Demands for women’s equality are growing louder in the German Church, with proponents planning the next stop in their campaign for gender justice in Catholicism: a “women’s synod” in Rome in 2021.
– A new week of action for women’s equality movement ‘Maria 2.0’
From May 9 to 16 German Church reform movement ‘Maria 2.0’ will be marking the first anniversary of the nation-wide Church strike it organised in 2019 to vent what it called “fury over a male-only priesthood and bishops’ foot-dragging on sex scandals”, and which gained the group international prominence.
Due to the coronavirus, Maria 2.0’s week of action this year will look different, but that doesn’t mean the protests will be any powerful and resonant.
“One focus is on collecting women’s voices”, co-founder Lisa Kötter told Kirche + Leben, explaining the activities ‘Maria 2.0’ is organising for the demonstrations this year in Münster – the birthplace of the movement – in collaboration with the Catholic Women’s Association of Germany (kfd).
– Messages from Catholic women on what equality and dignity means to them
Kötter and her sisters are asking for statements from Catholic women in Germany and beyond on what equality and dignity in the Church looks like to them.
That’s with the aim of taking those testimonies to Rome in 2021 for a global Catholic Women’s Council event.
From its beginnings with women from Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein and Switzerland, however, the CWC has since grown to include female university lecturers, religious, journalists, theologians, volunteers, pastoral workers and ‘rank-and-file’ believers from the five continents.
For now, however, Maria 2.0 and the kfd in Münster are planning on collecting Catholic women’s statements and displaying them not only online but also on local church doors and facades.
– Support in the wider German Church for women preachers, deacons
The women’s equality movement in the German Church hit the headlines this last week with the celebration of the annual ‘Day of the Female Deacon’ on Wednesday April 29, the feast of St. Catherine of Siena.
For that day, pastoral theologian Fr. Martin Lörsch wrote on German Bishops’ news website katholisch.de that women deacons are needed since “the Church no longer reaches many social classes with its message because it no longer reaches women in these milieus”.
But the gender justice cause in the German Church has also received new impetus from canon lawyer Thomas Schiller – who has argued women should be allowed to preach at Mass – and from vicar general of the Speyer diocese Andreas Sturm, who has come out in favour of the ordination of women.
“If the Word of God could only be born in a woman, if ultimately women at the cross remained faithful to the dying Saviour and women were the first to believe and testify to the message of the resurrection and thus initiate and take responsibility for the success story of Christianity, then… women should also be primary proclaimers of the Gospel in the future”, Schiller wrote in the May edition of Herder Korrespondenz, adding that women are “the true prophets”.
“Those who perform the service of the deacon should also be ordained deacon”, Sturm added for his part on last Wednesday’s Day of the Female Deacon.
The Speyer vicar general recalled that for centuries women have been involved in the Church’s name in care for others – for the sick, refugees, dying and the needy – and that in the context of the coronavirus pandemic women’s examples of selfless care have only multiplied.
“This deeply diaconal action must therefore be expressed in sacramental ordination”, Sturm insisted, reflecting on the fact that a Church without women would be less close to people.