Despite the Synod-phobia of traditionalists like Cardinals Müller and Woelki, the German Church’s reform process is giving confidence to laymen and especially laywomen, with the latest show being a women-only sermon day in Oldenburg for Church gender equality.
Driving the news
Petra Focke, the deputy spokeswoman of the Oldenburg chapter of the Catholic Women’s Association of Germany (KFD), announced February 3 that women will take over the pulpit at Masses in the district on the Third Sunday in Lent, March 14-15.
At least eight parishes in the region have confirmed their willingness to give a preaching voice to women in Church services that weekend, although the women’s homilies will be accompanied by sermons by bishops, priests or deacons, in accordance with canon law.
Still, Focke was positive about the take-up of the women’s homilies for Church gender equality initiative, in which other priests and parishes have also expressed an interest but are still working out the organisational details.
Having women give the sermon is a way to accompany the German Church’s “synodal path” reform process, explained the KFD Oldenburg spokeswoman.
She added that it’s also as a way of celebrating that “women are already shaping the face of the Church today”, regardless of whether the synodal path leads to their ordination or not.
Why it matters
As one of the four principal themes of the synodal path – along with power and authority, celibacy and the priestly way of life, and sexual morality – the issue of women and Church gender equality occupied a central place in the first synodal assembly in Frankfurt at the weekend.
Theologian Agnes Wuckelt, vice-chair of the KFD, outlined at the assembly a three-step roadmap for achieving Church gender equality, including placing women in more Church lay management positions right now and building up to their eventual ordinations as deacons and priests, dependent on decisions to that effect from the Vatican and a Church Council respectively.
During the Frankfurt assembly, the KFD, along with other German Catholic women’s associations, also put out a joint position paper on gender equality in which they insisted that “we believe that people are the image of God”.
“That is why women and men have the same dignity and the same rights. Because of gender, there must be no ecclesiastical or social disadvantage. Therefore women and men must have equal access to all ministries and ministries in the Church”, the women’s associations argued.
The pushes for women’s equality in the Church coming out of Oldenburg and Frankfurt come on the back of similar moves out of Rome, in which the women’s rights groups Voices of Faith and the Catholic Women’s Council (CWC) organised gender equality protests for March 8, International Women’s Day, and a global pilgrimage for the dignity of women to culminate in Rome in September 2021, respectively.
“Catholic women are taking responsibility and no longer asking for their future”, Voices of Faith declared.
“Dignity and equality are inseparably linked. Only when women have equal rights in the Catholic Church is their dignity fully respected. For a sustainable Church, the voices of 600 million Catholic women must be heard”, the CWC added.