“Women are not the better people”

Maria Flachsbarth © CBA

CDU politician Maria Flachsbarth (52) has been Parliamentary State Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture since December 2013. She was born in 1963 in Lunen, Westphalia, and grew up in Verl in eastern Westphalia. Since October 2011, she has been president of the Catholic German Women's Association and a member of the Central Committee of German Catholics. She is married and has two sons.

Maria Flachsbarth, a CDU member of the Bundestag, is Parliamentary State Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and is a candidate for president of the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK). In an interview, she explained her plans.

CBA: Ms. Flachsbarth, you are a trained veterinarian by training. What made you decide to enter politics??

Flachsbarth: Actually, my teachers in high school made me think of this, because I learned from them: Politics always happens – you can't escape it. The difference between democracy and non-democracy is only that in a democracy you can get involved and help shape things – or not. And that was never mine: just letting things happen to me.

CBA: As a CDU member of parliament for Hanover-Land, you are at home in a region with a strong Protestant influence. Does that change your attitude toward church and faith??

Flachsbarth: Yes, above all, you get an eye for what is really important. My experience in raising our two children is that there are many people who are no longer attracted to the church at all. In a society where Christianity is evaporating more and more, it is important to live the Christian message across denominational boundaries. Nevertheless, I am firmly anchored in my church. It also has a lot to do with liturgy, and I'm a Catholic through and through. But I find the Protestants very, very sympathetic – my husband, for example, to whom I have been married for 25 years, is one of them.

CBA: What appeals to you about the task of ZdK president??

Flachsbarth: I was asked if I could imagine doing that. And I have resisted this for a long time, because my life is full enough at the moment. On the other hand: I have been president of the Catholic German Women's Federation for four years. We emphatically demand more equal rights for men and women in the various structures of the church. And then it's difficult when no woman is available to run for the office of ZdK president, even though one is expressly being sought. That's where I felt I had a duty.

CBA: Does it make a difference whether the office is held by a woman or a man??

Flachsbarth: Women are not the better people, but women are different from men. There are differences in the way women and men see the world; we have different emotional approaches, different horizons of experience, different lifeworlds – for example, in the reconciliation of family and career.

CBA: How do you balance children and career?

Flachsbarth: My path would be inconceivable without the help of my husband, who has raised our boys alone for long stretches – quite well, in my opinion. We have not consciously planned this way of life, possibilities have arisen which we have always decided on together. That's what I would like to see for families in general: That they can follow paths in life as it suits them.

CBA: What are the most urgent challenges for the church?

Flachsbarth: I think that the dialogue process between bishops and laity, which has now come to a conclusion in Wurzburg, should be continued. In order to be visibly together church also outwardly and to show politics and society what drives us. Especially in a society that is sometimes very consumerist and self-centered, Christian content is more necessary than ever. It is important that we live our Christianity authentically together.

CBA: Does it annoy you that women are not allowed to hold a spiritual office in the Catholic Church – not even that of deaconess??

Flachsbarth: When we consider the role of women in the church, what matters most is what happens in the local community. Teaching communion, caring for the elderly, for refugees – very, very often women do this. When people learn about the love of Jesus Christ, women come to meet them. It is a question of fraternal interaction in the Catholic Church when we talk about the fact that there should also be more women in leadership positions. That is why I am pleased that the ZdK supports the cause of the diaconate of women – for example, through the annual "Day of the Deaconess".

CBA: Are you satisfied with the results of the family synod?

Flachsbarth: You give enough room for the pope's decisions. The path has been taken in the right direction. One speaks more unreservedly about these questions – even if one would like to see a further opening, such as the access to the sacraments for remarried divorcees.

CBA: How can the ZdK and the Bishops' Conference come together on controversial ies, such as the blessing of homosexual partnerships??

Flachsbarth: We must continue to consider this ie together. Does God want people the way he created them, even with their sexual orientation?? Pope Francis has said, "Who am I to judge this person." What is important to me is that we do not try to pit marriage and homosexual partnership against each other. These are indeed different things.

CBA: Do you see a chance to win over the more conservative Catholics, such as those who belong to the "Forum of German Catholics"??

Flachsbarth: I am ready for dialogue, I do not avoid any request for dialogue. That's why, for example, I also try to give an answer to everyone who writes to me – I also answer letters from this very conservative milieu.

CBA: To what extent is the church important for politics??

Flachsbarth: It is important for the church to speak out when it comes to the protection of life, the poor and the weak in society. The Church consciously sides with them, and in my view that is completely indispensable – especially at the moment with regard to refugee policy.

CBA: What does faith mean to you personally?

Flachsbarth: It belongs to my person, and I am at home in my church. As a politician, I am grateful not to have to solve everything in the last. Jesus' words from the Gospel of Matthew: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened" – this helps a lot in the face of the multitude of problems that exceed the strength of individuals.

CBA: What do you do in your free time? I have discovered some recipes on your homepage there.

Flachsbarth: Yes, I love to cook. Sunday lunch together is very important in our family. "Herdanzanzugungskraft" is what we call it, and then our two sons, who are 20 and 22 years old, also come into it. We talk to each other, we discuss political and church ies. My boys are basically sympathetic, but quite critical.

The interview was conducted by Nina Schmedding.

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