Cardinal Marx: church needs to seriously discuss celibacy, role of women and sexual morality

German Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich speaks during a news conference at the bishops' spring meeting in Lingen March 11, 2019. The sexual abuse scandal and demands for reform have changed the German church, the cardinal said at the end of the meeting. (CNS photo/Harald Oppitz, KNA)

The Catholic Church in Germany is at a point where serious debate -- including on priestly celibacy and the role of women -- and openness to doing things in a new way must encouraged, said the president of the German bishops' conference.

"Shakeups demand special proceedings," Cardinal Reinhard Marx, conference president, said March 14 at the end of the bishops' spring meeting in Lingen.

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The sexual abuse scandal and demands for reform have changed the German church, the cardinal said.

"The church in Germany is experiencing a break. The faith can only grow and deepen if we are liberated from blocked thinking, in order to pursue free and open debates and the ability to take new positions and go down new paths.

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"The church needs a synodal advancement. Pope Francis encourages this," said Cardinal Marx. "We will create formats for open debates and bind ourselves to proceedings that facilitate a responsible participation of women and men from our dioceses.

"We know about the cases of clerical abuses of power. It betrays the trust of people searching for firm footing and religious orientation. What must be done to achieve the necessary reduction of power and to construct a fairer and legally bound order will be to clarify a synodal path."

Germany's bishops said they are still working on how to move forward following the sexual abuse scandal and other pressing issues.

"Many voices can be heard saying that there must be a concrete list of measures. I can only say in reply that we have this catalog and we are still working on the points named there," Cardinal Marx said.

During the meeting, the bishops heard the analyses and opinions of theology professors, female administrators within the church and church officials on issues pertaining to the sexual abuse crisis, church law, women in church administration and Catholic sexual morality.

He said debates on celibacy require further study.

"We treasure celibacy as an expression of religious commitment to God. How far it must adhere to the witness of priests in our church, we will find out," he said.

Cardinal Marx also said Catholic sexual morality is in need of development. "We perceive that we are often not versed in questions regarding modern sexual behavior," he said.

The cardinal said he was aware that the results of the conference would not satisfy many people.

"Not all of the findings of our discussions will meet with your understanding," he said. "For this reason, we ask for your accompaniment in prayer, your support and your critical voice. Only thus can we advance together as the people of God."

He also acknowledged the widespread disillusionment among German Catholics.

"At this assembly, we have seen, heard and experienced that you, the believers in whose service we stand and with whom we feel bound in community, accompany our consultations with criticism," said Cardinal Marx.

He thanked the faithful for their prayers and their criticism.

"We would like to tell you that we see and hear you. Your criticisms, worries, hardships, doubts and your demands," he said. "I tell you sincerely -- we understand it."

Cardinal Marx also commented on his experience attending the Vatican summit on protection of minors, convened by Pope Francis.

"It (the conference) was not about a hastily assembled list of measures, but rather a globally realistic view and the awareness: We bear responsibility to the victims across the whole world," he said. "None of us can negate or completely taboo the problem any longer."

During the conference, the bishops revealed that one of the steps in sexual abuse reform mandated by Germany's federal government has been postponed.

"We have postponed work regarding monitoring areas of intervention and prevention in recent months, not least of all because we just held a major Catholic-oriented symposium last November on the theme of monitoring," said Bishop Stephan Ackermann of Trier, spokesman for the bishops' conference on child abuse issues.

Bishop Ackermann explained that church officials, diocesan abuse prevention staff and an independent commission had participated in the previous year's discussion.

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Nick Heckman
5 months 1 week ago

If it's done with real theological debate and in unity with the universal church then have at it. If it's hastely done without any deference to previous magisterium's and merely sought to make the Chuch "modern" it will probably fail just as many protestant denominations have seen even steeper declines than Catholicism.

In my opinion it is not prudent for the German church to seek to get out ahead of the Vatican and attempt to point the church in their own direction. The German bishops did the same with protestatn communion even against orders of the CDF.

J. Calpezzo
5 months 1 week ago

The previous Magisterium was corrupt and corruption still rots the Vatican. So the Magisterium of the people must prevail .

Nick Heckman
5 months ago

Therefore anything the church has ever taught was erroneous?

Michael Bindner
5 months 1 week ago

Magisterium is literally from the throne. Each Patriarch teaches in response to the reality of the day.

Crystal Watson
5 months 1 week ago

Yeah, let's discuss those issues a whole lot more, for a few more decades at least. Then we can tell everyone that we're "working on it" and "making real progress" and we won't actually have to do anything or change anything.

Nora Bolcon
5 months 1 week ago

Cardinal Marx,

Again - there is no connection between pedophilia and celibacy or homosexuality. However, married men sexually abuse children at a higher rate than single or celibate men. Women sexually abuse children at a rate not even that of 10% of all men. Sexism has been proven to lead to many evils, and pedophilia is among them (which I realize you already know) whether the men are married or not. If you have doubts about this fact, you can just ask the married baptist patriarchy to describe their recent child sex abuse scandal. Hmmm what to do, what to do? God is not buying that we are ignorant of the solution and neither am I and many others.

Until Cardinals, like you, get serious and refuse to continue to dialogue with the sexist language inherent in the very concept of "women's roles", or black people's roles, or Jewish role's, or German Role's, you are a huge part of our problem and not any kind of answer. Either do the right thing and actually be a Christian or recognize you and this church will continue to pay the price for your abuse both before and after your earthly life has ended.

This means you need to drop discussions about celibacy until we have installed justice for women and restored their human dignity which our church stripped from them the moment it disallowed them same ordination and sacraments as men. I will and others will fight against married men leading in our churches. I will not fund them or treat them with any respect, as obviously they must have a deep hatred of all women to be willing to be the instigators of outright gender segregation. How much hate for women must these men have to turn on their mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters. Shame on them all. If we start ordaining these sexist men, be forewarned, they will be a curse to our church hierarchy and to those lay people who support their misogynistic actions, and to themselves and their families because they were willing to use a sacrament selfishly and as a weapon against their sisters in Christ.

These statements, using roles to describe people by their flesh, are the exact type of statements white people, used in the South, in the U.S., when describing how fair white people have always been to blacks. It is just so unfortunate that those black people can't seem to understand their place, given to them by God Almighty, as superior servants than white people. They don't understand how lucky they are to be treated equally but differently, how lucky that they don't have to make those stressful decisions that governing people must endure making in our country. Why can't they just see that service and manual labor is what God made them for and be happy with that reality? Why would any of them, or any moral white people, think it appropriate to share spaces together socially, or in public places? That is just ridiculous and against nature to blend the races everywhere. Both races are sacred, in their own ways, but not the same ways, no sir! Certainly the races must be separate and hold to their predestined roles and positions in the world in order to keep righteous Godly Order!

Sound familiar ladies?

We do not have a vocation crisis now, and we never have had a vocation crisis. We have a misogyny crisis. If we are to cure the real cancer of misogyny from the body of our church, which by the way is the main and absolutely necessary ingredient for clericalism to exist, than after their are women priests, bishops and cardinals ordained, under the same exact sacrament, and Holy Orders as their brothers, then we can consider do we need to allow married priests. This misogyny before all else policy must end now!

Shame on you Cardinal Marx! As you bring up women and pretend to care about them, then mention no changes, and clearly are utterly consumed with fear at the very idea of stating what is the change that is actually most necessary - WOMEN PRIESTS NOW!
In American Slang - They would tell you to man up and grow a set!

Why can't any of you become real!? Your such bunch of jokes! Please consider becoming what a real Cardinal is and care about what Christ has taught - to treat all people the same! rather than care about the scripturally baseless biases of any Pope(s).

We need righteous cardinals who will risk their luxurious lifestyles and stand up for love, truth and justice. You call for unity but there can be no authentic u ity without authentic peace and there can be no authentic peace without authentic justice for all. The church needs you to care enough to speak against even Pope's and point out that the support of sexism and unequal sacramental opportunities based on flesh quantifies as hatred of those born in that flesh. Some one of you needs to start speaking truth! For the sake of all the rest of us please do this!

James Haraldson
5 months ago

What a collection of silly comments. You have no respect for the real dignity of women or for God to demand that equality must mean what your small mind sees as equivalency. And to say that homosexuality has no connection to pedophilia is as ridiculous as saying a ship sinking has no connection to water entering the vessel.

Nora Bolcon
5 months ago

Let us start with my small mind, as you say. My small mind happens to agree with Jesus Christ, and what he taught in the Gospels, as far as how women and all people should be treated by every one who considers themselves a Christian and would like Jesus to think them a Christian too when they pass on. Jesus commands we treat all others the same as we wish to be treated. This command leaves no room for sexism in our church - None! Not in our hierarchy or the sacramental treatment of each other. Sexism is hatred and it leads to many other hatreds. This much has already been proven on a global scale. Sexism leads to child sexual abuse and it played a strong role and continues to play a strong role in our church's ongoing child abuse tragedy. sexism also has proven to cause poverty, rape, slavery, terrorism and even war. Again, these statements are based on global evidence.

Silly, I believe better describes your comments, as you make comments from apparently complete ignorance and zero research. Those who have researched a connection to homosexuality and pedophilia have found none. So my statement was made based on all known evidence unlike yours which was based on the emotional desire to want there to be a connection even though one does not exist. The fact that married men abuse children sexually more than unmarried men is also based on all known research along with the numbers I gave regarding women and child sexual abuse.

Silly people are those who speak with no argument to back their blather! As you have clearly done.

Charlotte Bloebaum
5 months 1 week ago

Talk talk talk - thoughts and prayers. The only action I have seen is the prosecution of Cardinal Pell in Australia. As a woman I find this appalling. For 70 some years I have waited for the Church to actually consider women as leaders. I thought this would happen in my life time but sadly it will not. No one seems to care to admit forced celibacy is not working and women would be a very real asset. Because it has "always been this way" and celibacy is considered so sacred it cannot be changed nothing ever changes. Here is one elder who is once again very close to leaving. I left for 20 years and returned full of renewed hope that I could somehow make a difference - not so. Not one thing has changed other than for getting worse. Very sad.

Charlotte Bloebaum
5 months 1 week ago

Talk talk talk - thoughts and prayers. The only action I have seen is the prosecution of Cardinal Pell in Australia. As a woman I find this appalling. For 70 some years I have waited for the Church to actually consider women as leaders. I thought this would happen in my life time but sadly it will not. No one seems to care to admit forced celibacy is not working and women would be a very real asset. Because it has "always been this way" and celibacy is considered so sacred it cannot be changed nothing ever changes. Here is one elder who is once again very close to leaving. I left for 20 years and returned full of renewed hope that I could somehow make a difference - not so. Not one thing has changed other than for getting worse. Very sad.

Charlotte Bloebaum
5 months 1 week ago

Talk talk talk - thoughts and prayers. The only action I have seen is the prosecution of Cardinal Pell in Australia. As a woman I find this appalling. For 70 some years I have waited for the Church to actually consider women as leaders. I thought this would happen in my life time but sadly it will not. No one seems to care to admit forced celibacy is not working and women would be a very real asset. Because it has "always been this way" and celibacy is considered so sacred it cannot be changed nothing ever changes. Here is one elder who is once again very close to leaving. I left for 20 years and returned full of renewed hope that I could somehow make a difference - not so. Not one thing has changed other than for getting worse. Very sad.

Nick Heckman
5 months ago

Is something such as celibacy, where priestly candidates are fully aware of and discern for 6-8 years forced?

Charlotte Bloebaum
5 months 1 week ago

Talk talk talk - thoughts and prayers. The only action I have seen is the prosecution of Cardinal Pell in Australia. As a woman I find this appalling. For 70 some years I have waited for the Church to actually consider women as leaders. I thought this would happen in my life time but sadly it will not. No one seems to care to admit forced celibacy is not working and women would be a very real asset. Because it has "always been this way" and celibacy is considered so sacred it cannot be changed nothing ever changes. Here is one elder who is once again very close to leaving. I left for 20 years and returned full of renewed hope that I could somehow make a difference - not so. Not one thing has changed other than for getting worse. Very sad.

Dr Robert Dyson
5 months 1 week ago

"No one seems to care to admit forced celibacy is not working and women would be a very real asset."

Forgive me if I point out that no one is 'forced' to be celibate, nor does anyone present himself for ordination without knowing that celibacy will be required of him . The problem, I would suggest, is not that people are somehow coerced into celibacy, but that there are deficiencies in the processes by which men are assessed as suitable for ordination.

Second, Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI ('Ordinatio sacerdotalis' and 'Evangelii gaudium') have formally ruled out the possibility of priestly ordination for women. It would seem, then, that the matter is closed. On the other hand, formal papal pronouncements appear to be infallible only for as long as the Church wants them to be (for instance, the 'extra ecclesiam' doctrine has been conveniently forgotten despite its clear affirmation by Pope Boniface VIII); so you never know.

Meanwhile, if you want to leave the Church, you are of course free to do so; there's no need to make a favour of staying.

Nora Bolcon
5 months 1 week ago

Right why should we care if she leaves since there is hardly anyone left in our pews to notice anyway?

Dr Robert Dyson
5 months ago

I didn't say that, did I? But it is a plain fact that no one is forced to remain in the Church against his or her will.

James Haraldson
5 months ago

Catholics are left. Thankfully Catholic anti-Catholic bigots have left.

Nora Bolcon
5 months ago

Really? Where are they? Perhaps they have shrunk in size or something or maybe they don't worship inside church buildings anymore? Today I went to weekday mass during Lent. I don't think there were twenty people there. Not to mention that most who do go are far older than me. So maybe we be not be so quick to decide we can spare to lose are fellow church members. Maybe it is time to see where and why they have left.

James Haraldson
5 months ago

It requires profound idiocy to believe that celibacy doesn't "work." There is nothing at all difficult about about celibacy. I am a layman who as been celibate for all of my 70 years. A failure to honor God or commitment is not the fault of God or the Church. And only a profound fool would use this as an excuse to demonstrate a simpleminded ignorance of the reasons why the Church honors its God given mandate for a male priesthood.

J. Calpezzo
5 months 1 week ago

Roger Mahony

Michael Cardinale
5 months 1 week ago

The problems in the Catholic Church are not because of celibacy, but lack of it. Germany already has a church that doesn't require celibacy, doesn't require obedience to the Holy See, and doesn't even require a uniform belief. Cardinal Marx should nail his "modern sexual behavior" requirements to a cathedral door.

Sha'Pearl Jones
5 months 1 week ago

Married priests are fine and should be considered. The ordination of women to the priesthood is a non starter. There can be no discussion of that.

Michael Bindner
5 months 1 week ago

There must be such discussion, for our current sexual teaching are Hellenism and not from God. Martyrs from Jesus Maccabee to Jesus Christ to the Roman martyrs fought against the morality that you embrace.

Sha'Pearl Jones
5 months ago

The reason it is a non starter is because when he was Pope, St. John Paul II closed the door on this in his 1994 letter, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. Pope Francis has endorsed this. What the church needs to do a better job at is explaining why ordination is not open to women. Men and women are equal in the eyes of God and in the eyes of His church. However, equal does not mean same. Finally, Jesus Christ only chose men to be His apostles.

Mark Ueber
5 months ago

He only chose Jews to be his disciples, but....

Michael Bindner
5 months 1 week ago

Is celibacy a gift to the Church or a cover for those who naturally reject intimacy. What if such unease is natural difference and not a mark if holiness, an attitude based in Hellenism rather than Christ. Recognizing this changes everything from sacred continence to original sin to idealized chastity to contraception to the ordination and marriage regardless of gender, gender identity and marital status. Under developed sexuality, which reveals prior victimization, would be the only bar to ordination. Asexuals should be out and proud, including to themselves. If the rest of the modern Church follows the Germans into obscurity it will because it also fails to deal with these issues. Let us hope the German Church needs the promoting of Shekinah as She makes Her will known through the laity.

Michael Cardinale
5 months ago

If your assumption that celibacy is a cover for those who naturally reject intimacy is not true, the rest of your argument (if that's what it is) falls apart. You then aver ("recognize") that is true, but as there have been many great celibate - holy, not merely asexual - saints, the evidence does not support it. I am hesitant to call the sequel discussion an argument because it seems like a random list of sexual disfunctions. Why should "asexuals" be proud; of what? And what does Shekhinah have to do with the laity or the Church? Perhaps, I just lack the poetic soul to get that.?

Dr Robert Dyson
5 months 1 week ago

The view that clerical celibacy is the cause of sexual abuse is somewhat undermined by the fact that sexual abuse is rife in the Anglican Church also, whose clergy are not required to be celibate. Nor, on the face of it, is homosexuality the cause; of course there are many, many homosexual people who don't have the slightest wish to abuse anyone. The problem, surely, is the presence of systemic defects in the process by which candidates are selected for ordination.

For fifty-odd years people in love with the idea of modernity have been wanting to turn the Church upside down. Under the flag of 'aggorniamento' they have succeeded in effectively destroying old fashioned pre-Vatican II Roman Catholicism, and a fat lot of good they've done.

Michael Bindner
5 months 1 week ago

The Church of 50 years ago represents a Catholic moment in American culture that will not be seen again. Indeed, it is a vast improvement since the papacy was just another monarchical power player.

Dr Robert Dyson
5 months 1 week ago

" ... it is a vast improvement ..."

And yet, however you measure it - baptisms, confirmations, conversions, Mass attendance, vocations, not to mention of scourge of sexual abuse - the history of the Church in Europe and the USA for the past fifty years has been a story of decline and disintegration; whereas, according to the same metrics, before the epochal mistake of Vatican II the Church was flourishing and growing. These facts are, I'm afraid, incontrovertible. The significance that you attach to them is, of course, a matter of debate.

Michael Bindner
5 months ago

Real faith rather than social conformity and secular power.

Dr Robert Dyson
5 months ago

How do you know that, I wonder?

Jim Lein
5 months 1 week ago

In so many ways the church has looked down on women, almost not seeing them as persons, not equal to men, not fit to be priests or even deacons. And the church's stance on abortion has regarded a pregnant woman as less worthy of survival than her zygote, embryo or fetus. The self-called pro-life movement should more accurately be called the pre-life movement.

Jesus did not seek to change civic (Roman) law when it came to behavior change, as the church has backed since 1973. He taught caring for the poor, meeting needs before satisfying wants. He came into the world not because of a law forcing Mary to give birth when she was pregnant out of wedlock, but because of Joseph stepping up, standing by her, supporting her. That is the model we are called to follow. Yet many Catholics are for cutting rather than increasing programs such as TANF, SNAP, WIC and Medicaid, which are vital for women, children and the unborn.

The church has been clueless when it comes to women and children, treating both groups badly all too often.

Dr Robert Dyson
5 months ago

"In so many ways the church has looked down on women, almost not seeing them as persons ..."

When I was a lad, our Blessed Lady and her Immaculate Conception were held up as a paragon of womanhood and an example to all humanity; and no one has said that women are not 'fit' to be priests. BTW: have you forgotten how many female saints there are?

James Haraldson
5 months ago

Congratulations. A new world record. How much clueless stupidity can be compressed into two paragraphs. In spite of how your atheistic premise would have it, God does not create a competition between human worth. Equality does not mean equivalency, and all life is sacred, in spite of you atheistic insistence that life of lesser functionality is inferior. And your belief of Jesus as Che and the poverty expanding welfare state, you might be curious enough to read the Sermon on the Mount were the corporal works of mercy are clearly enjoined as personal in nature and not the rants of a couch potato making demands upon government.

Maxwell Anderson
5 months 1 week ago

When my children were young and needed protection from things or people, as a responsible parent I took immediate action, as best I could. Cardinal Marx, it is precisely "a hastily assembled list of measures" which ought to be implemented. Better measures can wait for another synod, discussions, research, consideration, experiments, and so forth.

Jeffrey More
5 months 1 week ago

Reinhard Marx is an abject failure in his own diocese. He has presided over a massive decline in the number of Catholics, and the virtual cessation of vocations to the priesthood. No wonder he now wants to throw in the towel and turn the Catholic Church into some warm, fuzzy version of Protestantism. He may be on to something, but he should man up an stop pretending to be Catholic.

Michael Bindner
5 months ago

What has changed is the end of social pressure to go to Church. The rampant reactionaries are making it shameful to attend.

Joris Heise
5 months ago

There is a way of seeing the church that is echoed by this prelate. The Church--"The Body of Christ" has had the discussion long since; the problem is that the hierarchy does not consider it self part of the church, but "above" it, in every sense of the word this man, however liberal he feels, is confined to the same perspective, and until the prelates start getting their hands dirty with corporal works of mercy, start seeing themselves as not "us" versus "them," and truly, truly see themselves in practical service to the body--the BODY--of Christ, their views on sexuality, abuse celibacy and so on will remain ethereal and--unwittingly--Pharisaical
.

James Haraldson
5 months ago

Maybe if Cardinal Buffoon would take his brain out of where the moon doesn't shine and cease being a professional anti-Catholic bigot, he would discover the unalterable deposit of faith. He might also discover why God endowed a sexual morality into the human soul and gave His church the mandate to preach this truth to protect the innocent human life that results from the natural function of human sexuality. Maybe then Cardinal Buffoon can cease aiding and abetting mass murder.

Michele Donoughe
5 months ago

Interesting perspective and information can be heard on Dian Rehm’s podcast of March 1 titled “ A Proposal for the Catholic Church”.

Mister Mckee
5 months ago

Even before getting to such "cutting edge" topics, the hierarchs would do well to discuss the status quo, the incubators of clericalism which permeate the system, better known as seminaries and the Tridentine world view they continue to represent:

"This new phase of the clerical sex-abuse crisis is more a crisis of the Tridentine church than of the Vatican II Church, because the church in which that abuse took place is, in terms of its institutional structure, still essentially Tridentine. The effort to reform the church in light of what we now know about sexual abuse and abuses of power must look back further than the Second Vatican Council, which did not so much open a new era as begin to close down an old one whose remnants are still with us. From an institutional point of view, the church of Vatican II, a church committed to the priesthood of all believers, is still at a very early stage of construction. Some of the institutional innovations of Vatican II—for example, pastoral councils at the parish and diocesan level—are still not very popular among either the clergy or the laity. Too many Catholics are still content to let father take care of everything, or they have simply given up on the hope of a church co-governed by the laity. Even going back to the letter of the Council of Trent could help make the church more accountable. For example, Trent proposed institutional innovations—such as the frequent celebration of diocesan synods and provincial councils—that were soon mothballed as the Counter-Reformation church became increasingly centralized."
https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/trent%E2%80%99s-long-shadow

SUE PACKARD
5 months ago

Why does the Church espouse the importance of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, yet not see her as a model for women in the church. Instead, women are restrained to the periphery of the Church itself. Why can’t they consider that Mary models for us roles that women might hold that support and round out the Church as a whole? Roles such as the wifely support of married priests, leadership roles in the Vatican, consecrated religious (the only meaningful role currently allowed), and yes, even as priests themselves. If Mary is considered as the highest human (non-diety) why does the Church not consider that perhaps the exclusion of women might be a large part of the root cause of the imbalance in the Church? It is time for meaningful change – not bandaids.

William McGovern
5 months ago

Please stop the name calling. Everyone should be respected, even if they hold an opinion that is contrary to yours. These are important issues and it is easy to get emotional. Don’t let it happen. Stick to a civilized discussion in the spirit of “love your neighbor as yourself”

[Explore America’s in-depth coverage of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.]

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