Church renewal group ‘We Are Church International’ has hit out at the Vatican over its new instruction on parish life and reform, accusing the Roman authorities behind it of “living in a patriarchal bubble”.

– “An attempt to reassert clerical male authority and lay (especially female) subordination”

In a July 24 statement, ‘We Are Church International’ – which defines its mission on its website as that of working for “the renewal of the Roman Catholic Church on the basis of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and the theological spirit developed from it” – vented its frustration at the new Roman document released Monday and entitled “The pastoral conversion of the Parish community in the service of the evangelising mission of the Church”

The Church reform group – recognised by renowned religion sociologists as the “voice of the people in the pews” – hit out at the text published by the Congregation of the Clergy, which it said “confirms the Vatican is living in a patriarchal bubble”.

The new Vatican text “is an attempt to reassert clerical male authority and lay (especially female) subordination”, ‘We Are Church International’ denounced.

“Most disappointing is that Pope Francis appears to want to have it both ways. He has time and again spoken about the need to remove the evil of clericalism from our church. Yet he has approved this new instruction, which seeks to reinforce a rigid clericalism from the last century”, the Church renewal group continued in its statement.

“After 7 years in office when will the real Pope Francis stand up? Maybe he would abolish the Congregation of the Clergy whose main role seems to be to promote clericalism?”

– “Change is not happening in the Vatican, but in places where lay people and especially women are leading their communities”

“Change is not happening in the Vatican. Change is happening around the world where lay people and especially women are leading their communities”, ‘We Are Church International’ continued in its response to the new Vatican document.

“They are the evangelisers keeping Christ’s message of love alive in today’s divided world. They are leading liturgies and house Eucharists and ZOOM Eucharists. They understand the Law of Love, where the Vatican clings to the Love of Law”.

“Change is coming from below with the Holy Spirit in the people of God”, ‘We Are Church International’ concluded.

– About ‘We Are Church International’

As it explains on its website, ‘We Are Church International’ has been working for 25 years “for a Church which values participation, with all ministries open to women and men, with optional celibacy, which values sexuality and primacy of conscience, which is committed to social justice and human rights [and] which does not marginalise its own people”.

The ‘We Are Church’ movement has a presence in nearly forty countries around the globe, in places as diverse as Algeria, Australia and Ireland.

The group also collaborates with other Church renewal movements around the world, including the European Network Church on the Move, Women’s Ordination Worldwide (WOW) and the North Atlantic Federation for a Renewed Catholic Priesthood.

(Correction 26/7 21:00 CEST: An earlier version of this story identified the ‘We Are Church’ statement as having come from ‘We Are Church Ireland’, not ‘We Are Church International’. Novena apologises for the confusion).

Novena’s full coverage of the controversial new Vatican document on parish life and reform:

German bishops protest en masse over “absurd”, “theologically deficient” Vatican instruction on parish reform

“Last yelp of a dying religious dictatorship”: German laity hit out at new Vatican instruction on parish life

German bishop comes out swinging against Vatican instruction on parish reform, doubles-down on ‘synodal path’ as “answer to Roman challenge”

German dioceses accuse Vatican of harbouring “fear of the visibility of the laity” in new instruction on parish life

Opinion: Vatican instruction on parish life buries dream of lay-clerical co-responsibility

Vatican strengthens role of priests in local church governance, says only they should lead parishes, not laypeople


PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.