history. Jesus did not care if people left because he demanded justice in his teachings. No one has to be a Christian or a Catholic. Jesus is Justice in the flesh and can't genuinely support anyone who is directly offended by any part of who he is. As was said in the civil rights movement, "Justice delayed is justice denied!" We must stop punishing women for being women and deal with those who choose to leave by letting them go. It is simply faithless and deplorable to continue in the support of hatred of women because some traditionalist are comfortable with that hate. This is not an acceptable excuse and now is always the right time for Justice! Women are in great pain while we delay.

Nora Bolcon
5 years 4 months ago

Thanks for your overall support. But I can't agree with you since Deacons have no authority and if giving them this means that this hierarchy will push to have optional celibacy for priesthood for only men, then you still have created the worst and most abusive treatment of women in our church's entire history. Jesus did not care if people left because he demanded justice in his teachings. No one has to be a Christian or a Catholic. Jesus is Justice in the flesh and can't genuinely support anyone who is directly offended by any part of who he is. As was said in the civil rights movement, "Justice delayed is justice denied!" We must stop punishing women for being women and deal with those who choose to leave by letting them go. It is simply faithless and deplorable to continue in the support of hatred of women because some traditionalist are comfortable with that hate. This is not an acceptable excuse and now is always the right time for Justice! Women are in great pain while we delay.

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5 years 4 months ago

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Phillip Stone
5 years 4 months ago

The topic is celibacy in the apostolic office and their presbyterial assistants. Both services confined to males since the establishment of Christianity.

Long experience will be able to help us here. The true Christians in the variety of Orthodox communions have practised this for centuries and it has been done in general such that a married man can be ordained and remain married and if ordained single, a man is expected to remain single. The other true Christians who have married clergy seem to be even less complicated.

Manifesting a humble position, we would do well to examine in detail the fruit of their diverse experience should it happen that a serious re-consideration be given to the issue.

Neither for or against decisions about putting aside mandatory celibacy in the Roman tradition should give any weight to the grave sexual sins of rape, molestation, pederasty, adultery or fornication or bestiality - the single or married state bears no connection to these abominations.

Nora Bolcon
5 years 4 months ago

That is not accurate there were women presbyters and they did what priests do now and there were women called apostles by St. Paul. Also Mary Magdalene, finally, has been declared The Apostle to The Apostles. Ordination of priests came hundreds of years after both Christ and the original Apostles. The only priesthood Peter ever stated he believed he was a part of was the Royal Priesthood which he stated all baptized Christians were equally apart of, including all women. None of the original Apostles or anyone else was ever ordained anything according to the New Testament (or old). There is no word ordination used in the New Testament at all. Later, there were very likely ordained women priests in first few hundred years of the church when we started ordaining male priests. Our church has thru the centuries intentionally destroyed up to 5 times the amount compared to its current historical documents and even possible scripture documents. It had the habit of burning what it didn't want to continue so it is likely, the hierarchy burned much of the evidence of women in leadership and ordained women's history in our church over time. For example, if someone who didn't like St. Paul but had the power to burn all of his letters, and did so, this would not prove St. Paul didn't exist, it would only prove we don't have documents proving his existence.

Phillip Stone
5 years 4 months ago

... you must be thinking the article was about new thinking ... and then trot out a lot of old fables and wild speculation without naming your sources - and then accuse deceitful men of burning documents to hide the truth.

Is it not enough for you that the ONLY sinless person in the entire human race is our Lady of Immaculate Conception, Mother of God and Queen of Heaven already body, soul and spirit with Jesus in the Kingdom of God. How much higher do you want your womanhood to be elevated?

Nora Bolcon
5 years 4 months ago

I was relaying what Ancient and Medieval Historians have stated that they believe, given the evidence and abuse of those who were abused and killed throughout the church's history in order to obtain documents banned by the church, regarding its own history, and the likely huge amount of documents that are believed destroyed. You may feel free to disagree with historians to believe your nonsense without evidence standpoint but I will not join you.

As for the whole concept of womanhood, it is nonsense - we are all Adam. None of us has more or less flesh in similarity of content despite form than another, of Adam's makeup. Eve was made of 100 % of Adams flesh only - she did not have some other flesh element in her makeup, not even in her female parts. Jesus' flesh was entirely of St. Mary's flesh since Jesus had no biological father, this includes the specifically masculine parts of his form. God, nor Christ ever taught we should magnify our manhood or womanhood or exult either of these. God did not teach we should exult our flesh at all. We are only to exult the perfect flesh of Christ and magnify the Holy Spirit of God Almighty which exists in all believers equally, despite their flesh. This is why Jesus taught us the flesh is nothing and the Spirit is everything. Man's pride has taken our hearts away from what Jesus taught us is important, and had us place it on what he declared is the least important part of any person, the flesh.

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5 years 4 months ago

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Gino Dalpiaz
5 years 4 months ago


According to Zita Fletcher, German Cardinal Reinhard Marx and his German colleagues are preparing for a workshop debate in the spring to "review" the issue of celibacy for priests. The bishops have said the workshop meeting is “a direct response to the abuse crisis.”

How many times have we heard that changing the Church’s discipline of celibacy would reduce the incidence of clerical sexual abuse? It’s just not true.

Marriage is not a crime-prevention program. Marriage is not a sexual-abuse-prevention program, since most sexual abuse, by far, occurs in families and by relatives or friends. The data on the society-wide plague of sexual abuse suggests that most of these horrors take place within families. Celibacy is not the issue.

The issues are effective seminary formation for living celibate love prior to ordination, and ongoing support for priests afterwards. Most modern church historians are now convinced that priestly celibacy goes as far back as the apostles. After his monumental and seminal book on priestly celibacy ("The Apostolic Origins of Priestly Celibacy"), Dr. Christian Cochini, professor at Sophia university in Tokyo, has pretty well convinced his fellow scholars that priestly celibacy is indeed of apostolic origin.

After reading this book, the eminent French theologian, Cardinal Henri de Lubac wrote: “This work is of the first importance. It is the result of serious and extensive research. There is nothing even remotely comparable to this work in this whole 20th century.”

Incidentally, Christ himself, the incarnate Son of God, was not married and commended “celibacy for the kingdom.”

Margaret Hansen
5 years 4 months ago

Allow me to be among the few here who stands, points and says, "The Emperor Cardinal is stark, staring naked and has separated himself from the Truth of the Catholic Church. " Thank you, Gino Dalpiaz, for being in that few.

Robert Lewis
5 years 4 months ago

The word used was "eunuch" for the "Kingdom's" sake, and that goes quite far beyond "celibacy" and implies a number of other possible meanings.

Howard Miner
5 years 4 months ago


Bruce Snowden
5 years 4 months ago

Is Cardinal Marx suggesting that clerical celibacy and the sexual abuse oi minors by clergy are related? I don’t think they are! When I was 12/13 years old I was sexually abused by a married woman, Mother to three children and if seventyfive years later memory serves me well, I remember fishing with her husband. As a young boy I never told my Mother about the abuse, but soon after the incident, we moved from the area (THANKFULLY!) So maybe Mom found out somehow and like Jesus’ Scriptural “Mother Hen” sheltered me under her wing along with my five other sisters and brothers by moving.

Obviously the married woman was not celibate, part of the probable hundreds of millions of non-celibates world-wide, who sexually abuse children, clergy-involvement just a fraction of the total, definitely not a “Catholic clergy-thing” celibate related. What are the non-Catholic/non Christian clergy statist ics on sexual abuse of children?

Celibacy is a Gift from God not for all, but as Jesus said for t hose who are able to accept its restraints. It is not of this earth residing in the Heart of Jesus and deserves great honor and respect. I t must be allowed to continue as a Divine Gift in and of the Church.

John Chuchman
5 years 4 months ago

Good Ole Boys will die protecting their Club Rules.

Samuel Darden
5 years 4 months ago

People seem to think that moral values, human rights etc didn't exist before religion was imposed upon the fearful. Societies existed that had rules, laws etc long before the Judaeo/Christians appeared on this Earth. armor games com

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5 years 4 months ago

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