All apostles !
All Apostles was cofounded by Alix Bayle (cofounder of PA.F, for feminist parenthood), Anne Guillard (cofounder of Oh My Goddess!), Hélène Pichon (author of L’Éternel au Féminin, manifeste pour une nouvelle théologie de la libération), Valentine Rinner (cofounder of Oh My Goddess!) and Anne Soupa (president of Comité de la Jupe).
We Christians have co-created the collective “All Women Apostles!” made up of women committed to the Church and supported by a diversity of baptised people. This collective aims to link people and movements of lay men and women committed to the equality of women in the Church, because the absence of women in positions of responsibility – whether in the governance of our parishes, our dioceses, the Vatican or as ordained ministers – is as much a scandal as it is a counter-witness to the Church. This immense injustice is not a minor problem but hurts the whole ecclesial body.
Our gesture is neither the demand of a trade union nor a declaration of great principles, but a salutary act of disobedience to the Church’s dogma.
Although the objections have been raining down since Anne Soupa’s declaration, they are still very fragile: she has been accused of playing the game of “clericalism”, that is to say, of sustaining the hierarchy of the clergy at the risk of serious abuses of authority.
While we share the mistrust of clericalism, this argument only serves to reinforce the inertia of the institution, which is reluctant to make the structural changes it needs.
Moreover, it seems necessary, in view of the urgency of the situation, to initiate reforms from somewhere. That against women is one of the most visible and violent forms of discrimination.
In order for the Church to be able to fulfil its mission, it must allow women access to the various ordained ministries as well as to the high positions of responsibility of the institution, even in order to support those reforms which are indispensable for an effective synodality of power, which is the responsibility of all baptised men and women.
We are not mistaken: if women were able to be ordained that would not confirm a hierarchical functioning. The access of women to ministries and responsibilities questions precisely the present structure of government of the Church, the meaning of ordination as well as the meaning of equality between baptised women and men; it would certainly be a bang on the table for change that would allow the reform of the present Roman Catholic Church, which has been bled dry.
Resistance has also focused on the mode of action chosen by Anne Soupa: “in a Catholic regime, one does not run for office: one is called!” But since Mary of Magdala and the women deacons greeted by Paul in his letters, who is there to call women in the Catholic Church?
We have been waiting for 2,000 years, while God continues tirelessly to call some of us. Let us remember Samuel: three times he answers, “Here I am!” to the wrong person, before he realises that it is not human beings who are calling him, but God.
Our approach is not “claiming a position” but “answering a call”. The obstacle to opening these ministries and offices to women, and more broadly to non-ordained men and women, is neither theological nor spiritual: it is political and cultural.
Long and painful have been the decades during which baptised Catholic women have politely asked for real equality within their Church. They are not received; hardly listened to. We are being asked to be satisfied with a new commission on the women’s diaconate, while the previous one failed in 2016 and even its own members do not believe in a favorable outcome. And still we are being asked to be patient.
But today, faced with the urgency of our Church’s situation, we have no choice but to tackle these obstacles.
And this is no small task: the silencing of women for centuries by the Church still persists in a subtle way. Many of the women we have met do not dare to apply for membership for fear of losing their teaching jobs in Catholic institutions or of being marginalised in their parish and diocesan activities. Others, despite an inner call, are afraid to take the leap in the absence of a role model. Finally, others are saddened by the lack of attractiveness of the ministries, would like new ways of carrying out these services and are reduced to reinventing practices on the margins of the Church.
The multiple of pitfalls facing women reveals profound challenges for the Church: breaking out of the clerical-lay divide; an excessively vertical and non-transparent governance structure; the confusion between power, the sacred and the masculine; the coupling between priestly functions and functions exercised in decision-making bodies; and discrimination against people because of their gender or lifestyle.
We are aware that, although the stakes are high, the profiles of the 7 candidates of 22 July 2020 do not yet reflect the plurality of the women who make up the Church, despite our efforts to make that happen. This lack is the result of structural injustices, both social and ecclesial. Though we repent of it and want this to change in the future, we want to affirm today that we are sisters in Christ to all the baptised, whatever their origin, their marital status, their gender orientation, their sexual orientation or their profession.
We exhort women who feel, in one way or another, challenged by this impulse to dare to imagine something else for the Church and to act. In complete freedom, let them dare to address, for example, a terna to the Nuncio for dioceses whose episcopal see is vacant; to propose candidates for the cardinalate; or to suggest other actions that would make it possible to associate the People of God with the appointment of its clergy.
If, not surprisingly, the ecclesiastical institution did not consider it useful to give an official response to Anne Soupa’s candidacy, we know that perseverance in faith and action will bear fruit in places we do not yet dare to hope for.
PRESS COVERAGE (in English)
31/08/20 - Crux
New advocacy group shows diﬀerent faces of Catholic ‘feminism’
ROME – Seven French women who recently “applied” for ecclesial jobs traditionally open only to men last have quickly become icons for the Catholic “feminist” movement, among other things illustrating there’s no single vision for how to achieve the more welcoming and inclusive Church they envision.
31/08/20 - novenanews.com
Female candidates for male-only Church roles in France: “Jesus never wanted a hierarchical structure that would exclude women”
Female candidates for traditionally male-only Church roles in France have appealed to the example of Jesus in their push for gender justice in Catholicism.
30/08/20 - The Guardian
‘Women are future of the Catholic church’: Anne Soupa leads renewed fight for equality
French academic’s bid to become archbishop of Lyon reflects growing calls for women in leadership roles.
07/08/20 - irishtimes.com Opinions
An inspirational woman
Sir, – What an inspirational and energetic woman Anne Soupa (Toutes Apôtres) is, as described in Lara Marlowe in her article (World News, July 25th). Anne Soupa mirrors the thoughts of many of her faith around the world: men, women, laity and clergy. This would appear to be in direct contrast to most in the Vatican who govern the Roman church.
Female Catholic priest, to hierarchy: “If you don’t want women to celebrate the sacraments, console and bless… stop baptising us!”
The notes of the Hallelujah of July 22nd, which I sang from the second pew of the Madeleine church in the heart of my hometown, Paris, are still echoing in my ears, and the media rabble won’t cover them up. It is a resounding and endless Hallelujah, with a life of its own, which belongs to another dimension.
03/08/20 - Crux
Papal envoy to meet women who ‘applied’ to be priests, bishops
ROME – After seven women in France last month “applied” for ecclesial jobs traditionally open only to men, including the priesthood, a representative of the Vatican’s ambassador to the country has made a phone call to several of them offering a sit-down meeting.
31/07/20 - novenanews.com
Nuncio in France to meet with women ‘apostles’ seeking place in Church hierarchy as would-be female bishop receives death threat
Sylvaine Landrivon is one of the 7 women of the new feminist Catholic group Toutes Apôtres! (All Women Apostles!) who last July 22 who slipped into the mailbox of the Apostolic Nunciature in Paris their candidacies for various positions in the Church – lay preacher, deacon, priest, bishop and nuncio – from which they are currently barred only because they are women.
31/07/20 - international.la-croix.com
Papal nuncio in Paris to meet women who applied for jobs requiring ordination
Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Vatican ambassador to France, plans to meet the female candidates individually at the beginning of the new school year.
25/07/20 - Irish Times
French women pledge to ﬁght ‘misogyny’ of Catholic Church
A group of Catholic women is demanding an end to discrimination in the church
22/07/20 - international.la-croix.com
Are moves to advance women in the Church too provocative?
Debate heats up after seven French women publicly run for various church offices tied to ordination
22/07/20 - RFI
Women step up for top spots in French Catholic Church hierarchy
Seven women have announced that they will seek leadership roles in the French Catholic Church, including posts as priests and bishops, officially reserved for men. This is the latest push to give women a significant place in the Catholic hierarchy.
22/07/20 - tekdeeps.com
Religion – Belief | Diaconate, episcopate, nunciature… They warn about the invisibility of women in the Church
They are Catholic, secular or even divorced, but they all have one thing in common: seven women announced on Wednesday their candidacy for various functions within the Catholic Church. They gave the apostolic nunciature in France a personal file in which they set out their motivations for becoming bishop, nuncio, parish priest, deacon or even lay preacher.
22/07/20 - international.la-croix.com
French women challenge Catholic hierarchy to open up male-only ministries
Seven women apply publicly for various Church positions — including bishop, nuncio, parish priest, deacon, preacher…
22/07/20 - novenanews.com
7 women “apostles” apply for male-only ministries in Church to challenge “immense injustice” of Catholic sexism
Today, July 22 – on the feast of St. Mary Magdalene – the 7 women have gone this morning to the Nunciature in Paris to present the pope’s ‘ambassador’ in France, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, with dossiers in which they set out their profession of faith, the ministry for which they wish to be considered candidates and the type of service they are capable of assuming.