Equality for women in the Catholic Church

Catholics in Germany, Spain want women as papal ambassadors

Catholics in Germany and Spain are proposing a new way to overcome the oppression and marginalisation to which women are subjected in the Church: the appointment of female papal ambassadors, or nuncios.

Driving the news

Katholisch.de, a website sponsored by the German Bishops, published a piece August 6 in which Benedictine priest and abbot Jeremias Schröder lamented that “the Catholic Church has difficulties giving women a fitting place of influence in the higher echelons of the Church’s hierarchy”.

But despite the “strong limitations” the “current (and some would say everlasting) exclusion of women from the priesthood” imposes, Schröder continued, there is a place for women which “could be opened up…. very quickly and without much ado”: the Vatican diplomatic service.

“The exercise of the sacramental, ordained authority is here not needed”, Schröder recalled.

That a woman were to exercise as the Pope’s representative would be particularly fitting, given that Vatican ambassadors are afforded a place of special prominence in many places, as the Benedictine observed.

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The only restriction Schröder placed on his idea is that of celibacy for potential female candidates for nuncio.

“It would be easier to sustain such a heroic witness of the papal diplomats if one also has not to take care of spouses and of children”, the Benedictine wrote.

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Go deeper

Schröder offered his reflection, he said, “with the quiet hope that via this important internet portal important decision-makers can be reached”.

And it seems as if his appeal is already having an effect, judging by the appeal published by Spanish grassroots Catholics and women’s collectives who have asked Pope Francis to appoint a female nuncio in Spain.

“We women have been doing a lot of good and quiet work in the Church for a long time, proving with our deeds that we are good managers and good theologians and that we’re deeply committed to the efficient management of pastoral work”, reads the appeal, signed by some twenty grassroots movements.

There are women at the helm of such powerful Church organisations in Spain as the Pontifical University of Salamanca, the Spanish Biblical Association, or the Church charities Manos Unidas and Caritas, continues the letter to the Pope.

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The signers of the appeal remind Francis that he could also look among many competent Catholic women diplomats in Spain to fill the vacancy left by former nuncio Renzo Fratini, who retired last month.

In sum, the Spanish Church is full of more than suitable female candidates for nuncio “who are able to shape a management and government team inspired by the Second Vatican Council with their eyes on the least, working to favor a Church presence in Spanish society that is characterised by service”, the appeal concludes.

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Cameron Doody

Director and editor at Novena
PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. Lecturer in ethics at Loyola University Maryland, Alcalá de Henares (Spain) campus. Religion journalist with 4 years experience.
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