Bishop of Osnabruck on Women in the Catholic Church

The Catholic bishop of Osnabruck, Germany, Bishop Franz-Josef Bode, thinks that more power for women might possibly have prevented some of the abuse in the Catholic Church.

“The disaster that we experienced in the abuse scandal should actually have led to a radical rethinking of the question of power and the sharing of power in the Church,” said Bode. The abuse scandal has shown “how important the competence of women is, and how much a closed society of men fostered abnormalities.”

The Bishop expressed his hope for the ordination of women to the diaconate, but noted that this is not likely in the immediate future.

While the Bishop considers the Roman rejection of women’s ordination to the priesthood to be binding, he notes this about the experience of the Church: “Disputed question which do not arrive at peaceful resolution over a long period take on their own theological quality. Hidden within the tradition itself is a transformative power which can lead to new insights.”

Summarized and translated from Kathnews by awr.

14 comments

    1. Iohannes, thanks for posting this.

      I believe Fr. Z posted these stories from the German Lutheran Church to show that women in leadership would not help. (I’m not saying that you’re claiming this.) Perhaps the German RC bishop stated things so cautiously here (“might possibly…some…”) with Lutheran female bishops in mind.

      Many in Germany, Catholic and Protestant, have drawn another conclusion: in the Lutheran Church, these female bishops were very attentive to their people and to their public standing, and quite quick to step down when they thought they had lost credibility, even though they believed themselves to be largely innocent and/or qualified to remain in office. The two (male) Catholic bishops in Germany, on the other hand, have pretty resolutely ignored public opinion and defended themselves, and it took the Pope a rather long time (although quick by Vatican standards) finally to remove Bishop Mixa after a long, protracted, painful saga with much public airing of scandalous behavior. And then the Pope scolded the German bishops for publicly criticizing a fellow Bishop and not being more supportive of him despite his outrageous behavior and outrageous defensiveness!

      It ended up looking like authority in the Catholic Church is interested in its own privilege and obedience to central command, but in the Lutheran church authority it is more about humble service to the flock.

      awr

      1. You’ll forgive me if I look at the situation with Bishop Mixa and come to a squarely different conclusion from yours. Perhaps when you are falsely accused of sexual abuse and investigated by the state, you’ll see it differently too.

      2. Ioannes – you’re free to see it differently! I respect that. It was such a complicated mess, lots of different viewpoints were expressed in the German media.

        I certainly sympathize with anyone facing false charges of sexual abuse, and I appreciate how hard (or impossible) it is truly to be cleared in the public mind. However, alongside this (and note that what counts as prosecutable illegal abuse is oftentime quite narrow), in the Mixa case we saw many other credible charges from credible sources, such as propositioning seminarians, stealing money from the children’s home, beating children, denying stealing money, denying having beaten children, only partially admitting anything even after it was indisputable, and then several recently ordained priests, in a public letter, confirming his misbehavior. All of this is well-documented and public information. And through it all Bishop Mixa kept defending himself – which is to say, lying – even when his words became increasingly bizarre and self-contradictory. And then the state dropped its sex abuse charges and determined there was nothing to prosecute legally. I think all of this gives a more complete story.

        awr

  1. I truly believe and agree with the position that it is the concrete ways that ecclesial power is structured and bestowed that is at issue; this isn’t an issue that will be solved on a gender-driven basis. As we have seen in power structures within the civil realm, women also are prone to corruption, abusiveness, etc. This is a human, not exclusively male, phenomenon. If women are placed in an oligarchical/monarchical structure like that of the RC denomination where there is no horizontal accountability, I’m sure that, over the course of time, we’d see similar problems arise or occur. (Mind you, I think there are plenty of reasons to ordain women, but to claim it would fix all the problems with power or authority is misguided.)

    1. Agreement on this. I think the most insightful comment from Bishop Bode is that closed societies foster abnormalities. But Alan is right: there must be authentic accountability across lines of power, no matter what gender.

    2. I remember once watching a very intersting interview with Sandra Day O’Connor, in which she took to task the current form of feminism that said that women had something to add to public office that men didn’t bring. She thought that the traditional form of feminism, which said that women could do everything in the courts as well as men could, was more legitimate. “This ‘new feminism’ is interesting but troubling, precisely because it so nearly echoes the Victorian myth of the ‘True Woman’ that kept women out of law for so long…Asking whether women attorneys speak with ‘a different voice’ than men do is a question that is both dangerous and unanswerable.” I think that something similar could be said about women in the hierarchy.

      1. Ioannes,

        I find this sentiment to be an interesting one. I don’t think it’s inaccurate to say that women speak with “a different voice” than men do–note it’s a different voice and not a different language. Men and women experience and process things differently. (Admittedly, this is a generalization and there is room for movement here.) Does this make one a better presider or a more effective pastor than the other? No. But we do a great disservice to ourselves by not recognizing these differences and what they offer as gift. This is a gift we need to be discussing.

      2. But instead of saying men are like this, women are like this, you can argue your point by saying that the offices are best served by having the widest talent-pool available from which to draw.

  2. “…how important the competence of women is …”

    I can’t help but be reminded of Mother Angelica’s dispute with one of our Cardinal Archbishops.

  3. A good example of Alan’s and Peter’s point that within a rigid authoritarian system, even women can behave in deplorable ways. e.g. MA’s outrageous attacks on Mahoney and his pastoral document on the eucharist. Dibdale – you really do need to take some liturgical and church history classes.

    You are entitled to your opinion but not to the facts. You seem to put into action the Soviet 1980’s saying: “Those in authority pretend to believe what they order; and the people pretend to believe what they say.”

  4. I found it interesting that Bishop Bode specifically mentioned the ordination of women to the diaconate. The 1995 report to the Canon Law Society of America on “The Canonical Implications of Ordaining Women to the Permanent Diaconate” briefly outlined the historical basis for women doing diakonia in the name of the Church, addressed concerns regarding the development of sacramental theology about ordination itself, and included among its conclusions that women ordained to the permanent diaconate…would be able to exercise ministries and to hold offices from which they are now excluded, but which are in keeping with the services women currently provide in the Church (51). While much of the conversation in previous comments to this post seems to be about the relative impact that women in a Roman Catholic episcopate might have had by comparing it to the experience of women in the German Lutheran episcopate, I think Bishop Bode’s specific mention of women and the diaconate coupled with the conclusions from the aforementioned report indicate that including women in official clerical offices, even if not that of overseer (for which, unlike the diaconate, there is no historical basis), would likely foster a remedy of the abnormalities of which Bishop Bode wrote by recognizing (and strengthening with a sacramental grace) the competences of women in service to the Church.

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