The struggle of women to occupy important positions in the Church took an important step forward this Friday when the last of seven women “apostles” who are asking for equal treatment in the Church in France was received by the apostolic nuncio in that country, Celestino Migliore.
On July 22, the seven handed over to the Pope’s representative in France their candidacies for positions that are currently reserved only to men, such as deacon, priest or bishop.
All of them were received one by one by the nuncio between September 14 and October 2. Migliore listened to their petitions even though the Catholic Church does not accept that women can be ordained.
The last one to have a meeting with the nuncio this Friday was Christina Moreira, a Frenchwoman of Spanish origin, who currently serves as a priest in the Comunidad Cristiana do Home Novo, in A Coruña in Spain’s north-west, and who upon leaving her meeting with Migliore told the EFE news agency that she wants to take charge of an abandoned Catholic parish.
Moreira said she was very satisfied with the conversation she had for more than an hour with the nuncio in France, the content of which he asked her not to reveal publicly, although he promised that he would take her request and that of the other six women to the Vatican.
“It is much more than what I have achieved in Spain, where the Bishop of Santiago de Compostela, Julián Barrio, and Archbishop Carlos Osoro, of Madrid, have closed the doors to me, saying that they do not recognise me as a priest and that I am not Catholic”, Moreira lamented.
Despite this refusal, Moreira does not doubt that one day she will be able to lead a Catholic parish and tend to the Catholic faithful.
“If you want something to become reality, do it. When you fall in love or are very interested in something, you give your all to make it happen”, she said. “I fell in love with a task and I told myself that it was worth giving my all to get there”.
Moreira believes that if there were women occupying positions in the Church there would be less injustice and that many of the people who are baptised would return to the fold.
“I would like to give hope back to the people of God and make churches once again places of welcome”, she said.
The other six female aspirants to male-only ministries accompanied Moreira when she left her meeting with Migliore in Paris.
As reported by Le Monde, the women hailed their meetings as a first, since up until their trailblazing campaign “the ecclesiastical hierarchy in France [had] never taken the time to listen to women’s demands in all their diversity”.
The women thanked Nuncio Migliore – in their opinion, a “very cordial, accessible and smiling” prelate – for the “benevolent listening” and “empathy” he extended to them, but lamented his apparent insistence on “traditions” and “rules” when explaining why the Church does not ordain women. “A cordial listening does not a reform make”, the women alerted.
“I was hoping for an open-ended exchange, oriented around possible solutions, but it didn’t really take place”, decried Marie-Automne Thepot, 40, an aspiring deacon, who also explained that for her ordination “has nothing to do with moving up the hierarchy of the Church or gaining new rights”, but is rather about “finally being recognised and encouraged in my mission as an ambassador of the Church”.
“The Church is at a turning point in its history. It must now recognise – in word and especially in deed – the legitimacy of women to hold all offices, whether lay or ordained, of a governing or a spiritual nature”, the women insisted, adding that in its treatment of women the very “survival” of the Church is at stake.
For her part, would-be bishop Sylvaine Landrivon pointed up the positive aspects of the women’s encounters with the nuncio, explaining that “we are grateful for this openness of the Church and the understanding of the reality of women, which shows that dialogue is possible”.
Nonetheless, Landrivon decried that Migliore emphasised that “the clericalisation of women is not the solution”, but without himself “sketching out solutions for the fight against clericalism”.
The claim of the women on male-only roles is supported by the association Toutes Apôtres (“All Women Apostles”), a collective composed of women involved in the Church who are fighting for gender equality in the institution.
Hélène Pichon, a member of the association and one of the seven female “apostles” who aspires to become a deacon, lamented to the press that in all the portraits in the nunciature not a single woman was depicted, but only popes and bishops.
For her, that was symbolic of the fact that the Church “still robs itself of 50 percent of the genius of humanity”. The absence of women in positions of responsibility – whether in the leadership of parishes, dioceses, the Vatican or in ordained ministry – is a scandal and contradicts the Church’s witness, Pichon denounced.
“Women were at the side of Jesus Christ from the beginning to care for him and accompany him until death”, Pichon recalled.
“We have been fighting for decades to be recognised and we will continue to do so”, she insisted, giving voice to the women’s conviction that, in the face of the Church’s continuing refusal to embrace gender equality, it is perhaps enough for the moment to continue “sowing small seeds” that will one day lead to the “revolutionised Church” that they dream of.