German women have decried the “arrogance and ignorance” of the system of “male dominance” in Catholicism, issuing a powerful plea for female-friendly change in the Church: “Instead of monarchy and hierarchy, democracy and empathy!”

– “Like a dark cloud, the breath of absolutist clerical power hangs over us and suffocates everything we cherish”

This Friday September 4 marks the restart of the German Church’s ‘synodal path’ reform process after the worst of the coronavirus pandemic with a series of regional conferences in Berlin, Dortmund, Frankfurt, Ludwigshafen and Munich.

Coinciding with that resumption of the synodal path, the members of the ‘Maria 2.0’ Catholic women’s rights movement in Frankfurt wrote a letter they were to hand over today to German Bishops’ chair Georg Bätzing with a request that he pass it along to Cardinal Beniamino Stella, the Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy.

On July 20, Stella’s Congregation published a controversial instruction on “The pastoral conversion of the Parish community in the service of the evangelising mission of the Church” that attracted fierce criticism in Germany and beyond for its focus on the leadership of priests to the exclusion of laypeople.

In their open letter Friday – published by German paper Die Zeit – the women of ‘Maria 2.0’ in Frankfurt blasted the Congregation for the polemical instruction, and denounced the existence in the Church today of an “absolutist understanding of power” that is “incomprehensible” and “incompatible with the gospel” and that they said has “hindered and weakened” them “in our work of living and passing on the faith”.

“Like a dark cloud, the breath of absolutist clerical power hangs over us and suffocates everything we cherish and nurture”, the German Catholic women deplored, warning that with the clericalist direction it has taken the Church “is on the wrong path”.

“We powerless Catholics feel this very clearly. There is a rift running through our Catholic identity. The sacred has been damaged”, the women decried, accusing Catholic leaders from the pope down of having “succumbed to the seduction of worldly power”.

– God’s image in women “has been trampled under foot by men for centuries”

The members of ‘Maria 2.0’ continued their letter to Cardinal Stella by denouncing that the image of the divine in women “has been… trampled under foot by men for centuries”.

“A Church that places itself in the earthly tradition of the degradation and incapacitation of women is not the body of Jesus Christ”, the women denounced, decrying the fact that the Church law the Clergy Congregation appealed to to shore up the authority of priests in the parish “does not stand for the spirit of the gospel” but instead “serves the exercise of… male dominance”.

The women complained to Cardinal Stella that in the Vatican document “there is no listening on your part… no attempt to understand”, and they added that in a Church so sharply divided between the ordained and the laity “women have no voice – they are incapacitated” and “human dignity is not respected… people are stigmatised and excluded from the community”.

The members of ‘Maria 2.0’ warned Stella that “an understanding of ordination that serves to consolidate power loses its holiness. When sacraments serve the exercise of clerical power, they lose their sanctifying effect”.

“God is not on the side of the powerful against the powerless. Proclaiming the gospel does not mean simply repeating the texts over and over again. It means translating them into the here and now, it means understanding people and meeting them sympathetically”, the German Catholic women insisted.

– “Come down from your high horses and golden thrones!”

‘Maria 2.0’ Frankfurt closed its letter to Cardinal Stella with a powerful plea to Vatican leaders to “come down from your high horses and golden thrones” and give the Church a “form worthy of the gospel”.

“Rise from your graves of a theology of yesterday! Leave your dead traditions behind you; leave behind everything that prevents you from seeing God!”, the German Catholic women implored Cardinal Stella, urging officials in the Congregation for the Clergy “not [to] shut yourselves up in your power structures that give deceptive protection, in the norms that turn you into ruthless judges, in the habits in which you feel settled”.

“Reform your power structures; do not place yourself above the gospel; do not separate the Church from God through arrogance, vanity and lust for power.

“Finally take responsibility for the world! Separate yourself from bad traditions. Let the dead bury the dead. Come to life at last!”, ‘Maria 2.0’ pleaded with Cardinal Stella and his Congregation.

On Novena, more calls for female-friendly reform in Catholicism:

German, Austrian, Swiss and Italian youth urge bishops to bring about gender justice in Catholicism: “Only in this way can the Church be a strong voice for freedom”

Women take to pulpits in German diocese: “It is not enough to give testimony only in the family or at work”

Theologian warns Catholic women have had enough of being “silenced, subordinated and excluded from decision-making”

Novena guest article: “The idea that God is male is by far the biggest religious travesty in human history”


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