But: "It can be changed"

Cardinal Hollerich warns against excessive impatience at women's consecration

Luxemburg - The call for equal rights and the ordination of women is getting louder and louder in the Catholic Church – at least in the West. However, there are also other mentalities in the universal church, emphasises Cardinal Hollerich – and warns of "huge problems".

Published  on 17.05.2024 at 10:21  – 

In the discussion about the ordination of women in the Church, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich warns against excessive impatience. "If you attack too much, you won't achieve much," he said in an interview published on Friday by the portal "kath.ch". "You have to be cautious, take one step at a time, and then you might be able to go very far."

He does not believe that demonstrations are the right way to change things, said the Luxembourg archbishop. This would "lead to polarisation and ultimately to the death of the Church". The Jesuit and papal confidant warns that the issues at hand must be discussed in detail and comprehensively. Otherwise, there is a danger that the women's issue will be seen as something that "liberal Catholics want to push through". It takes "tact and patience if you want real solutions".

No infallible doctrinal decision

Hollerich is also the General Relator, i.e. a kind of moderator or managing director in the synodal process of the universal church. He emphasised that the synod is not about politicising, but above all about listening to one another. "We must not perceive the world as a threat," he said. He believes that the spirit of God is at work in the world; and it is important to recognise "through the discernment of spirits" where the spirit is at work in society. The Jesuit reminded us that the issue of the ordination of women is not an infallible doctrinal decision. "It can be changed. It needs arguments and time." According to Hollerich, he would be delighted if women felt fully equal in the church. "Whether that happens through the priesthood or not is something that time will tell." What is important now is "that women are given more responsibility".

Vocation is not the only criterion for ordination, emphasised the cardinal; and: "I also know men who feel called and are not admitted to ordination." Hollerich conceded that a man's vocation is scrutinised but not that of a woman. This could be perceived as structural discrimination, "if you think in European terms". But, according to Hollerich, "the Church is bigger"; various other continents in their way of life of the Church could not necessarily comprehend this thinking.

"Then the Catholic Church disintegrates"

The objection that appointed women should therefore take a back seat is "based on a typically European principle of the individual", explained the cardinal. "Many societies don't think like that at all; the community comes before the individual." In the Church, many see such individualistic positions as neo-colonialist; "and we must be very careful not to initiate a huge backlash". According to Hollerich, the global church must take different mentalities into account. "We have to have these discussions with the whole church, otherwise we will have huge problems later. Then the Catholic Church will fall apart." The Jesuit explained: "It's not the evil Vatican that insists on these positions and doesn't want to change anything." There would be "a storm in other continents if it were to introduce the female priesthood tomorrow" and the Vatican would have to back down. This has already been experienced with the comparatively "small matter" that same-sex couples can now be blessed in church. (KNA)