What is the place of women in the Church ?

► What are the responsibilities assume responsibility for the women within the Church ?

Board members of episcopal, chancelières in charge of finance, responsible for the pastoral care of the… notably Under the impetus of pope Francis, the place of women in the governance of the catholic Church is undoubtedly the most enviable as it was two or three decades – and this, to the Vatican. In France, few are part of councils of the seminars (to accompany the training of future priests), but also advice for the appointment of priests (who decide on the allocation of parishes).

The general secretariat of the bishops ‘ Conference of France (CEF), which is open to the laity three years ago, now has three priests and three lay people, including one woman, Christine Naline, who said : “The novelty for me was to bring matters of pastoral care : we may rejoice in it. “ If the lay in responsibility have long been confined to the questions say “temporal” (economic, for example), their participation in the pastoral services is more recent.

In the field, Monique Baujard has been part of the pioneers. Director of the national service family and society of the EFC from 2009 to 2015, it also acknowledges the progress made, but considers them inadequate. “The authority remains committed to the presbyterate. No women’s words in no way commits the institution : it remains a word in private, a witness. ” A lay woman in the church’s mission adds that although she has the confidence of his bishop and that he is listening “in a personal capacity “, this is not the case at the institutional level, since it is not a member of the episcopal council of the diocese.

If some of these councils are now equal, most are composed in great majority of priests. “However, the priests do not have a specified term, in contrast to us, the laity : so, I know that I don siégerai not more than three years on the board “, says Mary-Anne Vitry, of the diocese of Angoulême, also a professor of philosophy. The episcopal council is in any way an instance and a vote, without power of decision.

► Governance is it related to ordination ?

“In the first centuries of christianity, under the roman Empire, explains the theologian Francois Moog, there has been a double movement: on the one hand a re-qualification of women, but on the other, a disqualification of the laity with a bureaucracy cleric who has focused the governance ordained. “ However, says he, the canon law current provides for a series of offices which may be filled by lay people, men as well as women. Thus a woman can occupy positions of responsibility within the Church and may be, for example, chancellor of the diocese, or ecclesiastical judge.

“Governance is embodied by a priest, or a bishop, but is worn by all, through councils “, says Christine Naline. However, as noted by sister Nathalie Becquart, head of the national service for the evangelization of youth and vocations from 2008 to 2018, “the last word “ always returns to the priest or to the bishop.

In addition, there is, according to it, a “distortion “ between the reality of the exercise of responsibilities by women and that the liturgy, “first visibility of the Church “, given to see. “The women have only a secondary role in the liturgy, their weight symbolic is less strong, whether we like it or not “, adds to the jesuit Étienne Grieu, president of the Centre Sèvres. For him, “if the women could comment on the word of God, it would be immediately in a position of authority “.

► The current context, can it make a difference ?

“In fifty years, the place of women in society has been turned upside down, notes sister Becquart. There is a generational thing, the Church is at the heart of the company and this new situation will necessarily raise for it too. It is a question of inculturation. “

But in the beginning, the accession of women to positions of responsibility in the Church she pointed to a choice or a necessity to overcome the shortage of priests ? “If there had been a priest available, competent, and interested, I would have perhaps not been named a delegate to episcopal for the German-speaking part of the canton of Fribourg “, notes with lucidity Marianne Pohl who will occupy this position for the diocese of Lausanne, Geneva and Freiburg from the 1er August. “The increased presence of women in the governance of the Church was more the result of a concrete need that a real theological reflection “, confirms Monique Baujard.

More than the crisis of vocations, it may be the sexual abuse crisis and of power, that has led bishops to act in favour of greater participation of the laity – and thus of women. “The sexual abuse crisis may have the effect of “beneficial” to raise awareness that there is an institutional problem “, explains the former head of service of the CEF.

“With their systemic aspect, adds Nathalie Becquart, the abuse show that the exit from the crisis passes through the path of synodality. “ For it, a number of bishops have understood that it was necessary to involve women, “not because they are better, but because better discernment requires of otherness “.

To call to give more importance to women within the Church, the religious xaviere also puts forward a factual, according to which the young men are now more believers than young women. “If the Church does not move, the women will continue to leave “, prevents Nathalie Becquart.

► What are the prospects for the coming years ?

Number of women in the Church say they wait with impatience for the next Synod of bishops in October 2022. It is already said that women could have the right to vote, this would be a first – this had not been the case for the Synod for the Amazon, in spite of the claims come from participating. But if the next Synod of bishops is the subject of attention on the part of women, it is mostly because of its theme, “For a Church the synod of bishops : communion, participation and mission,” the synodality is a subject dear to pope Francis.

“At the local level, and particularly in my own diocese, the synodality, this still remains an idea “, deplores Marie-Anne Vitry, in Angoulême, to which Germany is a model in the field. For her, “what is still lacking for women in the Church, it is to be seen as collaborators in full, with a real mutual esteem “. However, it requires a “conversion “, to which we must work at daily. “I will fight for that every day !, she says. It is sometimes difficult, when one is in face of men, inhabited by stereotypes of gender, in which a woman can only be a housewife or a nun. “

Another solution would be to entrust women’s ministries established. For the moment, these are two in number – the readership and acolytat – but are reserved for men. This track is also being considered at the highest levels of the Church : “We ask that the ministry established “the woman leader of community” is created and recognized “, requested by the synod fathers in the final document of the Synod for the Amazon.

“The needs are not those of two millennia ago : what ministries the Church has, does she need for tomorrow ? Priests and bishops, no doubt, but not only “, believes Monique Baujard. For her, it would be a mistake to think that the priestly ordination of women : “The risk would be to drag in a “mold” male, and that they were then also clerical than the men ! “ Another track could be to appoint, at the side of the bishop, a vicar general who is a layman, and so, sometimes a woman.


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