Hundreds of Spanish Catholic women have cried out for equal rights in the Catholic Church, protesting in cities all over the country with chants such as “Jesus was a feminist!”.
With the motto “Church women revolt: Until equality becomes customary”, some 600 Catholic women, along with Catholic men and people of both sexes united in non-denominational solidarity, gathered this Sunday outside the Almudena Cathedral in Madrid to denounce, as they put it, the “deep discrimination” women suffer in the Church.
“We’re meeting outside because they leave us outside, just because we’re women”, the women protesters cried.
They deplored that “we’re sick of the inconsistencies and the authoritarianisms we live daily” in the Church at the hands of men.
– “The message of Jesus is a message of equality”
It was a peaceful protest in Madrid, with the women present coming from different Church associations, grassroots Christian communities, parishes and other Church groups in which a feminine presence is welcome and encouraged.
Along with the chants – “Let the men clean and arrange the flowers!”, “With a say, with a say, that’s how God wants us” or “Martha and Mary would be here too” – there were homages to great female saints throughout history, from Mary of Nazareth and Mary Magdalene to St. Josephine Bakhita.
There were also dances, songs, moments of silence and the recital of an “Our Father/Mother” prayer.
Perhaps the highlight, however, was the reading of a manifesto in which the Catholic women protesters demanded “access to the female diaconate and priesthood” and “a say and a vote” in ecclesiastical structures, and that much as a first step towards putting a stop to the “multiple forms of injustice and invisibilisation” that women suffer in the Church.
María García, a 22-year-old catechist from the underprivileged Madrid suburb of Vallecas, read the part of the women’s manifesto that denounced that Catholic sexual morality is based on nothing more than bans and prohibitions, and that decried “the patriarchal and sexist language of homilies, liturgical texts and documents”.
“The message of Jesus is a message of equality”, García explained.
“I’m not making it up in catechesis: Jesus was a feminist, and I pass that on to the kids”, she added.
Though there wasn’t a priest or a bishop in sight at the Catholic women’s protest in Madrid Sunday, García expressed her hope the hierarchy “sits down to talk with us, so that there are substantial changes in the structure of the Church”.
“The Church will gain a lot if it listens to us women”, the young catechist insisted, promising to come back to next year’s protest, and again every year after that, “until equality becomes a reality” in the Church.
– “An unstoppable process” for gender justice
“The women of the Church are in an unstoppable process. The structures have not changed, but we ourselves have changed”, clamoured for her part the theologian Pepa Torres, one of the organisers of Sunday’s Madrid gender equality protest.
And “unstoppable” indeed seem to be the Catholic women’s protests that have already spread all over Spain, from the capital to other cities such as Seville, Zaragoza and Barcelona.
“Jesus of Nazareth wanted us with him”, Catholic women protesters shouted at the doors of Seville Cathedral Sunday, insisting “from north to south, from east to west, equality in the Church at all costs”.
The emphasis at the gender equality protest in Seville was on the need for an “inclusive” Church, participant Teresa De Troya claimed: but “inclusive” not just of women, but of other underrepresented groups too, such as immigrants and non-binary or LGBTQ+ people.
“We come from afar”, “We are many”, “Let’s raise our voice”, “Break the silence” and “Equal before God, unequal in the Church?”, meanwhile, were the slogans Church gender equality protesters chanted outside the Cathedral of Barcelona.
There demonstrators were joined by Stephanie Lorezo and Chantal Götz, of the international Catholic women’s rights group Voices of Faith, which is also organising other Church gender equality protests all over the world in the lead-up to International Women’s Day March 8.