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German bishop confronts theologian for claiming Catholics against ‘gender equality’ are racist

Johanna Rahner, a member of the Faculty of Catholic Theology at Eberhard Karls University in Tübingen and who is an advisor to the German bishops, says that anyone who did not advocate “equal rights for women” in the Church was a “racist”.

Bishop Stefan Oster of Passau. (Credit: Diocese of Passau)

Passau, Germany, Apr 26, 2021 / 16:01 pm (CNA).

A German professor of theology and advocate for the ordination of women to the priesthood has come under criticism for claiming it was “racist” to oppose “equality” in the Church.

In turn, a bishop speaking up against her accusations has drawn the public ire of a German politician and former ambassador to the Holy See, who attacked the bishop for suggesting an open, considered debate.

Addressing a digital “women’s forum” organized by the Diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart April 17, Johanna Rahner said that anyone who did not advocate “equal rights for women” in the Church was a “racist”,  CNA Deutsch, the German partner agency of CNA reported.

Rahner, 58, is Professor of Dogmatics, Dogma History and Ecumenical Theology at the Faculty of Catholic Theology at Eberhard Karls University in Tübingen.

In her closing remarks of her address, Rahner said, “it is important to fly the flag outwardly and take an active political stand against discrimination against women. Anyone who does not do this and remains silent is a racist.”

Bishop Stefan Oster of the Diocese of Passau took Rahner to task for her accusation, labelling it “shameless” in a text on his website April 19 and calling for considered dialogue instead of verbal confrontations.

The bishop, a trained journalist, warned against escalation and hate speech in the media, criticizing the official German bishops’ portal for its headline coverage of Rahner’s claims and calling for a debate on how to deal with provocations. To him, he wrote, this scandal was not just about a “shameless” accusation, but ultimately also an attempt to deny others being Catholic.

As CNA Deutsch reported, Bishop Oster was not the only one to react critically to Rahner’s accusations of statement.

Helmut Hoping, a professor of dogmatics in Freiburg, wrote in an opinion piece for the Catholic newspaper “Die Tagespost” that Rahner’s statement no longer had anything to do with a theological debate.

“This is political agitation and denunciation,” Hoping wrote, arguing Rahner not only raised an accusation of misogynistic racism, but also claimed that the Catholic Church, including its legal constitution, was not commensurate with the German constitutional law.

Hoping also pointed out that Rahner is “a very influential and well-connected theologian. She not only advises the [German] bishops on matters of faith, but also sits on all kinds of academic committees.”

In his 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis, St. John Paul II declared that “the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”

Speaking to journalists during an in-flight press conference in 2016, Pope Francis said: “On the ordination of women in the Catholic Church, the final word is clear, it was said by St. John Paul II and this remains.”

Nonetheless, Rahner has repeatedly claimed that the decision is “not final”, including in 2017 with the official portal of the German bishops.

Pope Francis has called on the German bishops to return academic theology in their country to the foundations of the Catholic faith. The bishops, Pope Francis told the bishops in writing on the occasion of their ad limina visit in 2015, should “accompany the theological faculties and help those who teach there to keep in mind the ecclesial scope of their mission. Fidelity to the Church and the Magisterium does not contradict academic freedom, but it does require an attitude of service to the gifts of God. The sentire cum ecclesia must especially distinguish those who form and shape the younger generations.”

Meanwhile, following the public outfall over her pronouncements, the professor has offered a qualification of sorts to her accusation. Speaking to German public radio, Rahner said, “I have not called those who oppose women’s ordination – for whatever reason – racists. I would explicitly take issue with that. But I would uphold an accusation: Anyone who ignores discrimination in the Catholic Church, even calls it non-existent, or even exaggerates it through a theological form of thought and then legitimizes it as such after all, can well earn the accusation of racism, and rightly so.”

Bishop Oster’s remarks came under criticism from Annette Schavan, a politician of the ruling Christian Democratic Union of Germany who is also a former vice-president of the Central Committee of German Catholics and former ambassador to the Holy See. The ZdK, which is co-organiser of the “Synodal Way” in Germany, has long called for the ordination of women to the priesthood.

Speaking to German public radio, Schavan said Bishop Oster should not have publicly criticized Rahner’s remarks.

“Johanna Rahner is a professor of theology and not a member of the diplomatic service. She is a theology professor, by the way, at one of the best faculties in the world, as has just been noted again. She must also be able to speak clearly. The quality of an institution is also determined by the way it formulates an argument. So when the bishop gets upset, he could have called Johanna Rahner and said, ‘I want to discuss this with you. I want to tell you what upsets me. I want to tell you where we have a common intersection or whatever.’”

Schavan is herself no stranger to public scandal. The former Minister for Education in the Merkel government had to resign from office after her PhD thesis was revealed to have been a work of plagiarism. Schavan was soon after appointed German Ambassador to the Holy See –– from 2014 to 2018 – despite protests from inside the Foreign Office. When asked by journalists at a press conference in 2018 what diplomatic services the embassy was providing to prominent prelates of German origin in the Vatican, such as Benedict XVI or Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Schavan admitted she did not know.

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  1. Theologian (all genuflect!) Rahner is faulted for “claimed that the Catholic Church, including its legal constitution, was not commensurate with the German constitutional law.”

    Might as well toss the Natural Law into the mix…It’s no accident that following the Holocaust, the German constitution (the Basic Law, 1949) very credibly and almost singularly starts with this: “Human dignity is inviolable. To respect and protect it is the obligation of all state authorities” (Article 1[1])…

    So, what do theologian Rahner and a mimic politician have to say about Germany and the abortion industry–which truly is not commensurate with the German constitution? As for the omnivorous political rhetoric of “equality,” it seems that everyone is equal, but that some are more equal than others.

    And, as for any validity of female ordination, given the divine origin of the Church long before and distinct from the politics and agitation of any secular nation-state, the Rahner medicine show is peddling a square circle.

    • Notice, too, the latest fad sweeping through footloose academia. Shavan would have the bishops say “I want to discuss this with you [Rahner]. I want to tell you what upsets me. I want to tell you where we have a common intersection or whatever.” The cult of “whatever” imposes a bogus middle ground, as if the only difference between Christ and Judas was not betrayal, but only an unresolved equivalency of views under a flat-earth “intersectionality”.

  2. Bishop Stefan Oster is a trained journalist? Good to know. An articulate bishop not afraid to challenge some of the zany comments coming out of that country. More, please.

  3. The discrimination that I see in the Church is by nitwit left-wing modernists like Rahner and Schavan against real Catholics.

    Their motto, of course, is “Non Serviam.”

  4. She should never have been given teaching authority in the first place, nor any Catholic platform to proclaim her views. Thus she shows that St. Paul was correct.

    • If by that you mean because she’s a woman – there are also plenty of modernist nitwits who are male, too, who shouldn’t be given any teaching authority nor any Catholic platform. It’s nothing to do with her sex.

        • And again I point out to you that there are plenty of modernist nitwits who are male, too, and shouldn’t be given any teaching autority nor any Catholic platform. This case has nothing to do with Professor Rahner’s sex, it’s her idiotic ideas, and they would be no better coming from a man.

  5. Johanna Rahner and Annette Schavan are pushing heresy, plain and simple. They must be losing influence so thus their wild accusations. I am glad Bishop Oster is correcting them publicly. Wonder if St. Joseph has something to do with that, during his year and all?

  6. Call me a racist if reality means that men are created men and women women for reason of the difference [but different races as implied in the allegation racist?]. Now I’ve said before the greatest of the Apostles, my idol Paul was a downright misogynist. His rule for women in church was keep your heads covered and mouths shut. Although he does mention women favorably assisting in his ministry. Maybe Paul had it right, that there needs be parameters in church affairs as there are in ordinary sane happy life. Should women then be banned from theology and lecturing? I would say no, there are too many who have much to offer. Although when it references settled Church doctrine as challenged by Ms Rahner Bishop Oster’s admonition needs be more forceful. Such as, Keep your mouth shut and your head informed! But then that would apply to men too.

    • Maybe we should pray for St. Catherine of Siena to smack Professor Rahner one upside the head. Metaphorically if she prefers.

      • Your wit keeps my morale up. Our beloved Catherine was what they call among the Southwest cholos a pistola. A woman you don’t mess with.

  7. I went to the Episcopalian Church for 10 years, as a result of finally feeling forced out by what I felt were the completely sexist (not racist, silly goose, sexist) beliefs of Rome. No female priests, I could sort of understand, but no female DEACONS?? THAT must change, surely, as I have no doubt I was called to be a Deacon, then learned I could not. However, after 10 years in the Episcopal Church, and watching the rapid degradation of true beliefs, to the point of one (female) priest telling my child that the Host was not REALLY the Body of Christ, because we aren’t cannibals, just a representation to remember Him by, I left. This was NOT the basis of Episcopalian belief. This capped off watching the Episcopal Church join the far left movements, to the point of praying for “leaders” of countries that were practicing horrific abuse of human rights on their people, and refusing to take any stand on abortion. Enough. I, now, believe that the Episcopal Church has been taken over by emotion, not rational thought and faith. And, yes, as a woman, I believe it is women leading it down this path. I do not want that to happen to the Roman Catholic Church, which I returned to 15 years ago. Though, frankly, I have watched it happening anyway, especially since our new Pope was installed, though here in the USA, it was already an evil overtaking good people. Stop. Enough

    • As a man, it appears that history from the Garden is repeating itself. We are responsible for this mess, not women. Yes Eve, tempted Adam with the forbidden fruit, but he caved, and not only didn’t save her by admitting his crime to God, but blamed her. Double whammy as they say.
      It’s always been the season for men to be men and grow a spine.

      • During the Fall Adam was with Eve and said nothing while the serpent was tempting her. He also referred to Eve as being the woman that God gave him when he was being questioned, which could contain the insinuation of shifting the blame to God as well as to Eve. It was Adam’s responsibility to keep the Garden. I’ve heard that Adam was the priest of the Garden. He failed to carry out his priestly duty to keep the Garden during the Fall. We call Original Sin the sin of Adam.

  8. What you mean by equality. The Catholic Church teaches the correct male – female theology. If theGerman rebels think that equality means ordination of women as priests, they are wrong. They should first be loyal to the Church and its Head.
    In the name of equality, these rebles have an agenda — that is to bring such reforms so that their sexual feelings may be ventilated. Only the awe stern countries such trend is pronounced. Because they have enough food, enough clothes and enough houses. So they are thinking of Pleasures . That is all

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