Unofficial translation by Novena
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, amongst other things, their gender.
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 identity, 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.