Catholic women want equality and visibility

Catholic women

Catholic women are demanding equality and visibility while urging the Church institution to set aside its fears about change.

Leadership positions within the Church are important, a pre-International Women’s Day gathering near the Vatican said.

“It’s so important that the Catholic Church be engaged in this issue, not just internally but also externally given the contribution they make in the education sphere and the health care sphere” says Chiara Porro, Australia’s ambassador to the Holy See.

Porro agrees the Vatican has taken significant steps forward during her four years in Rome. Catholic women have been appointed to many high-ranking Vatican positions.

There are now 40 women ambassadors to the Vatican – and they often talk about the issue of women’s influence.

“We come all over the world. We support each other, we share ideas, we network” she says.

Porro works closely with the International Union of Superiors General.

Besides highlighting their work, especially with the poor, the Union also works with women of other faiths, she says.

Interfaith effort

Last week the Australian, French and Netherlands embassies sponsored and attended a “Women Sowing Seeds of Peace and Cultivating Encounter” conference.

Attendees were Christian, Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu female faith leaders.

“When we talk about interfaith dialogue, when we talk about religious leaders coming together. We find that a lot of the religions around the world are led by men, so it’s really important to bring female faith leaders together” Porro says.

One day at the conference was set aside for women theologians, experts and leaders to discuss female leadership. Here, ordained missionary and theologian Maeve Louise Heaney questioned Catholic theology that attempts to “essentialise” women.

“They speak of complementarity and name the contribution of women as essentially different to that of men, pitching love, spirituality and nurturing against authority, leadership and intellect.”

Catholics should reconsider their idea of God and the Holy Spirit as neither male nor female.


A 2022 Catholic Women Speak survey of 17,200 women in 104 countries found two-thirds of Catholic women support “radical reform”.

Almost 30 percent said they would consider leaving the Church if women aren’t given more prominence.

Heaney is encouraged by the Synod on Synodality which will hold its second session at the Vatican in October. The Vatican is already discussing allowing women to be ordained as deacons, she says.

“What if we allowed spaces for women to preach? Under the authority of the bishop, in collaboration with the parish priest, with the proper formation like all the rest of the ministry. You might find that the issue of priesthood changes in colour if we have different kinds of leadership.”

Patience needed

While many women want change and while Catholic charity Caritas is urging its 162 affiliated Catholic charities to create spaces for women’s leadership dialogue, Pope Francis is not on board.

He continues to use language that reinforces the role of women as mothers and caregivers.

“The Church is female” he says. Women have a “unique capacity for compassion” that allows them “to bring love where love is lacking, and humanity where human beings are searching to find their true identity.”

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