CV NEWS FEED // German Bishop Franz Josef Overbeck said if the Catholic Church is going to continue to exist in Germany, the Church may have to allow priests to marry and to consider women’s ordination.
At a press conference for the Synod on Synodality over the weekend, Overbeck said Germany has a clergy crisis. In 13 years serving as the bishop of the Diocese of Essen, he said he has buried 300 priests and ordained only 15 seminarians. There are currently no seminarians in the diocese.
To address the shortage of priests, Overbeck intimated the German Catholic Church may have to look to the “Orthodox and eastern churches,” which allow priests to marry.
“How can we save the sacramental life of the Church? We must have priests and deacons,” he said. “Married priests are something normal in other religious traditions. Perhaps we will have to have a different answer at some point. Our situation is currently very difficult in [Germany].”
“What changes are necessary to renew ecclesial life as a whole?” he asked.
He went on to suggest that the Church may have to start ordaining women. “How can we integrate women into the life of the Church?” he asked. Pointing out that half the Protestant churches in Germany are led by women, Overbeck said the German Church may have to follow suit. “Maybe the time will come when women will be permanent deacons,” he continued.
“It’s important to note we are living Catholicism in a specific context in Germany,” Overbeck said. Most Germans “don’t even understand our logic, our way of thinking or living in the Church.”
“In a post-secular Germany,” he said, “people have no idea what the transcendent is. The Church, Jesus, the life of a Christian; they have no idea. They have no idea about other religions, either.”
The bishop said “it’s very clear the German Church is in a new stage in the third millennium.”
Overbeck has played a large role in the German “Synodal Way”, an initiative of the German bishops and laity in response to clerical sex abuse scandals. Participants in the Synodal Way, known collectively as the Synodal Assembly, have approved the blessing of same-sex “marriages” and have asked for revisions to the catechism to allow for the use of birth control and for the normalization of homosexual acts. In March, the German bishops asked Rome to open the way for the ordination of women.
A reporter at the press conference asked Overbeck if the German Church was “still Catholic.”
“Yes, of course!” he replied.
Pope Francis has called the German Synodal Way “unhelpful and unserious” and many are concerned about a potential schism between Rome and the Catholic Church in Germany.