German Catholic women have demanded that their bishops address the power imbalance in the Church, denouncing that in Catholicism “we women are still a long way from being where we belong”.
– Catholic Women’s Association of Germany gifts prelates with ‘PowerMeters’ to show “distance between the official Church and women”
This Wednesday, representatives of the Catholic Women’s Association of Germany (kfd) – the country’s largest Catholic women’s organisation, with around 450,000 members in 4,000 parishes – carried out a symbolic protest on the sidelines of the German Bishops’ autumn plenary assembly in Fulda.
That protest consisted of them handing over to a number of prelates purple rulers that they dubbed “PowerMeters”, and which “symbolically illustrate the distance between the official Church and women”, the kfd said in a press release.
With their ‘PowerMeters’, the kfd “wants to make it clear that the balance of power in the Catholic Church needs to be re-gauged”, stressed the association, which since June 2019 has campaigning for women’s access to Holy Orders.
Kfd national president Mechthild Heil denounced that “after 2,000 years of Church history, double standards are still being applied” with regard to women in Catholicism.
She added that in terms of their progress in the Church women “have covered many metres, but we… are still a long way from being where we belong”.
According to media reports, the vast majority of bishops ran past the fifteen or so women protesting outside the assembly Wednesday, resolutely avoiding all contact and discussion with them.
A few prelates did stop to talk to the women and to accept the gift of the rulers, however, including German Bishops’ chair Georg Bätzing, the Bishop of Limburg, and his deputy, Bishop of Osnabrück Franz-Josef Bode.
On women’s equality in the Church, “we must now do what we can. We cannot do anything else; and we are doing it in connection with the universal Church”, said Bishop Bätzing.
“Above all, we must see the ‘synodal path’ as a real opportunity”, the German Bishops’ head added, in a reference to the German Church’s ongoing grassroots reform and renewal process.
– “We find it difficult to recognise the message of Jesus in the actions of many powerful men of the Church”
In the meantime, Voices of Faith published this Monday the full text of a speech given at the opening September 19 of the gender justice protest week in Cologne of another German Catholic women’s association, ‘Maria 2.0’.
“For 2000 years women have been carrying the fire of Jesus’ message”, said Maria 2.0 activist Maria Mesrian at a communal Eucharistic celebration presided over by women themselves outside Cologne cathedral.
She added that the female and male protesters had gathered “because we find it difficult to recognise the message of Jesus in the actions of many powerful men of the Church”.
“We miss the openness and freedom with which Jesus welcomed all people. We see exclusion and narrowness, abuse of power and dishonesty. We have set up our tables because we long for a Church where everyone is welcome and no one is excluded”, Mesrian explained.
– “No woman in the world wants to be oppressed”
The Maria 2.0 leader made reference to the work of the Catholic Women’s Council network, which as she recalled “is supported by women from all over the world”, since “equality and comprehensive change in the Catholic Church is not a luxury problem of Western women and men”.
“All are fighting for equal dignity and equal rights in their own places. Therefore our struggle is not a selfish navel-gazing, but an act of solidarity with women worldwide: no woman in the world wants to be oppressed”, Mesrian emphasised.
“The Church is a global player. If it were to implement respect for dignity and equality and standards of transparency and power control in its structures, it would set an example and have an immense positive influence on societies. If it does not do so, it obscures the message of the Gospel.
“I deliberately say this sentence here in Cologne in front of the cathedral: Power without control becomes arbitrary and spreads fear.
“The Church must proclaim the Good News. It must not spread fear. We do not stop putting our finger in the wound. But we do not stop there. The time for lamentation is over. We go on and want to live what we have understood from the Gospel. So together we begin…”, Mesrian concluded, ending on a note of hope.