Archive for category Women in the Church
My daughters have hard questions about the church. Are women deacons the answer? / America: The Jesuit Review
Posted by Voice of the Faithful in Catholic Bishops, church reform, Future of the Church, Pope Francis, Vatican, Voice of the Faithful, Women Deacons, Women in Catholic Church, Women in the Church on May 1, 2023
My kids, who are now teens, had been asking difficult questions, and I did not have good answers. They asked: ‘If God loves us all unconditionally, why doesn’t the church?By Katie Mulcahy, America: The Jesuit Review
“Although I had attended Catholic school all my young life, I was never familiar with the concepts of synod, discernment and the diaconate. That was until last spring, when a friend invited me to her church for a Discerning Deacons event titled ‘Hope, Change and the Catholic Church.’ It was a cold Sunday evening, the Oscars were on, and I did not feel like driving across the city. But this is a friend who always shows up for me, so I went.
“Looking back on that evening, I believe it was the Holy Spirit who was nudging me to go. I had been feeling apathetic about my place in the church. My kids, who are now teens, had been asking difficult questions and I did not have good answers. They asked, ‘If God loves us all unconditionally, why doesn’t the church? Aren’t women and girls also made in the image of Christ?’ And here is a question that stopped me in my tracks: ‘If we value one group over another, aren’t we enabling oppression against the second group?’
“I attended the Discerning Deacons event with 700 other folks—men, women, teens, senior citizens, all looking for hope, professing their faith through song, prayer and sharing stories. We heard testimonies from women who have dedicated their lives to ministry and service in the church. One story really struck me: Casey Stanton, a co-director of Discerning Deacons and a woman with advanced degrees in divinity, felt called to serve in prison ministry. Because Ms. Stanton could not be ordained as a deacon in the Catholic faith, she was limited in how much she could minister to the female prisoners. I couldn’t help but wonder: Who else is restricted in their ministry because of the limitations put on women?”
By Katie Mulcahy, America: The Jesuit Review — Read more …
Catholic Church ‘robbed’ of richness of women deacons / The Tablet
Posted by Voice of the Faithful in Voice of the Faithful, Women, Women Deacons, Women in Catholic Church, Women in the Church on April 26, 2023
From the twelfth century up to Vatican II, she (Dr. Phyllis Zagano) said the diaconate was essentially on hiatus and this ‘robbed the church of the richness of the charism.’By Sarah Mac Donald, The Tablet
“The Catholic Church has been ‘robbed’ of the richness of women in the diaconate, according to a senior academic and author.
“Dr. Phyllis Zagano, adjunct professor of religion at Hofstra University, said, ‘There is not now and never has been any doctrinal finding that women cannot be restored to the diaconate.’
“In her reflection on women and ministerial service in the Church at a Loyola Institute’s symposium: ‘A Servant Church on the Synodal Way,’ she said, ‘Women can receive the sacrament of order as deacons, just as they did for hundreds of years in the early Church.’
“Dr. Zagano has just launched her latest book, Just Church: Catholic Social Teaching, Synodality and Women.
“From the twelfth century up to Vatican II, she said the diaconate was essentially on hiatus and this ‘robbed the church of the richness of the charism.'”
By Sarah Mac Donald, The Tablet — Read more …
Catholic women’s cries for change to be heard at the Vatican on International Women’s Day / University of Newcastle News
Posted by Voice of the Faithful in Voice of the Faithful, Women in Catholic Church, Women in the Church on March 6, 2023
The most extensive global survey of Catholic women ever undertaken, detailing experiences of women in the church, will be presented by Australian researchers in-person at the Vatican this International Women’s Day (March 8, 2023).University of Newcastle News
‘The newly published International Survey of Catholic Women (ISCW) comprises more than 17,000 responses from participants across 104 countries.
‘Led by Drs. Tracy McEwan and Kathleen McPhillips from the University of Newcastle, Australia, the report details 20 key findings and further presents 14 key recommendations from the responses.
“‘The survey captured the complex diversity, insights, and shared concerns of thousands of Catholic women from around the world,’ Dr McEwan explained.
“‘We asked about identity, views on church reform and various issues impacting women, including women in church leadership and sexual abuse, among many other things.
“‘We found even when women have considerable struggles with Catholic institutions, nearly 90 per cent said their Catholic identity is important to them. Many continue to practice their faith despite significant concern, frustration and dissatisfaction with the institutional church,’ she said.”
By University of Newcastle News — Read more ...
Does the Catholic Church really believe women are people? / U.S. Catholic
Posted by Voice of the Faithful in church reform, Future of the Church, Voice of the Faithful, Women Deacons, Women in Catholic Church, Women in the Church on March 2, 2023
We cannot forget that “God created humankind in his image… male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27). The imago dei implies, in fact, requires, a single-nature anthropology that recognizes male and female persons existing equally. Even canon law allows for this fact with the first canon in the section describing the rights and duties of the Christian faithful …By Phyllis Zagano, Ph.D., U.S. Catholic
“It can seem simplistic to say that the life and dignity of people within the Church begins with baptism and must be respected. But when the Church makes statements that imply or directly state that women cannot image Christ, the Risen Lord, there is much to be criticized.”It can seem simplistic to say that the life and dignity of people within the Church begins with baptism and must be respected. But when the Church makes statements that imply or directly state that women cannot image Christ, the Risen Lord, there is much to be criticized.
“While it may seem incomprehensible in current times to say that women cannot—do not—image Christ, this is the bedrock of the argument that women cannot receive sacramental ordination. The implications of this statement or belief are enormous. Its errors are equally enormous.
“To begin with, men and women are ontologically equal. That is, all human beings, all persons, are equal before God. Because they are equal—male and female—one cannot be subordinated to the other. While history is rife with heretical statements of ontological subordination, their existence and expulsion from Church teaching supports the essential point that men and women, while not the same, are equal.”
By Phyllis Zagano, Ph.D., U.S. Catholic — Read more …
Is there room in the tent? / L’Osservatore Romano
Posted by Voice of the Faithful in church reform, Clericalism, Future of the Church, Synod on Synodality, Voice of the Faithful, Women Deacons, Women in Catholic Church, Women in the Church on February 2, 2023
People around the world have asked the Church to outgrow clericalism and recognize the managerial and ministerial abilities of women. There is progress in adding women to management. The extended Synod process should not delay the restoration of women to the ordained diaconal ministry.Phyllis Zagano, Ph.D., L’Osservatore Romano
“As the Church prepares for the next phase of the Synod on Synodality, one of the most pressing issues is the relationship between women and the Church, combined with the problem of clericalism. The Working Document clearly states that “almost all reports raise the issue of full and equal participation of women.” (No. 64.)
“Many national reports asked to restore women to the ordained diaconate, yet the Synod’s Working Document for the Continental Stage refers to “a female diaconate.” Does this indicate ongoing discernment about the ability of women to receive sacramental ordination as deacons, despite the historical evidence of ordained women deacons? While women are increasingly included as professional managers within Church structures, notably within the Roman Curia, deep resistance to accepting historical precedence of women’s ordained ministry remains.
“Can the Church overcome clericalism and the denial of history?”
By Phyllis Zagano, Ph.D., L’Osservatore Romano — Read more …
Traditionalists, reform and women / Religion News Service
Posted by Voice of the Faithful in church reform, Voice of the Faithful, Women, Women Deacons, Women in Catholic Church, Women in the Church on January 18, 2023
If truth be told, the women of the church are leading its reform. Only they can lead its rebirth.Phyllis Zagano, Religion News Service
“As the Catholic Synod on Synodality enters its ‘continental phase, some have wondered if the church is moving toward Vatican Three.
“Of course, there are still fights going on about Vatican Two.
“Not long ago, Sister Nathalie Becquart, undersecretary of the General Secretariat of the Synod, said the current synod would lead ‘to a new reception of the Second Vatican Council,’ allowing the reforms of the mid-1960s to finally take hold. A small but vocal cadre of Catholics fears that precise possibility, which they caricature as a church overrun with bad liturgy, bad moral theology and guitar music.
“Lately these so-called traditionalists have lost two beacons of their truths. The recent deaths of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Australian Cardinal George Pell may serve to deflate the anti-synod underground, or at least weaken its intellectual base.”
By Phyllis Zagano, Religion News Service — Read more …
Pope names three women to Vatican’s Dicastery for Bishops / Vatican News
Posted by Voice of the Faithful in Catholic Bishops, church reform, Future of the Church, Pope Francis, Religious Women, Vatican, Voice of the Faithful, Women in Catholic Church, Women in the Church on July 13, 2022
“… the first time women have been appointed to the Dicastery responsible for identifying future bishops globally.”By Deborah Castellano Lubov, Vatican News
Pope Francis on Wednesday named three women to the Dicastery for Bishops, the first time women have been appointed to the Dicastery responsible for identifying future bishops globally.
The Holy See Press Office published the Pope’s latest appointments to the Dicastery in a statement on Wednesday.
The female members are Sister Raffaella Petrini, F.S.E., Secretary General of the Governorate of the Vatican City State; Sister Yvonne Reungoat, F.M.A, former Superior General of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians; and, Dr. Maria Lia Zervino, President of the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations.
The nomination of Ms. Zervino also marks the first appointment ever of a laywoman to the Vatican Dicastery.
By Deborah Castellan Luboc, Vatican News — Read more …
The church with no faith in its women / The Sydney Morning Herald
Posted by Voice of the Faithful in Catholic Bishops, church reform, Voice of the Faithful, Women, Women in Catholic Church, Women in the Church on July 11, 2022
It does seem to beggar belief that, shortly after a census revealed that Australians are abandoning the institutional churches in droves – for reasons including the exclusion of women from leadership, along with sex abuse scandals, irrelevance and treatment of LGBTQI people – that a group of bishops could so readily dismiss a simple, plaintive motion asking women be heard.By Julia Baird, The Sydney Morning Herald
“‘Embarrassing. Shocking. Scandalous and absolutely unacceptable.’ The 86-year-old Benedictine nun Sister Joan Chittister was in bed this week – recovering from a bout of COVID – when she read that the plenary council of the Australian Catholic Church had refused to pass two pretty gentle, anodyne motions supporting women in positions of leadership in the church. It felt like ‘a red hot poker’ ran through her.
“Sister Joan, a best-selling American author of more than 50 books, has a large, devoted progressive global following and a profile rare for a nun, being interviewed by Oprah and appearing on Meet the Press. She has spent the past few weeks touring Australia to packed audiences, speaking about the need for renewal in the church, and the need for leaders to listen.
“But after the meeting of the plenary council – the highest formal gathering of all local churches and the first in Australia since 1937 – she called me in a state of flaming indignation: ‘The proof is in. You needn’t wear yourself out trying to convince women that the church really appreciates them, their work, their presence, their talents. They know now – right out of the mouth of the episcopacy that voted against them.’
“So what were these motions the bishops dared not approve?”
By Julia Baird, The Sydney Morning Herald — Read more …
‘God may be calling us’: Meet the women aspiring to become deacons / America: The Jesuit Review
Posted by Voice of the Faithful in church reform, Future of the Church, Voice of the Faithful, Women Deacons, Women in Catholic Church, Women in the Church on June 14, 2022
I do not have a cavalier attitude about ordination. A calling, a vocation, is not something you just carry around in your back pocket no matter what gifts you have.Anna Keating in America: The Jesuit Review
“I recently attended a listening session for the synod in which the global church is now participating. The priest taking notes for the bishop began the session by saying something along the lines of: ‘Don’t waste your time coming up here and making a comment that asks the church not to be Catholic. Women cannot receive holy orders. This is an infallible teaching of the Catholic Church. No generation in the church will ever see a woman at the altar.’
“It was an odd way to begin a listening session, both because no topic is meant to be off the table at the sessions, and because the statement is false. While the Catholic Church is not considering ordaining women to the priesthood, the ordination of women to the permanent diaconate is a real possibility.
“In 2016 Pope Francis created a commission to study the history of women deacons. This focus on history is notable because it acknowledges that women deacons are an ancient tradition in the church. St. Phoebe is named as deacon in the Bible (Rom 16:1-2). Both the Council of Nicea (A.D. 325) and the Council of Chalcedon (451) mention the ordination of women to the diaconate. Chalcedon states, ‘No woman under 40 years of age is to be ordained a deacon,’ thereby suggesting that older women deacons were permitted. As late as the 11th century, the right of the diocesan ordinary to ordain women deacons was confirmed by three consecutive popes. Pope Benedict VIII wrote in 1017, ‘We concede and confirm to your successors in perpetuity every episcopal ordination not only of presbyters but also of deacons or deaconesses.'”
By Anna Keating, America: The Jesuit Review — Read more …
Voice of the Faithful at 20: Women’s Voices
Posted by Voice of the Faithful in Voice of the Faithful, Women, Women Deacons, Women in Catholic Church, Women in the Church on May 11, 2022
By Svea Fraser, VOTF trustee and chair of Women’s Emerging Voices
Listen. Can you hear the sound of voices getting louder in support of women’s roles in the Church?
For 20 years VOTF has championed the change for women to be fully recognized as equals in the Church. We took advantage of every opportunity to raise awareness of the needs that would be better met when women have a place at the table. Resources on the website included articles, papers, videos, cards, templates for letter writing and books. One book in particular gave us a laser focus for our ongoing efforts.
The groundbreaking work of theologian Dr. Phyllis Zagano published in the book Women Deacons: Past, Present, Future (by Gary Macy, Phyllis Zagano and William T. Ditewig) was a wakeup call for many of us. A free study guide made it possible to hold group discussion groups across the country. We learned things we never knew about women deacons in our faith tradition. Two points were of great significance:
- Women ministered as deacons in the past.
- The permanent order of deacons is clearly distinct from priestly ordination.
With increasing awareness, we began discussing women deacons at webinars, at lectures, and among networking groups. Women began to ask the question, “What can we do?” Our VOTF Women’s Working Group invited others from across the continent to advocate for women and ultimately formed an “advocacy network.” Invested in our faith communities and ministering in diaconal ways, we were buoyed by others who shared our pains and hopes for inclusion. As we shared these stories, we changed the working group title from “Women’s Roles” to “Women’s Emerging Voices” to better reflect our work.
At the same time, other voices were rising in support of women and their status in the Church: at the meeting of the International Union of Superiors General, at the Amazonian Synod, and in a papal-appointed Commission to study the issue.
In Durham, N.C., another voice also attracted our attention. That was the voice of Casey Stanton, the mother of two young children and holder of a Master of Divinity degree with a certificate in prison studies. When Casey encountered incarcerated women in her prison ministry, she came face to face with the reality of abuse and violence leveled against women.
During Mass one day, Casey made a connection: Because only men preach and preside at Mass, could the implicit message that men are more important than women contribute to their treatment as “less than”? What does our Catholic Liturgy say about women?
Casey wondered if other women wrestled with the same issue, and if they shared her strong vocational desire to preach the Gospel. She initiated conversations to find out. Each individual encounter affirmed that she was not alone. Also affirmed was a feeling that women’s stories needed to be told. From this grew a desire for a liturgical service to engage others in praying and sharing and listening together.
Saint Phoebe’s Feast Day on September third provided an ideal opportunity for a Virtual Prayer Service. Phoebe is the only person named a deacon (in Greek) in the New Testament, yet she was unknown to many of us. Her name is unspoken because the passage from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans 16:1-2 is excluded from both Sunday and weekly lectionary cycles. Saint Phoebe also suffers the indignity of her Feast Day having been replaced by Pope Gregory I.
The first prayer service attracted 500 participants. Four women spoke of their heartfelt callings to minister as deacons, and their deeply felt emotions brought tears of recognition. The experience set hearts on fire.
Thus emerged a movement, a defined mission, and an informative website was created, under the name Discerning Deacons.
VOTF found common ground with Discerning Deacons: Our goals and mission statements harmonized. We joined in collaboration and mutual support. VOTF’s “advocacy network” began to call itself a “Deacon Circle.”
The success and spirited activity that followed is a testament to the power of prayer, the value of story-telling, the dedication of faithful disciples, and the overarching belief that the Holy Spirit will not deny what the Church needs.
The second Virtual St. Phoebe Prayer Service on September 3, 2021, registered 1,500 people from around the world.
From this side of the world, we sponsored an international delegation to Rome: five women from Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, and the United States. With the words of St. Paul in mind when he commended his sister Phoebe to be “welcomed in the Lord as is fitting for the saints,” we sent our group with our prayers and an image of St. Phoebe preaching to the faith community.
I believe that Saint Phoebe is interceding on behalf of women today. The Rome delegation was invited to a front row seat at Pope Francis’ weekly audience. When Ellie Hidalgo (a co-director of Discerning Deacons) presented the image of St. Phoebe to the Pope, he accepted it with a smile. And when Sr. Cira Mees told him about her ministry in the Amazon, he looked at her and said, “Firme! Adelante!” (“Keep going forward with inner strength.”). The women were truly welcomed and received “in the Lord.”
As climactic as that event was for us, the story gets better.
In an unprecedented moment in the history of the Church, Pope Francis in 2021 called for a Synod on Synodality. He wants to hear from all the people, both Catholics and non-Catholics, to discern the Holy Spirit’s will for the Church.
When was the last time a pope asked you for your thoughts?
As ancient as synods are in the Church’s tradition, it is a puzzling word for most of us. Pope Francis explains it as simply journeying together. He invites us to walk together, tell our stories, and listen to the Holy Spirit—just as VOTF and Discerning Deacons have been doing all along! Without naming it, we have been synodal in the process of sharing, listening, and discerning.
An inaugural Mass on October 10, 2021, opened the Synodal path. The window for the laity to tell our hurts and hopes for the Church is open right now. Pope Francis wants to hear from you.
Both VOTF and Discerning Deacons, along with other groups and individuals, are offering listening sessions to share your thoughts. Go to the VOTF webpage “Listening to the Faithful: Synod 2021-2023” to register for the opportunity.
It is time to tell your story.
The Pope is listening