ESSEN, Germany (ChurchMilitant.com) - Bp. Franz-Josef Overbeck, a key player at October's Amazon Synod, is forecasting a female Catholic priesthood.
Speaking to a German newspaper last week, Overbeck said that in spite of opposition by faithful Catholics, "I can now imagine women becoming priestesses."
The Essen bishop said that a married male clergy — a central recommendation of the synod's final document — would be a first step toward's women's ordination.
"That would allow some to find their way to the priesthood," said Overbeck.
The bishop's statement echoed earlier comments in favor of women priests.
"Is it possible, for example, to establish access to the priesthood on a Y chromosome by establishing that with the will of Jesus?" he asked at the close of the Amazon Synod. "Most people do not understand it anymore and do not believe it, I'm more than thoughtful, too."
Overbeck was part of the leftist, largely German-speaking episcopal cabal responsible for organizing the Amazon Synod. As work on the synod was being finalized last spring, he gave clear indication of the impact it would have on the Church.
In a May interview with German media, the bishop predicted that the synod would lead to a "break" in the Church, sparking ongoing transformation of Catholic teaching on sexual morality, clerical celibacy and women priests.
After the synod, he said, "nothing will be the same as as it was."
In addition to pushing women's ordination, Overbeck has made headlines for his radical pro-gay stance.
In a February essay titled "Overcome Prejudices!" the bishop urged a rethinking of Catholic teaching on homosexuality, asserting that Church doctrine has caused "psychologically unhealthy" repression among gays. He said that a "de-pathologization" of homosexuality would provide an "overdue liberation" for those with same-sex attraction. If the condemnation of homosexual acts is not jettisoned, he warned, the Church will suffer the "intellectual marginalization of Catholic moral teaching."
The bishop has also denied any link between homosexuality and the clerical sex abuse crisis, in spite of multiple studies confirming that four out of five abuse cases are homosexual in nature.
Faithful observers are warning that Overbeck's anticipation of "priestesses," his pronouncements on human sexuality, and his calls for doctrinal evolution indicate that a spirit of apostasy is taking hold inside the Church in Germany. They note that Overbeck's worldview is shared by a majority of the German hierarchy, who on Dec. 1 launched a "synodal assembly" designed to challenge Church teaching on sexual morality, clerical celibacy and women's ordination.
Led by Cdl. Reinhard Marx of Munich-Freising, the two-year, 200-member assembly is composed of bishops and laity, including 70 representatives from the leftist Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), a leading advocate of women's ordination and "modernization" of Church teaching on homosexuality.
According to its statutes released earlier this year, the synod aims to address four key themes: "authority and separation of powers," "sexual morality," "the priestly mode of life" and "women at the service of ecclesiastical offices."
"Countless believers in Germany consider [these issues] to be in need of discussion," Marx told Vatican officials in September.
But traditional Catholics are growing increasingly alarmed at the process unfolding in Germany, as the country's bishops appear intent on diffusing it across the Catholic world.
In a September press conference, Marx suggested that the "synodal path" is a first step, a "discussion" which, once concluded in Germany, would be forwarded to the Vatican for consideration.
"This then is also not the end of the synod," he said, as "the synodal path goes on to Rome."