Peter Hünermann's Assessment of ‘Ordinatio Sacerdotalis’

Peter Hünermann, professor of the Catholic Theological Faculty of Tübingen, Germany

These books are among Peter Hünermann's publications:
"I would want to be a priest" * Streitgespräch um Theologie und Lehramt (1991)
* Wissenschaft, kulturelle Praxis, Evangelisierung (1993)
* Das neue Europa (1993)
* Demokratie (1993)
* Armut (1993)
* Jesus Christus, Gotteswort in der Zeit. Eine systematische Christologie (1994)
* Ekklesiologie im Präsens. Perspektiven (1995)
* Gott, ein Fremder in unserm Haus? Die Zukunft des Glaubens in Europa (1996)
* Diakonat. Ein Ambt für Frauen in der Kirche (with others, 1997)
* Papstamt und Ökumene. Zum Petrusdienst an der Einheit aller Getauften (1997)
* Und dennoch . . . (1998)
* Das Zeite Vatikanum. Christlicher Glaube im Horizont globaler Modernisierung (1998)

In a book on ‘The discussion on Women Priests in the Catholic Church’ (Frauen Ordination. Stand der Diskussion in de Katholischen Kirche, ed. Walter Gross, Erich Wewel Publications, Munich 1996), Peter Hünermann judges Rome's position in three chapters (see pp. 83-96; 120-127; 129-146). He rejects Rome's scriptural, tradition and theological reasons. He expresses his dismay and surprise at the claim of an ‘infallible decision by the universal ordinary magisterium’. Finally he considers the need of a further ‘refinement’ in the understanding of the magisterium, precisely because it has so often failed - as it is doing now.

Here follow some extracts (translated by John Wijngaards):

“The historical experience of the Church with regard to its own faithfulness to the Gospel shows that it has been characterised by frequent failings and misinterpetations. It is true that the collective Church did not lose faith altogether. The Holy Spirit has kept it somehow in the truth of the Gospel. But this does not mean that the Spirit preserved the Church from falling into numerous errors and confusions. The promise of the Holy Spirit to the collective Church refers clearly to the central and fundamental truths of the faith. From this core the Church has always -- through the help of the Spirit and thanks to the commitment of many saintly men and women -- found the strength to distance itself from sidetracks and errors, and to renew itself.”

“Since the ‘indefectibility’ [=‘unfailing nature’] of faith in the Church corresponds to the ‘infallibility’ of the magisterium, should not to both be applied a similar interpretation regarding the promise of help by the Holy Spirit? The promised assistance of the Holy Spirit, on which the First and Second Vatican Councils base themselves when they justify infallible acts of the teaching authority in order for the Church to stay in the truth, could then be seen to relate to the most central questions of faith and moral practice and not on all possible more peripheral and derived questions of faith and morals.”

“Such a thought makes all the more sense if we consider that the many examples of mistaken judgments by the magisterium I have discussed earlier, concerned this kind of more peripheral issues of faith and morals. However painful the process was for life in the Church, these failings could then have been corrected in a relatively short period without the faith of the Church as a whole being brought seriously into peril. With all respect for the ministry of the present Pope, the constantly mounting insistence in recent years on the infallible magisterium of Pope and bishops makes this trend of thought ever more urgent.” Frauen Ordination, pp. 145-146.

Peter Hünermann

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