Well, that’s something: The German Bishops’ Conference (DBK) has started tweeting. A departure in time for the autumn general meeting in Fulda. 69 senior clergy who become involved in current issues; Live streams of events; Videos on YouTube – you might think that Matthew said Catholics recognized the signs of the times. Who love transparency and openness in society.
But not everything that happens in the Bishops’ Conference has been approved by the Vatican. It behaves like a kind of jumping procession: one step forward, two back. Urgent reforms, such as stronger participation of women, are not promoted by the Roman Curia, although it sometimes sounded as if they could be discussed with the Pope.
At the regional conferences of the “Synodal Way”, the involvement of the faithful unknown to the Catholics was discussed. But the women who have come together to form “Maria 2.0”, for example, have little hope of a change in the power structures and more equality for women.
The bishops are still caught between the pressure from above not to change anything and the pressure from below to change as much as possible.
More and more German bishops are exercising resistance
The situation is clear. Hundreds of thousands of believers turn their backs on the Catholic Church every year, and fewer and fewer want to become priests. This forces us to find new ways, to merge congregations, but also to involve lay people more closely. What the Vatican doesn’t want; for him only the priests must continue to speak.
Cardinals like Rainer Maria Woelki from Cologne also represent this position. But what he means is no longer the opinion of a majority. The fact that there was no woman among the Twelve Apostles, as Woelki traditionally emphasizes, does not mean that women do not become the pillars of the foundation of the Church. Bishops like Franz-Josef Overbeck, Franz-Josef Bode and Felix Genn, yes, including the new chairman of the DBK, Georg Bätzing, oppose Rome on these issues.
The choice of the new secretary of the bishops’ conference, a sort of internal manager, will be a good indicator of further development. Father Hans Langendörfer, more than a gray eminence, is leaving after many years – and a woman could follow him. Or a tour in dual leadership, with a woman and a man. Bishop Bätzing is already looking. This autumn plenary meeting does not bring a decision yet. But the Vatican should closely follow the live stream of the press conference.