What does it take to make a church

News portal - Ruhr University Bochum

From May 11th to 18th, Catholic women will protest across Germany under the name Maria 2.0. They do not attend church services or do their usual church work. Among other things, they want to ensure that women have access to all church offices. Why this has not been the case so far and what steps are necessary to change that, explains Prof. Dr. Judith Hahn, Head of the Chair for Catholic Canon Law at the RUB.

Only those who are consecrated are able to fill church offices with authority.

Prof. Dr. Hahn, women are in principle allowed to work in the Catholic Church, for example in the preparation of church services. However, they are denied access to decision-making functions. How is this justified under canon law?
Current church law combines leadership with consecration. Only those who are consecrated and have authority are able to fill church offices with authority. This construction is less steeped in tradition than some think, it largely dates back to the 19th century. Behind this is the discussion-worthy idea that authority in the church must represent a unity.

This idea of ​​“one church authority” leads to the problematic situation that the law only gives clerics, i.e. consecrated persons, access to church decision-making functions.

The church is legally free to arrange the roles of women and men differently than the state does.

Why can the church make its own laws at all and what happens when these are not in accordance with state law, such as the law on equality between men and women, which is anchored in the Basic Law?
Each legal community can make its own laws. Law is a plural phenomenon and is created by very different actors: the state, the European Union, international organizations, religious communities and so on. At first this is nothing unusual. The law of the non-state legal communities can differ from the state law.

The church is legally free to arrange the roles of women and men differently than the state does. But: Whether the members of the church accept this is another matter. The church strike Maria 2.0 shows that this deviation is no longer universally accepted in this country.

The first solution could be the decoupling of ordination and leadership

What would have to happen so that women in the Catholic Church get the same rights as men, and who decides about them?
This decision would have to be made at the highest ecclesiastical management level, with the Pope and the College of Bishops.

A central problem, however, is that it is often denied that the church can decide that at all. Regarding the opening of priestly ordination for women, the church officially emphasizes that the church is not at all free to do so because of the example of Christ - his selection of exclusively male apostles - and out of loyalty to her tradition, that is, she cannot consecrate women even if she wants to .

As long as the debate remains at this point that it is a question of not being able to and not of not wanting, it is difficult to see how the question can move forward. However, more competencies for women in the church could already be achieved by solving the problematic coupling of ordination and leadership. As I said, it did not fall from the sky. Nevertheless, it is difficult to create facts here. Of course, this does not change the fact that changes are possible if you - and that is currently still a “man” in the Church - want them.