GERMANY / Celibacy Rule “Precarious” Marx Warns. Majority at plenary backs involving laity in nominating bishops

CARDINAL Reinhard Marx of Munich has said it is “imperative” to discuss the Catholic Church’s celibacy rule. In a long interview in the German daily Süddeutsche

Zeitung on 3 February, he said he had come to the conclusion that celibacy as a lifestyle “is precarious as it is not easy to live alone – that is what I keep telling young candidates for the priesthood”. The priestly celibacy rule would not be abolished altogether as it was the mode of life chosen by Jesus, he recalled. “But I wouldcertainly question whether it should be an absolute precondition for every priest. It would be better for everyone for there to be both celibate and married priests. For some priests, marriage would be better – not only for sexual reasons but because then they would not be so lonely”, he explained. He knew some people would say that if celibacy was no longer compulsory, all priests would marry. “My reply to that is ‘So what!’ If they all marry that would all the more be a signal that the celibacy rule does not really work.”

Marx is the second cardinal this month publicly to advocate making priestly celibacy voluntary. EU Bishops’ Conferences Commission President, Cardinal Jean-Claude. Hollerich, said he favoured making celibacy voluntary in the February edition of the German theological monthly Herder Korrespondenz. An INSA poll on 6 February shows that 74 per cent of German Catholics favour making priestly celibacy voluntary.

In his interview for the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Marx also denied accusations that in 2010 he or members of his staff had attempted to take the then Pope Benedict XVI out of the firing line, when in 2010 he was first accused of having hushed up abuse when he was Archbishop of Munich between 1977 and 1982. “Neither then nor today do we want to falsely protect or to harm him,” Marx said. He hoped that, as announced, the Pope Emeritus would explain what had happened at length. “And that his explanation will contain words of sincere empathy for the victims and regard of the expectations people have of him.”

Meanwhile, the German synodal path procedure held its third plenary from 3 to 5 February. The 215 participants, consisting of bishops and members of the (lay) Central Committee of German Catholics, met in Frankfurt to discuss reforming the Church’s sexual morality, reassessing homosexuality, opening sacramental ministries for women, relaxing the priestly celibacy rule and how the Church handles the question of power. At the opening press conference, the bishops’ conference president, Bishop Georg Bätzing, announced that a special committee would be established to liaise between the presidium of the German synodal procedure and the Vatican Bishops’ Synod under Cardinal Mario Grech in Rome. The initiative had come from Pope Francis who met Bätzing and Grech in January. At the plenary, a majority backed an appeal to make priestly celibacy voluntary and to ordain proven married men (“viri probati”). The members also voted in favour of ordaining women deacons by 163 votes to 42. A majority, numbering 177, voted in favour of involving lay Catholics in episcopal nominations. Seventy-nine per cent of the bishops present at the plenary voted for this resolution.

THE TABLET 12th February 2022