Irme Stetter-Karp, president of the Central Committee of German Catholics. /

Prague, Czech Republic, Feb 8, 2023 / 11:10 am (CNA).

A leader of the controversial German Synodal Way said in a speech at Europe’s synod meeting Wednesday that the exclusion of women from ordination drives women from the Church.

Irme Stetter-Karp, the president of the lay Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), addressed delegates in the meeting in Prague on Feb. 8.

“The stubborn adherence to the dual anthropology and the confinement of women to the space outside of the ordained ministry tends to drive women, especially young women, out of the Church in the 21st century,” Stetter-Karp said.

Posing a question “to those who do not want to allow change” on the “the women’s question,” she asked: “How do you explain the multiple gifts and vocations of women in the Catholic Church worldwide if the Holy Spirit did not want it? I would like an honest answer to that.”

Stetter-Karp is one of three leaders of Germany’s Synodal Path who are playing an active role in the continental stage of the Church’s ongoing Synod on Synodality as official national delegates sent by Germany.

Thomas Söding, the German lay central committee’s vice president, also spoke to the assembly on Wednesday about why he believes there is a crisis of vocations in Europe.

Söding said: “We are experiencing a crisis of priestly vocations throughout Europe. What does it tell us?”

“I know there are different answers in the room. My conviction: We think too narrowly of the priestly vocation. We think too narrowly of God’s grace. We tie it to sex. We tie it to ‘state of life.’ If you want an opening, you don’t make the ministerial priesthood small, you make it large,” he added.

Bishop Georg Bätzing, who has served as the president of the Synodal Path since 2020, told Europe’s synod delegates on Feb. 6 that Germany’s Synodal Way has heard that “new forms are being sought to organize the priesthood” and that “the Church should be open to people whose way of life does not conform to the norms of the catechism, including queer people.”

“We hear and understand these concerns. I share them personally. I see my task as chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference in bringing them into the global process that is intended to renew the Church,” Bätzing said.

A tale of two synods

The German Synodal Way is a distinct initiative from the global Synod on Synodality initiated by Pope Francis in October 2021.

In Pope Francis’ first interview in 2023, the pope decried the German Synodal Way as elitist, unhelpful, and running the risk of bringing ideological harm to Church processes.

From the outset, the German process, which is not a synod, has courted controversy.

Participants have voted in favor of draft documents calling for the priestly ordination of women, same-sex blessings, and changes to Church teaching on homosexual acts, prompting accusations of heresy and fears of schism.

Concerns have been publicly raised by Church leaders from Poland, the Nordic countries, and around the world.

Fears of a “dirty schism” from Germany have increased over the past few months as organizers of the Synodal Way in November refused a moratorium on the process suggested by the Vatican.

Pope Francis launched the global consultation process leading to the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican in October 2023 and 2024 with a call to “encounter, listen, and discern.”

Synod organizers recently clarified that the sole theme to be discussed in each stage of the process is the official theme assigned by the pope: “For a Synodal Church: communion, participation, mission.”

The four-year synod process is currently in its continental stage with seven continental assemblies meeting in Fiji, Czech Republic, Thailand, Ethiopia, the United States, Lebanon, and multiple locations across Latin America.

The contributions of the German delegation participating in the European Continental Assembly will be included in the final document that will be debated and approved by the 200 European delegates — including 65 women and 46 bishops — on Feb. 9.

Following these discussions, a second private meeting among 35 bishops, the presidents of each of Europe’s bishops’ conferences, will collectively review the document, listen to speeches by each of the bishops, and produce a second final document.

The final documents produced by the assembly in Europe will influence what priorities and themes should be taken up in the Synod of Bishops taking place at the Vatican this fall.

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