Female candidates for traditionally male-only Church roles in France have appealed to the example of Jesus in their push for gender justice in Catholicism.
– Seven female “apostles”
“Jesus never wanted to give birth to a hierarchical structure that would exclude women”, Hélène Pichon, a candidate for the position of Vatican ambassador, or nuncio, declared in an August 29 webinar – entitled “Empowering Women to Unlock Their Vocation” – organised by Catholic women’s rights group Voices of Faith, as Crux reports.
Pichon is one of the seven female “apostles” who on July 22 – the feast of St. Mary Magdalene – presented applications to the Pope’s ambassador in France for the positions of bishop, priest, deacon, nuncio and lay preacher.
Members of the Toutes Apôtres! or ‘All Apostles’ collective, those seven female apostles – Pichon, Sylvaine Landrivon, Claire Conan-Vrinat, Christina Moreira, Marie-Automne Thépot, Laurence de Bourbon-Parme, and Loan Rocher – spoke at the 250-person-strong webinar Saturday to explain why they had decided to apply for those Church positions which traditionally have been occupied only by men.
– Transgender candidate for deacon tells Church “to open all doors and windows”
Pichon – the director of institutional relations at the Centre for Study and Strategic Prospective (CEPS) – told the webinar she had applied for the position of nuncio out of her pain that the Church has “lost all its respect because it refused to deal in a transparent manner” with crises such as the clergy sex abuse scandal, and had preferred instead to use a “pathological logic rather than [a] spiritual one”.
Pichon said her actions and those of her sisters in offering themselves for Church ministry are “absolutely vital”.
“We are up against the threat of the Church disappearing”, she warned, adding that a “transformed Church” on the women’s rights and other fronts “would offer an inspired leadership of holy men and women” that “can be a useful tool”.
For her part, Rocher – who described herself as “a transgender female and believer” – said she was applying to be a deacon to help the Church become “a place that welcomes everybody, all genders and sexual orientations”.
“I can keep my faith in Christ, but for many like me it’s not possible because they are not in the Church. I want to build bridges, ties, so that borders and walls might disappear”, Rocher insisted, adding that “for 12 years I’ve been a transgender female and I want to tell the Church to open all doors and windows. The Church is universal. There are walls that divide people into categories”.
Conan-Vrinat – who, like Rocher, also spoke at the webinar of her “calling” to be a deacon – likewise insisted on the need for “an open, welcoming Church that is [open] to diversity”.
– Are women deacons and priests necessary for a gender-equal Church?
One of the talking points at the Voices of Faith webinar was the issue of whether the ordination of women is necessary to achieve a gender-equal Church.
Resistance to women’s ordination came from Landrivon, a lecturer in course content at the Catholic University in Lyon who, although she applied to become a bishop, said she had done so more as a “symbolic act” rather than as a realistic job application.
Landrivon stressed that “we can play a role without women being priests, because the Church is about teaching, sharing and serving, and we can all take on those activities”.
Insisting that as women “we’re different, but we stand on equal footing” to men, Landrivon explained that to minister in the Church “you don’t need a skill set that wields power”.
Despite her reluctance to embrace women’s ordination, Landrivon nontheless called on Catholic women to “reduce the grip that clerics have… in order to restore the spirit” of early Christianity and to become a Church “where men and women can both contribute without any subordination, or power games… a Church where everyone feels welcome”.
Another inspiring message to Catholic women worldwide came from de Bourbon – a spiritual teacher who applied for the post of lay preacher – who explained that “what I want is for women to speak up in all different sectors and movements which heed the universal word of the Lord”.
“We must listen to what women feel, to listen to women’s version of life. I myself became free as a woman living on this earth, and this freedom is what has given me a voice”, De Bourbon insisted.
Thépot – who told the webinar she was taking the “audacious step” of applying to become a deacon – explained her move by speaking of her conviction that “if I am not enacting positive change, I have no right to be here. I want to be one of those people that shake things up”.
“I want to participate in bringing a Church that is joyful, that’s plural, and… makes room for everyone to spread the Gospel in the world. I’m eager, enthusiastic, determined, and if I’m acting out of pride, that’s okay”, Thépot told webinar participants.