Women pushing for equality


Monika Schmelter is one of the women who crisscrosses the country to press for equal rights in the Catholic Church.

The reason, she points out is that people are leaving the church in droves — including her own children.

Many women share her experience of seeing their children turn their backs on the church. In response, they have come together to form a movement called “Maria 2.0.”

Many of them are among the traditional church faithful: women who are the backbone of Catholic parishes across Germany. They raised their sons and daughters giving them a spiritual home, guiding them through important sacraments.

More recently, though, they have been confronted by daughters and grand-daughters choosing to leave the church — a church they see as unrelentingly male-dominated.

“Even women who, thirty years ago and more, were vehemently opposed to everything associated with feminism are now giving their backing to ‘Maria 2.0,'” Monika Schmelter tells DW. The 64-year-old, who even spent a number of years in a convent when she was young, is now a ‘Maria 2.0’ spokeswoman. “Something is going on,” she is convinced.

The movement is being seen as a serious and radical challenge to male authority in the church.

It began in January 2019 in a small parish in the north-western city of Münster, where women who felt that for too long they had been marginalized within the church went on what they called a church “strike.”

What that meant in practice is that they refused to enter the church building, no longer helped in the sacristy, and eventually began praying together outside the church itself. It was not long before Lisa Kötter, one of the founders of the movement, was getting inquiries from all over Germany, as well as from Austria and Switzerland.

And when they held their first “Week of Action” in May 2019, she was astonished to see, “hundreds of groups from German-speaking countries — tens of thousands of people —– taking part.” Even women from other continents wanted to know more about what was going on. The next step was to be a national conference. But the coronavirus pandemic put an end to that.

“Power-driven church in the grip of fear “

At the end of September, Lisa Kötter appeared on a prime-time nationwide TV news broadcast in Germany, where she criticized what she termed, “a power-driven church in the grip of fear.”

“Jesus,” she argued,” never ordained a man as a priest. And he certainly never founded a purely Roman church.” If the church were willing, at least to an extent, to change its patriarchal structures, and “treat women equally” then it could become a truly global church that would be able to do much more to support women across the world, “who are really suffering because of patriarchal structures.”

Kötter also highlighted the disappointment and disillusionment of “true women of faith who, despite their very best efforts, are failing to persuade their children and grand-children not to lose interest in this male-dominated church.” Continue reading

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