In the Church, “where are the women? »

Lumen Vitae – “Where are the women? »

July-August-September 2022

For many years, and even more so since the “crisis of abuse”, many voices have been raised to question the place of women in the Catholic Church. This volume of Lumen Vitaean international journal of catechesis and pastoral care, makes a contribution of great quality to the reflection.

In the first, rather theological part, Joëlle Ferry, a Xaviere nun, Bible scholar, begins by recalling the place and authority of women around Jesus and within the first Christian communities. Lucia Vantini, president of the Coordination of Italian Women Theologians, then starts with an original comparison between the Catholic Church and the walled-in Berlin of the 1960s: “We find the walls due to the concentration of power in a particular ministry, the desire to be at peace even at the cost of dissimulation, the difficulty of telling embarrassing stories…” She strives to show how a real listening to “female evils” could help “bringing life into institutions and making life institutional”, and to do the Church “a place of contingencies”.

“The persistence and strength of certain imaginations”

A Belgian canonist, Hildegard Warnink, analyzes the code of canon law and the texts of the magisterium, to identify the possible openings and the impasses regarding women’s access to ordained ministries. Noting that, “in theory, many tracks remain closed”but that, “in practice, certain norms of canon law become symbolic (…) or are no longer really maintained”. On the issue of non-ordained ministries, Arnaud Join-Lambert, director of the journal, recalls the history of the exclusion of women from the choir of churches and from the liturgy, still pointing today “the persistence and strength of certain imaginations”for example around the purity and impurity of women.

The second part questions pastoral practices. Andrea Qualbrink, responsible for the “pastoral development” sector of the general vicariate of the diocese of Essen, gives an overview of the positions of governance in the Church of Germany held by women, as well as the discussions that have emerged in the occasion of the synodal process. Annemie Dillen, professor at the KU (Katholieke Universiteit) Leuven, wonders how the Church of Flanders could be more inclusive, for women but also for all people marginalized for reasons other than their gender (ethnic origin, social background , etc.). Finally, Marie Anne Florin, who is preparing a thesis in practical theology, and Catherine Chevalier, editor-in-chief of the journal, relay or give the floor to committed women in their diocese in France and Belgium.

A Church in motion

This number of Lumen Vitae paints a fairly diverse picture of what women in the Church in Western Europe think and experience. Above all, it shows a Church in motion (slow, admittedly), which has not finished debating. Are ordination and governance really inseparable? If so, can we continue to refuse to ordain women? But, when there is a call to declericalize the Church, is the question relevant? However, can we grant women responsibilities such as the direction of dicasteries without reviewing in depth certain theological and legal questions? Written without animosity, critical without being vindictive, this is a particularly stimulating tool for reflection, capable of nourishing the intelligent and inspired creativity of Christians.

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