Independent commission on Catholic women sought

France’s Catholic bishops are being called on to set up an independent commission on the situation of women in the Church.

“The wave that has formed will not subside again,” a press release from French network All Women Apostles says.

Last year the network proposed seven female candidates for key male only ecclesial posts.

The group (some of whom are in the image above) timed its press release for 22 July – the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, “Apostle to the Apostles”.

Network members hand-delivered a letter to the Episcopal Conference of France (CEF) headquarters formally asking the bishops to establish an independent commission.

This is the second time the network has tried to engage with CEF. Its attempts last year were rebuffed.

Last year the CEF told Le Figaro newspaper that All Women Apostles! members “were not representative of the thousands of women committed to serving the Church who are happy and fulfilled in their mission”.

That response has not impressed member Alix Bayle. “If the bishops maintain that women in the Church are happy, then let’s dare to ask for figures!” she says.

The independent commission the network would like the bishops to establish would be similar to one they set up on sexual abuse in the Church.

The All Women Apostles! want the commission to focus on how much women who work for the Church get paid, how many of them have full-time permanent contracts and how satisfied the women employees (and their fellow parishioners) are with the current situation.

“Bishops often respond by citing two or three examples where things are going well, but we have gathered many testimonies that show us a completely different reality about the place reserved for women in the Church in France,” Bayle says.

Sylvaine Landrivon (pictured far right), a theologian who was one of the women who put herself forward last year and again this year to be considered a candidate for bishop, is frustrated with women in the Church who censor themselves.

“Essentially, the bishops only listen to the women who say they are happy because the others censor themselves,” she says.

The “All Women Apostles!” network has been organizing throughout the past year.

“Because change will not happen in one generation, we know that to last in the long term, we must first decide how to move forward together, decide on our values and working methods,” Bayle says.

This had led the network joining forces with other like-minded international organisations.

The letter from All Apostles! denounces discrimination among the baptized.

“There is a big gap between the message of the Gospel and the androcentric interpretation that is made today,” Landrivon says.

She condemned what she calls a “magisterial teaching that continues to make women invisible, while in the Gospel all the essential messages are carried by women: the Virgin Mary, the Samaritan woman, Martha and Mary Magdalene”.

Despite its aims, the “All Women Apostles!” network says it is not trying to “confiscate” the voice of men.

The bishops’ conference says it will consider the letter and take time to reflect on its response.


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