A female priest has accused Pope Francis of paying only lip service to the equality of women in Catholicism.

– “Enigmatic” pontiff lacks concrete commitment to gender justice

Last week on two separate occasions – for his October monthly prayer intention and in the Angelus on October 11 – the pontiff insisted that in the Church “we must promote the integration of women in the places in which important decisions are taken”.

For Spanish-French priest Christina Moreira, however, that determination from the Pope to entrust more Catholic leadership roles to women sounds hollow without women’s ordination.

In an interview with the Spanish news agency EFE October 17, Moreira described as “enigmatic” the Pope’s calls “for a more incisive female presence in the Church”, and lamented that without allowing for female priests all the Pope is doing is offering women “carrots” and “cold comfort” with truly committing to the reform that she and many other Catholics are hoping for.

– Gender discrimination in the Church “will end”

Moreira was one of the seven female “apostles” who in July applied to the Pope’s ambassador in Paris to enter into those ministries in the Catholic Church traditionally reserved for men alone, such as deacon, priest, bishop and nuncio.

Moreira – who ministers as a priest in progressive Catholic communities but would like to enter into communion with Rome – showed herself convinced that gender discrimination in the Catholic Church “will end, just as happened with slavery, with the veto on women voting, with the impossibility of celebrating homosexual marriages”, and with “an endless number” of other reclaimed civil rights.

Moreira observed that a “growing grassroots clamour” for change in the Catholic Church is building up as the faithful notice more and more the lack of vocations to the priesthood, the neglect of parishioners, the immaturity of the clergy in the face of sexism and other instances of institutionalised paternalism.

Though she admitted that “nobody knows what the definitive flashpoint will be” that finally leads to women priests, Moreira said nonetheless that she hopes that the Catholic faithful will soon get used to seeing “women wearing a stole and chasuble without it seeming outlandish”, and without those vestments seeming “fancy dress” just because they are worn by women.

– Compulsory clerical celibacy “has done a great deal of harm”

In her interview with EFE, Moreira also spoke out against the Catholic prohibition on priests marrying.

In that sense, the female priest – herself married to a male cleric – lamented that “the obligatory nature of celibacy has done a great deal of harm”, and has even led to the suicide of young people and other aspirants to Holy Orders.

“Celibacy that is consented and assented to, offered as a vow, as monks do, can be an incomporable treasure”, Moreira acknowledged.

However, she asked: “What meaning can it [celibacy] have from the moment it is something obligatory and not voluntary?” – even more so “without the proper formation and preparation” for young seminarians to prepare for that lifestyle.

Moreira also lamented that the Church’s insistence on celibacy has forced innumerable clerics to resign in order to get married – a state of affairs that has led the institution to “lose many human jewels for the ministry”.

Were the Church to drop the celibacy requirements, it could get back “treasures” of former priests who “know how to love, have a family, have raised children, have worked, have been unemployed, who have taken on responsibilities”, Moreira explained.

The female priest concluded by insisting that a lifting of the ban on married female and male priests would end the hurt done by priests hiding partners and children, mistreating women and abusing minors, in some cases with the knowledge of their superiors.

Moreira insisted that the time has come for a thorough clean-up in the Church. One that would finally bring transparency and democratic governance to the institution, and would do away with the sexism that has alienated the Church from a secular world increasingly unwilling to accept discrimination on the basis of gender identity, skin colour and other traits.

More on Novena on Christina Moreira:

Female Catholic priest, to hierarchy: “If you don’t want women to celebrate the sacraments, console and bless… stop baptising us!”


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