“Not helpful”

Suffragan Bishop Stefan Zekorn of Munster has called the reform paper by more than 300 theology professors "not helpful" in talks with the bishops. It has also caused "personal disappointment" in a number of senior pastors, he said Tuesday evening at a discussion in Munster.

The Munster theologians Marianne Heimbach-Steins and Reinhard Feiter, on the other hand, defended the memorandum as a "right step" and a "decision of conscience. They were not interested in a dialogue with the bishops, but in regaining a declining ecclesiastical public. "The memorandum is not an end in itself, and it should not be reduced to the demands," Heimbach-Steins said.

In their memorandum "Church 2011: A necessary departure", published at the beginning of February, the theologians plead, among other things, for more participation of the faithful in the appointment of ministers, for the ordination of married people to the priesthood as well, an improved ecclesiastical legal culture and more respect for individual life decisions. Same-sex partnerships or remarried divorcees should not simply be excluded.

No recipes in the drawer
Meeting the demands will not solve the church's problems, Zekorn explained. 'There are no recipes that you can just pull out of the drawer'." Instead, he said, we need to look for ways to better reach out to people – especially young people – who are searching for the meaning of life and a spiritual home. "Apart from that, you cannot vote democratically in the church," the auxiliary bishop said in the sometimes lively discussion.

Ecumenical expert Dorothea Sattler also criticized the theologians' memorandum. He said it made little sense to go public with such demands. "I was surprised by the form, timing and short notice of the initiative and did not regret signing it." Instead of making demands, he said, theology must have time and patience to move forward on crucial ies. The director of the Ecumenical Institute in Munster suggested an international congress on the question of women's access to all church offices.

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