Who controls the Catholic Church

Every Sunday, Heribert Prantl, columnist and author of the SZ, deals with a topic that will be relevant in the coming week - and sometimes beyond. Here you can also order "Prantls Blick" as a weekly newsletter - exclusively with his personal reading recommendations.

A so-called eternal light burns around the clock in Catholic houses of God. It glows red, is attached near the tabernacle or hangs from the ceiling in a traffic light. It is intended to indicate the presence of the saint. In many churches you can now hang the light in front of the door as an emergency signal.

The dream is over

It's bitter, it's sad, it's desperate: Pope Francis did not have the strength, perhaps also the will, to loosen celibacy. Nor did he have the strength to end the marginalization of women in the Catholic Church and to give them a new role. He bites the granite with which his opponents laid the Vatican. But when it comes to sexuality and equality, he's not the revolutionary he is when it comes to the economy. After the latest papal decision in Rome, it is no longer enough to hang up a red light in or in front of the church. Now you can hang a whole series of red lights.

The hope of the Amazon Synod has been shattered. She wanted to deal with the shortage of priests and "ordain suitable men who are recognized in the community to priests, whereby they can also have a legitimately educated, stable family", as it says in the final document. This dream is over - since Pope Francis rejected this desire with his letter "Querida Amazonia".

A dozen churches, but only one pastor

Now Germany is not Amazonia, where there are no sacraments in remote communities for months because there is no priest to give them. For a long time, the bishops in Germany coped with the catastrophic shortage of priests in Germany by making the parishes and parish associations bigger and bigger; in some of these large parishes there are a dozen or more churches, but only one pastor. This causes frustration among priests themselves, but also among other full-time officials - and especially among the church people. A few years ago the Munich Cardinal Reinhard Marx decided to appoint laypeople in the management of congregations in the future, based on French models. Lay people should relieve the pastors of management. But that is not enough. That doesn't change much.

Hypocritical reasoning

It is questionable whether the abolition of compulsory celibacy would attract more people to the priestly profession again. After all, the Protestant Church, which is ignorant of celibacy, has massive problems finding offspring. The fact that only a few Christian people are ready to become pastors has to do with the loss of recognition, with the excessive workload - and the way the church as an institution deals with its clergy. However, the relaxation of celibacy would be an important sign that the Catholic Church is taking the problems seriously and that it is trying what is possible. The advocates of celibacy condemn this argument as purportedly rational. That sounds sacred, but it is hypocritical. For the purpose of the exercise is spiritual - and whatever is sensible for spiritual purposes should be tackled.

The time machine doesn't work

There was hope that the abuse scandal in the Catholic Church could work like a time machine - it shakes and shakes the Church in such a way that in the end there is a realization that would not have existed without this global disaster. This realization is that if it is not theologically necessary to make a celibacy law, then it is necessary not to make a celibacy law.

Roma locuta, causa finita. Rome has decided, the matter is settled. This is a legal principle that comes from canon law. It says as much as: The matter is final, there is no legal remedy and there is no room for further discussion. But that's not true here. Nothing is done, nothing is finally decided. The discussion will continue because the abolition of compulsory celibacy is "what the church needs and what the congregations need". This is how the late Odilo Lechner, the former abbot of the Benedictine monasteries of St. Boniface and Andechs once put it. He is so right. And that also applies to a consecration office for women. The Bavarian Pope Benedict saw dangerous "relativism" at work even with the mere demand for equal rights for women in the church.

The male alliance power structures are a perversion

This exclusion of women in the Catholic Church is not just discrimination. The male alliance power structures are a perversion. So far, women are not allowed to stand at the altar. So far only the man is the image of Christ. So far, women have been excluded from all management positions. So far, male dominance in the church has been justified theologically and the oppression of women has been legitimized with biblical texts. So far, the woman has first and foremost been called to motherhood. So far, the Vatican has been suspicious of social emancipation. So far, sexism has had strong backing in religion. So far, Eve is considered the first sinner - and woman has to be controlled for it.

A Catholic auxiliary bishop summed it up decades ago: "Jesus came to teach men to serve. They then delegated that to women." This is how it is in the Catholic Church to this day. In my opinion, ending the exclusion of women in the Church is even more important than the abolition of compulsory celibacy - otherwise the dominance of men will perpetuate. With the equality of women, celibacy would probably soon become obsolete; At least that was the case in the Protestant Church, which initially forced its pastors to be celibate.

An eleventh commandment?

When celibacy was decreed almost a thousand years ago, only three bishops in Germany dared to proclaim these Roman decrees. The Bishop of Passau was almost lynched by his clergy when he did so. That has changed a lot over time. In the centuries that followed, those who tried to break celibacy were almost lynched. The Vatican pretended that the duty of priests to be celibate was the eleventh commandment. Celibacy was pretended to be a sacred duty. When Martin Luther and the other reformers questioned this duty because it had nothing to do with the Bible, they were declared apostates.

It's over. It would be absurd to demonize those who want celibacy to the devil. Today it is also the most loyal of the faithful who question the compulsion to be celibate: The chairmen of the German Bishops' Conference did this and said that the connection between priesthood and celibacy was not necessary theologically. The presidents of the Central Committee of German Catholics have spoken out in favor of abolishing compulsory celibacy for priests. And well-known Christian Democrats have long been calling on the German bishops to advocate the ordination of married men to the priesthood.

Peter, the first Pope, was married

Most Catholics, at least in Germany, no longer regard the married priest as a Lutheran aberration, but as a wise option. If it were up to the church people - Article 23 of the Lutheran Confessio Augustana of 1530 would also be written into Catholic canon law: "The fact that priests and clergy should marry is based on the divine word and commandment." It is said that God himself used marital status to help human frailty.

But in the Catholic Church it is not about the people of the Church, but about the Popes, and they have so far not been confused: not by the fact that Jesus did not ask his disciples to be celibate; not that Peter, the "first Pope", was married; nor from the fact that at the beginning of the priestly celibacy a thousand years ago there were very earthly motives: the benefices of the church should not be impaired by inheritance to children. Celibacy has broken away from such justifications - but it has not relaxed.

Sexuality and inability to speak

A community that lives from the word like no other has become unable to speak or speak, not only, but above all, when it comes to its relationship to sexuality. Of all things, the church, as a specialist institution for naming and admitting misconduct, for confession of guilt, for penance, repentance and forgiveness, had to be forced by the victims and the media to take a stand in the abuse scandal. The discussion about celibacy, the discussion about the sexuality of the priests, cannot be ignored, as is the rejection of Catholic sexual teaching by the faithful. But changes to the pure teaching are still taboo. When there are so many taboos, there is no longer any truthfulness.

The truthfulness of the church is not based on the zeitgeist, that is probably true. But it still has to have a hold in the practice of its members. Appreciated benevolently, perhaps five percent of Catholics adhere to the rules of their church in their daily life. With a wink, this is considered normal. Some courageous and compassionate clergy, fortunately for the couples and also for the church, repeatedly practice in discreet services what is actually not officially allowed, but is appreciated by almost everyone: They bless in ceremonies that come close to the wedding, for example divorced people or same-sex couples. This schizophrenia in practice massively damages the veracity of the institution. That is fatal, because elsewhere it says truth that cannot be put into perspective - for example in questions of justice and charity.

The church has succeeded in driving women out of positions of power. She cannot succeed in de-sexualizing people.

The central problem of the Catholic Church is the "inability to recognize one's own pathogenic structures and the consequences of clerical cover-ups, to discuss them and to draw practical conclusions from them"; This is how the family and religious sociologist Franz-Xaver Kaufmann put it in a nutshell. Pedophilia is the risk of an obsessively celibate and monosexual church, which in 2000 years succeeded in driving women out of all positions of power, but not in de-sexualising people.

Celibate coercion has been around for a thousand years. That's enough, that caused a lot of mischief. Coercion also discredits the priests who want to live celibate freely; they have a right to a life without suspicion. The abuse scandal was and is a millennium scandal. It would be good if the Catholic Church would still respond to this with a millennium reform.