A Spanish feminist theologian has alerted that the Church is now facing a “day of reckoning” on women’s equality, warning that “we can’t wait any longer” to implement full gender justice.
– “Power in the Church is in priestly hands, and we women have no right to it as long as we are denied the priesthood”
“Power in the Church is in priestly hands, and we women have no right to it as long as we are denied the priesthood”, Isabel Gómez Acebo denounced in a webinar November 5 on the topic: “Women in the Church: an equality that cannot be postponed”.
On the subject of gender justice in the Catholic Church, “we can’t wait any longer, because churches are emptying in Europe”, continued Gómez Acebo, a pioneer of feminist theology in Spain who taught until her retirement at the Jesuit-run Comillas Pontifical University in Madrid.
“The Church is losing relevance by not having women among its ranking members”, the theologian decried, adding that as long as the Church continues to resolutely refuse full gender equality and deny women access to ordained ministries, “it loses substance and becomes obsolete; it does not move with the signs of the times”.
Not only is the priesthood of women a matter of justice, but it is also soon to become a matter of practical relevance too, Gómez Acebo explained, given the widespread decline in male priestly vocations.
“Men are moving away from poorly-paid, low-prestige professions. It happened with the teachers” and is happening too with the priesthood, the theologian noted, taking stock of changes in the practice of ordained ministry away from addressing “the multitudes” to the more thankless task of carrying out “the work of the Samaritans”.
Though Gómez Acebo has been campaigninig for the ordination of women for decades, she acknowledged that the Catholic Church is unlikely to see female priests any time soon.
In terms of reforms in the Church, she said that “I had great hopes in Pope Francis, but I have lost them”. Among other reasons, because the pontiff recently referred to the coronavirus as “Madame Covid”.
“In his [the Pope’s] subconscious, still, women are bad”, Gómez Acebo lamented, adding that “the conservative Church continues to defend arguments that put us women on the sidelines, and the Pope does not want to confront them, because he could find himself in a very big problem: a schism”.
Still, Gómez Acebo showed a certain optimism with regard to women’s inclusion in the Church, but only if Catholics let go of some deeply-held ideas.
First among them, the notion still held by many Catholics that “we women have been considered created for the pleasure of men”. “That the Church continues to preach contraceptive methods as negative is a mockery. Why don’t we grab reality by the horns?”, Gómez Acebo asked in that sense.
She added, too, that “the word ‘vocation’ bothers me, because when we talk about it, we refer only to priests and nuns, and not to lay vocations”. “I have children and grandchildren, and I sow there”, she explained. “I don’t like the term ‘shepherd’ either, because the one who leads is a sheep”, she also protested.
However, a reason for confidence is to be found in the fact that the pandemic “has accelerated this process” of movement in the Church away from institutional parishes to “small communities which could be presided over by anyone with charisma”, regardless of their gender.
“We all have the possibility of contributing in terms of following Christ”, she insisted.
– Dominican nun: “If we continue with this all too hierarchical and patriarchal model, we risk our credibility and commitment” as Church
Also participating in the webinar along with Gómez Acebo was Dominican nun Lucía Caram.
The religious made many of the same observations as the theologian, including that “this Pope – who every times he opens his mouth is threatened by powerful lobbies with a schism – sometimes puts women in dicasteries, but then they call cardinals ‘Eminence’ – there is no fraternity”.
Explaining that she would not like to see women enter into the priesthood under the “unhelpful” framework of the clericalism that still reigns today, Caram explained that that “struggle of men, for power, for money… that struggle does not interest me; mine is the struggle of the gospel”.
“If we continue with this all too hierarchical and patriarchal model, we risk our credibility and commitment” as Church, the religious warned.