Spanish Catholic women are decrying a rise in misogyny in the Church due to a “huge lack of female presence” in seminaries.

Driving the news

“As women, we feel in certain sectors of our Church an increase in hostility towards us and the feminist cause, which is none other than the equality of all the sons and daughters of God”, the Association Mulleres Cristiás Galegas Exeria (“‘Exeria’ Galician Christian Women”) denounced in a December 28 manifesto, for the Feast of the Holy Innocents.

The occasion for the manifesto, also signed by representatives of almost a dozen other Christian women’s collectives from all over Spain, was the insult launched on Twitter earlier this month by Catholic priest Franciso Rafael Gómez Canoura, who called feminists as a “herd of sows”.

“Why do I have to tolerate that a herd of sows tells me ‘the rapist is you?’ You [feminists] are the rapists, [for] trying to force our [male] consciences”, Gómez Canoura tweeted, before retracting days later his “inappropriate and unfortunate” comment.

“Apologies to all those who were offended, it wasn’t my intention”, the priest later added December 17.

“I have always been in favor of equality and against all types of violence”, Gómez Canoura explained.

The big picture

Gómez Canoura’s Santiago archdiocese, in the north-west of Spain, issued a statement insisting that the priest had apologised, and reiterating the Church’s “commitment to the equal dignity between men and women and its rejection of every kind of violence”.

However, that timid response from the Church has proven insufficient for the Exeria association and its sister groups.

Those groups said they wrote their manifesto “to censor some words that undermine human rights, written by a specific person [Gómez Canoura] who believes that he has the right to say them, but also to denounce the ecclesial context that allows this behaviour and doesn’t take strong measures to eradicate it”.

“We can’t understand the permissiveness on the part of the ecclesiastical authority regarding a priest who has recently finished his period of formation in the seminary, a priest who continues to celebrate and preach in ‘his’ parishes”, the Christian feminists denounced.

Go deeper

“We note with sadness the fear and suspicion that certain sectors of the Church continue to have towards us women, their sisters: fear and suspicion that is manifested in attitudes of rejection when not out-and-out misogyny”, the Christian women continued in their manifesto.

The reason for the Church sexism, the feminists said, is that “the formation of future priests is too biased towards the masculine”.

“Priests must know what we women think to learn to value our contributions to ecclesial life”, the Christian women affirmed, lamenting “the huge lack of female presence in the formation of priests”.

“In our Church we have well-trained women, some doctors in theology, others widely trained in spiritual accompaniment; women who conduct spiritual exercises and teach theology classes that should be forming our future priests”, Exeria and its sister associations insisted.

Why it matters

Denouncing that some sectors of the Church are becoming “a den of hatred, injustice, intolerance, animosity… [and] avarice”, the Exeria and associated feminists criticised those Christians “who refuse to have bowels of mercy, who live permanently against everything good and generous that society is gaining in its changes”.

“We also note the little prominence that is given to lay people, the few that are still committed to forming an adult People of God in faith”, the Christian women continued.

“We are seeing how every day lay people are relegated, infantilised or directly excluded from pastoral action: pastoral action for which we are called to draft documents that are then buried and forgotten in office drawers”, Exeria and the other associations said.

“We feel that we are called to participate, but that we are not really listened to”, the Christian women deplored.

What’s next

Exeria and its sister organisations said Gómez Canoura’s insults “are not an isolated event, but instead are becoming a way of relationship between the ordained and the laity, a relationship based on condescension and undervaluation”.

That ordained-lay relationship isn’t showing any signs of changing, the associations denounced: an impasse made all the more serious by the fact that “the formation of young people preparing for the priesthood is not consistent with the times in which we live nor is it in tune with the ‘outgoing Church’ proposed by Pope Francis”.

It is to remedy that defect that the Galician Christian women concluded their manifesto calling on their bishops and priests “to renew their efforts in bringing the formation of new priests up-to-date: to prepare them to not be afraid of us women or the diverse world in which they live”.

The aim of those redoubled efforts on the part of pastors must be that the next generation of ordained men “know[s] how to take sure and steady steps… towards the formation of living and adult communities, responsible in their faith, without fear of differences, welcoming and merciful [and] in dialogue with the Galician culture”.

Were that to happen, those new priests be “seeds of the Kingdom of God in our land and in the world”, the Christian feminists said.

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