The Vatican newspaper has implored Pope Francis “to break the wall of inequality between women and men in the Church”.

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“Even in the Vatican, women are sometimes seen by men, but also by other women, as persons of lesser intellectual and professional value, always available for service, always docile to senior members”, the supplement to L’Osservatore Romano, Donne Chiesa Mondo (“Women Church World”), denounced in its January 2020 edition.

The new number of the supplement, entitled “Women and Francis”, is given over entirely to the question of the place of women in the Church, including violence against nuns, the possibility of the female diaconate, and the glass ceiling which still impedes women taking on positions of authority in Church institutions.

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Though the new Donne Chiesa Mondo recognises Pope Francis’ desire to rectify the exclusion of women in the Church, the publication also calls the pontiff’s feminism “an exception” in the Church’s “high” ranks.

So it is that in the hierarchy “the concern is to continue on with a tradition that has, dreadfully, the imprint of the men of power”, as feminist philosopher Luisa Muraro has it in her interview with the Holy See paper.

On the issue of the power and sex abuses perpetrated by priests and bishops against nuns, the president of the International Union of Superiors General, Sister Jolanta Kafka, praised the Pope for “breaking the silence about violence” towards religious sisters.

Why it matters

Kafka, who represents nearly half a million consecrated women from 1900 congregations worldwide, said the Pope’s drawing attention to the violence suffered by nuns “gives us the opportunity to speak” in a kind of #ChurchToo moment.

Kafka added that she’s working to make the UISG “a place to listen and help not only against sexual violence, but also against any abuse of power”.

“For some time now, we have decided to address the problem in three directions: creating spaces where the sisters can talk. There is nothing worse than being a victim and not finding a place to be listened to. [We offer victims] therapeutic and legal support [and] carry out a work of comprehensive training to make women more aware of their dignity and their rights”, Kafka explained.

For the record

The new Donne Chiesa Mondo number also carries an appeal to the Pope by Marinella Perroni, theologian and biblical scholar at the Pontifical Athenaeum Sant’Anselmo to make the Church exemplary in terms of gender equality.

“We must give the world an example, even in what is believed to be ‘civilized’ but in which, however, there’s still a struggle”, Perroni wrote, referring to the resistance still in some Church circles to accept the equal dignity of men and women.

“Between man and woman, there’s not one that is subject (even in theory) and the other that is object (even in theory), but subjectivity must be shared”, the academic continued.

“There are too many men who speak of masculinity, even in the Church”, Perroni denounced.

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