EQUALITY MATTERS Equality for women, LGBTQ+ issues and the role of the laity feature strongly in Irish diocesan and church group submissions to the Church Synod.
Australian bishops reconsider vote against motions affirming the equality of women in the Church
At least Pope Francis is trying something. He is putting his energy into listening to what ‘the people of God’ are saying. Through the ongoing Church Synod he is trying to ‘invert the pyramid of power’.
The hierarchical structure has the Pope at the top, followed by Cardinals, bishops and clergy, with the people at the bottom, shouldering them all. He wants this turned on its head through the Synodality process. He wants to give people a voice, even those who have ‘left’ the Church.
The Synodality sessions are ongoing in the worldwide Church. Ireland had a most productive day last month in Athlone when all diocesan and church group submissions were discussed. A summary list is currently being prepared. One of the most heartening contributions came from Archbishop Éamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh and senior Irish church leader. He assured those present that all issues raised would be forwarded to Rome as part of the Irish contribution.
Equality for women, LGBTQ+ issues and the role of the laity featured strongly. These are to the fore in every diocese in Ireland. If we accept that the Good Lord can work in and through everybody, rather than solely through bishops, then perhaps the Holy Spirit is whispering across the land and being heard.
Last week, in Australia, at a Synod Plenary Council meeting, the actions of bishops fell foul of many representatives of church groups. According to the Australasian Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (ACCCR), under ‘Witnessing to the Equal Dignity of Women and Men’, two motions called for women to be ‘appropriately represented in decision-making structures of Church governance’ and to ensure ‘the experiences and perspectives of women are heard, considered and valued’. The bishops refused to support these motions.
The ACCCR stated: “Many women refused to take their seats and stood at the back of the meeting room in protest at the bishops’ failure to pass two motions affirming the equality of women in the Church…
“The motions had been strongly supported by the non-bishop members of the Plenary Council. Following the stand by the Plenary Council members, an overwhelming majority of members backed a move to reconsider the two motions on ‘Witnessing to the Equal Dignity of Women and Men’. The bishops then almost unanimously agreed to reconsider the matter. How that is to be done is now to be determined.”
The statement went on to set out a statement by the Co-Conveners of the Australasian Catholic Coalition for Church Reform, Eleanor Flynn and Peter Johnstone: “The Coalition regards this development as potentially a major turning point in the life of the Australian Church. The grief and distress caused to many Catholics – women and men – and particularly Plenary Council members, has been enormous.
“Coalition members throughout Australia were shocked that the Australian Catholic bishops voted against accepting the equality of women and men in the Church. We are pleased that the bishops have belatedly recognised the damage to the Church and will reconsider the motions. It is imperative that the Plenary Council sends the clear message to the Pope and the whole church that the Australian Catholic Church accepts the equality of women and men in life and in the Church, and wishes for women to take their rightful place in all church organisations, including the diaconate.”
There is some irony that last week also, Pope Francis announced that he would appoint two women to the Vatican’s Dicastery for Bishops. (Every Vatican congregation and council is now known as a ‘dicastery’.) The women’s job will be to advise the Pope on the selection of priests as bishops. Under new rules ‘any member of the faithful can preside over a dicastery’.
Women stood by Jesus at the Cross, they were the first to witness the Resurrection and today, women form the vast majority of Church members, the backbone. “Making tea and making telephone calls but never making decisions,” is how one women summed it up.
My better half often says Church history for women is very strange, given that Jesus was born of the Holy Spirit and Mary, a woman. In essence, this means that the only humankind in Jesus is feminine. There is no ‘male’ humanity in Jesus.