New arguments open debate on women’s ordination says Archbishop

An open debate on women’s ordination in the Catholic Church is necessary, says Hamburg’s archbishop, Stefan Hesse.

“One has to be permitted to think about and discuss the issue.”

Hesse says “Ordinatio sacerdotalis,” John Paul II’s 1994 letter stating the church cannot ordain women as priests, was positioned as a response to those who considered women’s ordination “open to debate.”

John Paul affirmed the male-only priesthood so “all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance.”

Hesse, (pictured), said new arguments had emerged in the conversation around women’s ordination that needed to be addressed.

“The historical perspective is one thing—but it isn’t everything,” he says.

Hesse is a member of the forum on “Women in Ministries and Offices in the Church” in the German Catholic Church’s “synodal journey” reform project.

The project places laypeople — represented by the Central Committee of German Catholics — in dialogue with that country’s bishops on a range of topics relevant to the church today.

These topics include sexuality, priestly celibacy and women’s roles. The lay committee openly supports ordaining women both as deacons and priests.

The archbishop said he hoped the reform talks would examine controversial issues and that the bishops would convey the results to Rome. “But I also hold the realistic view that this will not answer or resolve the issues,” he said.

The move to promote discussion around the ordination of women in the Catholic Church follows a small but vocal protest earlier this year on the steps of St Patrick’s Cathedral, 5th Avenue, Manhatten, New York.

The protest was organised by the Women’s Ordination Conference, (WOC) and called for “Equal Rites and Equal Rights.”

According to WOC the Catholic Church’s unwillingness to expand the priesthood to women has led to a decades-in-the-making clearing out of its pews.

“We tried to make that very obvious that we have enjoyed many privileges and human rights but as soon as a woman crosses the threshold of the church, those rights become restricted and she enters a place where gender discrimination is allowed,” Kate McElwee, Executive Director of WO, told Crux.

While maintaining their protest, the group is uncertain Pope Francis will hear, saying that he seems more inclined to first open up the priesthood to married men.


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