500 Catholic women worldwide have clamoured in an online liturgy for women’s ordination, hearing a sermon that asked: “What have we done with the God of Mary’s Magnificat?”

– “Mary is not rocking a cradle, she is rocking the world”

Soline Humbert giving her homily
Soline Humbert giving her homily
(We Are Church Ireland)

“The gender apartheid in our Church is no more godly than the racial apartheid was in South Africa, and truly no less a scandal”, We Are Church Ireland member Soline Humbert told the women gathered online September 20 for a liturgy organised by Women’s Ordination Worldwide (WOW).

WOW is an ecumenical group working for the ordination of women in the Catholic Church. Founded in Austria in 1996, WOW will be celebrating 25 years in 2021.

Humbert dedicated her homily Sunday to St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the Doctor of the Church who as she recalled wrote: “How much I would have wanted to be a priest so that I could preach on the Blessed Virgin Mary”.

And indeed, Humbert described Mary as “a prophet issuing a wake up call” in her Magnificat, “loudly proclaiming a revolution”.

“Mary is not rocking a cradle, she is rocking the world”, she stressed.

– “The God of Mary is not a distant, detached God endorsing from afar the unjust status quo”

Continuing on with her sermon, Humbert explained that “the God of Mary is not a distant, detached God endorsing from afar the unjust status quo. No, the God of Mary of Nazareth is a God intimately involved in the world and whose action is truly subversive”.

“But let’s be clear: Mary is not proclaiming a bloody, violent revolution where places are merely reversed and nothing really has changed. The same dynamic of competition, envy, greed, powerplay and domination remains untouched.

“Mary’s Magnificat is far more radical: it heralds a total transformation of relationships through justice and mercy. This is what the reign of God, the reign of Love looks like”.

– The “scandal” of Catholic sexism is “an obstacle to the Gospel”

Humbert said that Mary’s Magnificat is a promise that “distorted relationships are giving way to relations of equality, mutuality and solidarity”. The Virgin’s joy is “both mystical and prophetic, intimate and cosmic… truly expansive and explosive. It opens up spaces, unlocks doors, disrupts, goes beyond imposed limitations”.

But is there still space for strong, prophetic women like Mary in Catholicism today?

Humbert emphasised that “in a Church where unjust, unequal power relationships have been sacralised, especially on grounds of gender, Mary’s Magnificat is a call to look again”.

The structures, teachings, roles, stereotypes and exclusions imposed on women in the Church today “are the products of a distorted image of God which has prevailed through millennia”, Humbert denounced, decrying the “scandal” of Catholic sexism as “an obstacle to the Gospel”.

Mary ‘s Magnificat exposes Catholic gender injustice for what it is: “not the good fruit of God ‘s will and action, but the rotten fruit of sexism and misogyny”, Humbert insisted.

– “Today Mary wouldn’t be allowed to proclaim her Magnificat in our churches”

Humbert shared that as she was preparing her sermon “some of the glaring absurdity in our present ecclesial practices came to mind”.

“Mary’s Magnificat is from the Gospel, meaning that at Mass when it is read it has to be by a male priest or a male deacon. Today Mary wouldn’t be allowed to proclaim her Magnificat in our churches… but she would have to hand it over to be delivered through male, ordained, lips! And as for preaching on it, she would also be considered unfit because of her gender.

“What have we done with the God of Mary ‘s Magnificat? Turned into a male idol to give some men power over women in the guise of divine male authority”.

Humbert closed her homily describing Mary of Nazareth, Mary Magdalene and Hildegard of Bingen – another female Doctor of the Church – as “free women, empowered and empowering women”. “Women alive and on fire” whose ‘yes’ to God was the source of their authority, “not male permission and approval”.

“Together with Mary and Hildegard, Elizabeth and Mary of Magdala, and countless witnesses, women and men, we affirm: ‘With You among us, we are holy people. Within your embrace the land is holy. All created things live your praise. We hear, we see, we are in awe, and we give thanks. Magnificat!”

To read the full text of Soline Humbert’s sermon, visit the We Are Church Ireland website

More stories of strong Catholic women, on Novena:

German Catholic women declare far-right AfD “not compatible” with Christian values

German Catholic women protest for equal rights in Church: “Bringing the Word of God to the people is not a task reserved for men alone”

Vatican expert: “Only women can reform the Church because they are not compromised by power”

Irish nun pleads: “Most urgent” issue for Church “is to correct its gender imbalance”


Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.