The Table

Following the Catholic Women Speak launch, WOC board member Sheila Peiffer, posed the apt question: Catholic women are speaking, but “are Catholic men listening? Sheila was a key volunteer during the WOW conference and was one of several early editor-readers of the Catholic Women Speak book. She was able to attend the launch in Rome with me:

The mission of the volume is to reach the 300 or so “decision-makers” at the Family Synod, all of whom are celibate men without direct experience of family life, other than having been raised in a family.  These essays attempt to acquaint the prelates with personal experiences of women of great faith – women who have persevered in being Catholic (for the most part) despite marginalization and rejection of various kinds.  The book is a crash course in family life – and written in such a way that it is easy to dip into and get a “taste” of many issues that alienate good people who want to be at home in our church….

The book is not in itself a call for women’s ordination.  Only the last essay in the book alludes to this “elephant” in the room.  But it is a clarion call for full participation of women in the life and governance of the Church.  The felicity with which it came together and the amazing spirit present in the launching ceremonies testify to its timeliness and need.  Women want to be heard!  Women are more than ready to bring their gifts to the table.

12144733_10205176053790300_3902335452516035649_nIt turns out, some might be.  Recent statements made by Canadian Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher of Gatineau, Quebec during the Vatican’s Synod on the Family suggest an emergence of a discussion about including women in the ordained permanent diaconate.  From WOW’s statement on the breaking news:

We applaud Archbishop Durocher for raising the suggestion to the exclusively male-voting body, and furthermore, for highlighting the relationship between the “degradation” of women in Church and society and violence against women around the world.

We call on our Church leaders to state clearly that “domination” over women is never acceptable, and until women are empowered as equals our Church perpetuates an inequality contrary to the Gospel. We pray that women’s voices will not only be heard in forthcoming discussions, but given an equal vote.

Discussion of women deacons stirs up many emotions, ranging from “’bout time,” to the equally valid, “too little, too late.” Several years ago WOW devoted much of its annual meeting to developing a cautious but supportive statement on the diaconate:

Though restoration of an ordained women’s diaconate would not alone be a satisfactory progression to including women in all realms of Church leadership, government and sacramental ministry – only ordination to the priesthood and episcopacy could begin to accomplish this – WOW supports restoration of the diaconate. It is long overdue.

Wherever you find yourself on the emotional spectrum, what Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher said is important and courageous in his context. Not only did he use his “3 minutes” of the synod floor-time to discuss women, he connected the “domination” of women to greater violences against women around the world. In many ways, these are clear talking points from the “Gender, Gospel, and Global Justice” conference. Here is his full statement in French, and English.

IMG_20151007_161405Following the Catholic Women Speak book launch there was still the delivery of the hundreds of books to the Synod Fathers to manage. After calls, emails, and connections within the cognoscenti, and one slightly unusual visit of two young women to the Synod Hall with a contact’s name and purses armed with books … (my friend and I were both asked for our business cards, a networking moment we declined for the success of the mission…),…  I am happy to say that the Catholic Women Speak book has been successfully delivered to the foyer of the Synod Hall.

IMG_20151007_161338It is not lost on me the incredible lengths that so many of the organizers of the CWS network went through to make the book and delivery a reality… these are not paved paths for women in the Catholic Church, and just one of the results of a system that actively disempowers and excludes women and women’s voices. As I shared in my previous post, this effort is only part of the remedy and part of the conversation that the hierarchical church must engage and reckon with, and a small start. But, it does feel good that when the Catholic Women Speak network brought their gifts to the table, there was indeed a table. And inside the Vatican, no less. As Sheila writes…

“Coming on the heels of the Women’s Ordination Worldwide 2015 Conference in Philadelphia, these two events offer great hope and concrete evidence of the global reach of women’s call for a voice in the Catholic Church.  Both events were truly international and focused on issues of the global church.  I came away from these two celebrations filled with a new vision of a church where women will speak up and be heard and where a wide spectrum of local needs will be accommodated (subsidiarity!) in order to keep the Church vibrant, relevant and flowing with the living water that Jesus promised to the Samaritan woman.”

Further reading: