It was perhaps not expected on this side, but ecumenical dialogue has come to cast a chill on the debates which have exceeded almost all limits within the Assemblies of the Synodal Path which takes place in Germany. Cardinal Koch is sounding the alarm on this point.
Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, says the issue of women’s ordination is a “very difficult issue” in ecumenical dialogue.
While the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches agree on the exclusion of women from the ordained ministry, a large part of the Protestant ecclesial communities reproach them for a deficit in their understanding of the Church.
Cardinal Koch participated in a symposium at the Vatican on the image of the Catholic priest organized by Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops. When asked by a participant what he thought about women who feel called to the priesthood by the Spirit of God, Koch emphasized the difference between a call and a mandate.
The spirit of God has called and mandated “all members of the Church to live their particular charisms,” he first explained. However, the Catholic Church affirms “that the ordained priesthood is linked to the male sex.”
In the context of the polarity between women and men, it is therefore worth carefully examining why priestly ordination is linked to the male sex in the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.
In the understanding of the ecclesiastical function, the positions are even further apart; moreover, relevant dialogue should be conducted individually with each denomination. For example, there is almost perfect agreement between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches on the meaning of the Eucharist, the ministry, and the apostolic succession.
According to the former bishop of Basel, much remains to be clarified with regard to the ecclesial communities resulting from the Reformation, and not only with regard to the ordination of women as practiced among some of them. There is a theoretical consensus that the church’s shepherd function was designated by God, says the high prelate.
But although the cardinal in charge of ecumenism seems to ignore it, or at least never mentions it, within Protestantism there is not even a common understanding of this issue.
Some denominations accept something like the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Most don't. Likewise, there are many Protestant religious communities today that do not allow women to serve as pastors of a congregation.
In conclusion, the current situation of the ecumenical movement, of which the cardinal admitted, in June 2020, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of his dicastery, that he had not been able to obtain “a truly solid consensus on the objective of ecumenism,” is particularly disturbed by the demands for the ordination of women, which contaminate Francis’ world synod, since the Synodal Path.