Don’t be too shocked by the title, it’s the title of the original article.
In an interview with the dpa (“German Press Agency”, secular), Cardinal Lehmann, Bishop of Mainz, has offered his comments and suggestions for Church reform.
Again, it’s a German story, but I have decided to translate the interview into English so you can see what it’s all about.
Q: Mr Cardinal [colloquial German for “Your Eminence”, which they didn’t say], after the first months of Pope Francis’ Pontificate, what is your conclusion?
A: Francis has really started off strongly. It is important to me, however, to adequately highlight the time of Benedict XVI, even in spite of some mishaps [German “Pannen”]. Concerning spiritual renewal, theological foresight and the position of the Church in today’s world, this Pope has done much that will last for the Church in the future. We are now in a phase in which renewal must follow from Francis’ charismatic impulses. A notable sign of this is seen in the choice of Pietro Parolin as new Secretary of State. According to many people’s judgement, it’s the best choice he could make.
Q: Which reforms do you wish for?
A: It is very important to me that where there is law, it must be abided by. It is not uncommon to see the argumentation in the Vatican that the Pope could grant an exception for this or that. I’d wish that freedom be left in the appointment of Bishops, but also in privileges the Bishops’ Conferences have — like the shaping [German “Gestaltung”] of the Liturgy — and nothing be cut down in the manner of old centralism. I could see Pope Francis enabling this.
Q: The Pope faces very high expectations. Can he live up to them?
A: A great many people have a totally un-Catholic image of the Pope. They think that he will change everything radically, when he arrives, such as in Ecumenism, everything becomes different in social conduct. The Pope must bring the people along, he needs us. There are many tasks. For example, we need the appointment of two Bishops in Germany, Passau and Erfurt. He has to bear with people who may cause trouble for a while. Perhaps such people are more important for the Church than some who keep things quiet.
Q: In your view, when will there be women priests?
A: I don’t have gynophobia, I can even envision women at the altar. I see many female pastors in protestant circles and other churches who do an impressive job. But as a Catholic theologian I don’t see how the Church could change this. There are documents by John Paul II and Benedict XVI that show a very high degree of binding authority, and which say that women cannot be ordained priests. I also think that a contrary decision would brink the Church on the brink of schism.
Q: Which positions should be open to women for the moment then?
A: I refuse to have the question over women’s ordination made a standard of a woman’s standing in the Church. This is totally false. I would have liked to have seen the question of ordination [the German word “Weihe” is ambiguous and can also mean blessing, dedication] for women to be permanent deacons settled more clearly within the last 20-30 years. It is too slow for my liking, but on the other hand it has, of course, to be a solid decision. But I am in favour of opening up all other important positions to women, there’s enough reason to do so. Our Bishops’ Conference has considered this question in Spring 2013, including concrete proposals.