“In spite of everything” – these words have been a kind of thread at the Synodal Assembly of German Catholics in the past few days. Within and outside the meeting on the process of reforming the Catholic Church, it was primarily women who explained why they “remained” in spite of everything “still in the Church, were still committed, and were still fighting.
But they also made it clear: Now it is enough, patience is at an end, the injuries and disappointments are great and sometimes decades old. This became particularly clear in Frankfurt on Saturday with the discussion about women in ministry and office in the church and about sexuality, which received as many requests as none of the other topics. But the abuse scandal, it became clear, has left deep injuries. As a consequence, the Catholic Church in Germany started the reform process Synodal Way.
Dissatisfaction and disappointment
“You don’t have much time left,” said one participant to the bishops. And another synod representative assured: “The young women are no longer willing to endure these things. They will no longer work through, they will stay away. ”The dissatisfaction, disappointment about the lack of gender equality in the church, but also the determination not to put up with it – that was also to be felt on the eve of the service of the Maria 2.0 women’s alliance in the Frankfurt Cathedral , “Yes, we are asking the question of power,” said one of the theologians who led the service.
The Synodal Assembly, which now met for its first plenary session, consists of 230 bishops, believers and representatives of the professions in the Church. It is the supreme organ in the Synodal Way. During the two-year process, members will meet three more times.
“I feel very uncomfortable as a non-man”
This discussion process is something of a last chance, especially reform groups had warned beforehand. “If nothing happens, the church will implode in the next ten years,” predicted Monika Humpert, spokeswoman for the Frankfurt group of Maria 2.0. This union wants to reform the Catholic Church from the inside, among other things, it advocates women in priesthoods nationwide, the abolition of celibacy and the unrestricted investigation of allegations of abuse.
Some things were different in Frankfurt than at other events of the Catholic Church: When entering the opening service, it was not the bishops in splendid dress that preceded the laity, but went together with everyone else from the cathedral parish to the cathedral, through a trellis of women with posters demanding “equal rights, equal dignity”. And with the men in black suits with white shirts or priest’s collars, it was visually indistinguishable who was bishop here and who was a normal pastor.
In the plenary assembly, the alphabet decided on the seating arrangement, not the respective rank. Right from the start, when the rules of procedure were changed, the position of the women represented at the Synodal Assembly was strengthened. Not only that the conference presidium must always be gender-equal. With a corresponding application, a decision of the assembly will only be accepted in the future if a majority of the participating women have approved it. When the women of Maria 2.0 started a night watch on Friday evening, several bishops came by.
“We have practiced listening,” said Bishop of Limburg Georg Bätzing and was convinced: “We will find it together.” The chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, said: “The concern of everyone to advance the church was palpable “Bishop Franz-Josef Bode from Osnabrück spoke of a” great future workshop of our church “. “We have had a shared experience that cannot be erased,” he said, addressing the committed demeanor of young people.
“My vocation is currently being tested”
In doing so, they shied no clear words about their difficulties with the church as an institution: “I feel very uncomfortable as a non-man, not a heterosexual, not a binary person,” said Mara Klein from Magdeburg, speaking of an “association of perpetrators “. Standing, most of the participants applauded a young transsexual who talked about disappointment and disregard, who revealed himself to be a victim of priest abuse: “We are here in the room listening.”
“My vocation is currently being tested,” said Benedictine Philippa Rath right at the beginning of the meeting. “I love my church, but I also suffer from it. And I’m ashamed of them. “