• Internationally-committed Catholic women’s rights activist Chantal Götz explains why Church women should have the courage to be angry and should also be proud to be feminists. And why International Women’s Day on March 8th should be a Church feast.

Until the year 2000 I secretly asked myself whether International Women’s Day on March 8th was really needed. After all, women should be celebrated 365 days a year! Maybe I asked myself that too, because I grew up in Switzerland, where I always felt “equal”.

Only when I worked at the Fidel Götz Foundation, which works exclusively with Catholic organizations and the institutional Church, was I better informed: I saw an injustice or inequality and discrimination that shook my value system.

I saw the Church system for the first time through the eyes of committed religious women – women who do incredible things everywhere, often at the ends of the Earth, to help people and are the ones who live and carry out the actual mission of the Church. 

I found that “my Church” is not just a religious community, but is institutionally and organisationally like a non-governmental organization (NGO), almost a global corporation in which mainly women do the work but have no voice in the system, let alone in the leadership. 

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, abbreviated to the United Nations Convention on Women, or CEDAW, was never signed by the Vatican, the central administration of the institutional world Church and Vatican city-state – although women are the real contributors to the Church’s mission.

Even today, the Catholic Church, seen as a “global employer”, cannot show any gender policy that applies to the entire world Church.

The fact that women’s rights are human rights does not apply to the largest humanitarian organisation in the world! Isn’t that absurd and make women angry?

Feminism in the Church

When we talk about what stands in the way of equality for women in the Church, the conversation mostly revolves around men – here in our case ordained men, around 0.01% of the total of 1.3 billion believers – who sit on Church executive chairs and only for this reason assume power because it is based on a patriarchal system. It justifies the men who don’t want to change anything and continue to look away. 

But that’s just one side of the coin. The patriarchy is a system that is still supported by many Catholic women.

I would therefore like to speak very consciously about us women here. A few days ago I received this email (not from a nun!): “Terrible! Pray, Pray – Message from the Blessed Mother! Dear Ms Goetz, if you women really want to do something good, finally stop attacking our faith and our Church. With heartfelt greetings, MS”.

Dear (criticizing) women, you make me angry! Why don’t you question the prevailing ecclesiastical system instead of treading on your own sister’s toes?

The system is called patriarchy and, by definition, deliberately devalues ​​women – in all respects. It aims to make women powerless or silent, or to suppress their opinions.

For many of us women in the Church, the word feminism is almost a sin. That cries out to heaven and is not understandable from my point of view.

Feminism aims at equality. Equality means that we believe that we have a right to a more honest and authentic life, a right to education, to paid work. A right to dignity!

Courage to anger

But the ecclesiastical system gives us women no voice or say. We are ignored, still punished, killed, harassed and humiliated in certain countries.

This is where my courage to get angry comes up: just because I am a woman, I will not allow the 0.01% male-dominated decision-makers to rule out these basic rights! And I will not rest until my own Church implements and lives it.

I should be deeply ashamed if I did not stand up for our fundamental rights, which apply in society but not in the Church!

I am probably deeply Swiss, and I did my high school education with the Pallottines, so I will not let this value be taken away from me – especially not by “fellow sisters” in the Church. It initially took courage – at age 30 – to stand against the hierarchy, but the anger in me triggered positive energy and creativity to find ways to make sure that, sooner or later, firmly-anchored human rights are valid also in our Church.

No more Church patriarchy

Dear nagging women, through your silence or your negative statements towards your own fellow sisters and brothers, you are co-responsible for ruining” the Church.

The patriarchal church system has silenced us women for centuries, and the fresh, courageous “Catherine of Siena voices” have been lost. But we’re getting back these voices: we’re recognising the misogyny in ourselves and in the Church. We’re ending patriarchy and standing for equal dignity and equal rights.

I am a proud feminist who stands up enthusiastically to pave the way for an emancipated Church!

According to Pope Francis, the Church is a “story of love”. It is our duty to implement the work of love in the world. We women carry and create this love, also called “Church”.

Without us there would be no such work. It is the 0.01% of decision-making men who are unable to recognise the love that it takes to do this work.

Men who do not have the necessary management experience, lack financial, economic and political training, cover up clerical abuse and are responsible for financial mismanagement and the lack of care: men who cannot admit and cannot ask if they do not know something.

The Pope needs a Women’s Council

I advocate for a female CEO in the Curia who advises the Pope “in love”. It is inexplicable how the Pope can only have male cardinals in his closest advisory circle, when history teaches us that male-only societies can make even great visions fail. Three years ago, Voices of Faith suggested that he urgently put a women’s committee at his side. But with all openness and honesty, Francis is immune to the advice of women. 

I advocate that we women take responsibility for the “history of love”! 

I currently see my hope and commitment in the fact that as a growing network of Catholic women around the world, we can sensitise many women to the need to work together for our Church, women’s solidarity and humor. Tidying up our own home is a top priority.

We should continue to be proud feminists and treat March 8th as an official Church feast until the abuse of power and exclusion have ended and equal dignity and rights also apply in the Vatican and the universal Church.

We women are the change!

(Source: Chantal Götz, Katholische Kirche im Kanton Zürich; translation: Novena)

Novena, with all women everywhere on International Women’s Day:

Catholic women’s rights group head Chantal Götz: Vatican image of women still “devastating”, “beautiful words” no use without real equality

Catholic women mobilise for International Women’s Day: “The equality of every human being is a basic lesson of Christianity”

‘Voices of Faith’ general manager: “The Church can only benefit from women’s equality”

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