Amazon synod bishop: ‘Indigenous people do not understand celibacy’

Vatican City, Oct 9, 2019 / 08:40 am (CNA).- A contributor to the working document for the Vatican’s Synod of Bishops on the Amazon region made his case Wednesday for the priestly ordination of married men in the region.

“I’m saying this with great sincerity – there is no other option,” Bishop Erwin Kräutler, the retired head of the Xingu prelature in Amazonian Brazil, said at a Vatican press briefing Oct. 9.

“The indigenous people do not understand celibacy,” Kräutler added. “For them, at least those I have met… they can not understand this thing that a man is not married, that he does not have a woman taking care of the house, of the home.”

The bishop added that he was often the object of suspicion or pity when he explained to indigenous communities that he did not have a wife, and he joked that he sometimes found it easier to say that his wife was “far away from here.”

Kräutler, 80 and a native of Austria, was part of the committee that developed the instrumentum laboris, or working document, for the October meeting of bishops. That document has been the subject of criticism by some bishops, who say it is not reflective of Catholic teaching on several key points.

The bishop said that he had raised the issue of priestly celibacy to Pope Francis in 2015, during preliminary discussions regarding a meeting of bishops to discuss the Amazon.

“There are thousands of communities in the Amazon that don’t have the Eucharist except for one, two, three times a year. These people are practically excluded from the Church,” he said.

“What we want is that our brothers and sisters don’t have just the table for the Word, but also for the Eucharist.”

“In our opinion, celibacy is about the Eucharist,” Kräutler added.

“There is also another aspect: Two-thirds of these communities who are priestless are coordinated and directed by women,” the bishop said, calling for the synod, and the Church, to consider whether women could be ordained as deacons in the region.

“So, what do we do? We have to think about this. We hear a lot about enhancing the role of women; what does it mean? What are we going to tell her? ‘Yes, you are a person, you are very good’…but then we need concrete solutions.”

The Catholic Church teaches that it is unable to ordain women to the priesthood, which was conferred by Jesus Christ upon his apostles, who were men. Pope Francis appointed a commission in 2016 to examine the possibility of women serving in some diaconal role, with or without the sacrament of ordination, but the group has not reached a consensus and the pope said in May that no plan will be forthcoming on the question.

At the press conference, Kräutler grew animated while he spoke about his efforts to advance his agenda, noting that “politics is the art of fighting for the common good,” and explaining that his experiences in the Amazon have shaped his theological vision.

Paolo Ruffini, the Vatican’s communications head, explained at the briefing that the synod’s discussion about the possibility of ordaining married men has focused on making exceptions to the Church’s canon law regarding celibacy and the priesthood in “concrete cases,” but not on changing the universal law altogether.

Ruffini added that some synod participants have said that the lack of priests in the Amazon region is not caused by the obligation of priestly celibacy and that the Church must pray for vocations and strengthen priestly formation in the region.

CNA reported Oct. 8 that Cardinals Robert Sarah and Peter Turkson, as well as several bishops from Brazil, Peru, and Bolivia, have urged from the synod floor maintaining the Church’s discipline of priestly celibacy in the Amazon region.

Father Giacomo Costa, SJ, another participant in the synod, said at the press briefing that many synod participants have focused their remarks on expanded roles for laity, and on providing formation for those already in leadership roles. Costa said that the Church could more publicly recognize the “personal charisms” of lay people, and their experience of leadership in the Church.

Synod fathers have also discussed the importance of greater ecological awareness among Catholics, decrying “savage capitalism” in the region, Ruffini said, and calling for new models of development that utilize technology for ecologically responsible economic growth.

Ruffini said that some synod fathers have called for a more “Samaritan Church,” and a more “prophetic Church,” attentive to the preferential option for the poor and the “preferential option for creation.”

The Synod of Bishops on the Amazon is a meeting of bishops and advisors, convened at the Vatican to discuss ecological, political, and pastoral issues for the Church in the Amazon region, which spans across nine countries in South America. The meeting began Oct. 6 and will conclude Oct. 27. Subsequent to the meeting, the pope is expected to issue a document on the region.

 


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4 Comments

  1. We read from Bishop Krautler that, “The indigenous people do not understand celibacy,” Kräutler added. “For them, at least those I have met. . . they can not understand this thing that a man is not married, that he does not have a woman taking care of the house, of the home.”

    So, rather than evangelize even more deeply, why not just marry a housekeeper (“a woman taking care of the house”), and the indigenous people can just go on as before.

    What about “this thing” of a single-hearted and therefore celibate priest taking care of his parish? Oops, 80 years old and never yet thought about simply explaining the basics. One can only guess at what else is missing.

  2. They also have a shaky grasp on causality (vs. contiguity)…and the morality of infanticide and euthanasia…or is that the German “believers,” including the shaky grasp on causality part?

    Whar about their “understanding” of marriage?

    And the Eucharist?

  3. ““The indigenous people do not understand celibacy,” Kräutler added. “For them, at least those I have met… they can not understand this thing that a man is not married, that he does not have a woman taking care of the house, of the home.””

    Unlike, say, the people of the Roman Empire in ca. 33 AD, who understood all about celibacy? Or any of the other places in the world that have been evangelized? If they don’t understand, then you teach them.

    “The bishop added that he was often the object of suspicion or pity when he explained to indigenous communities that he did not have a wife, and he joked that he sometimes found it easier to say that his wife was “far away from here.””

    So, instead of teaching them, he lied to them and misrepresented the Church.

    ““There are thousands of communities in the Amazon that don’t have the Eucharist except for one, two, three times a year. These people are practically excluded from the Church,” he said.”

    And that is sad. But is it worse than places that have the Eucharist available and 70% of the Catholics attending Mass don’t believe in the Real Presence? No.

    ““There is also another aspect: Two-thirds of these communities who are priestless are coordinated and directed by women,” the bishop said,”

    Which may well be the problem.

    “At the press conference, Kräutler grew animated while he spoke about his efforts to advance his agenda, noting that “politics is the art of fighting for the common good,” and explaining that his experiences in the Amazon have shaped his theological vision.”

    And there’s another problem. This isn’t supposed to be “politics.”

    If this bishop is the example that the people of Amazonia have had before them, small wonder that there are so few men who decide to enter the priesthood.

  4. Correction/with edit and addition (1st comment accidentally posted)

    They also have a shaky grasp on causality (vs. contiguity)…and the morality of infanticide and euthanasia…or is that the German “believers,” including the shaky grasp on causality part?

    What about their “understanding” of marriage? And the Eucharist? And forgiveness of one’s enemies?

    What they are indeed doing (not simply attempting to do) is make the people of the Amazon’s inability to understand and the people of Munich and Berlin’s inability to understand not only celibacy but X, Y or Z…a “path.”

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