7 women ‘apostles’ have claimed their place in the male-only Catholic hierarchy, insisting that “the Church is experiencing a deep crisis, and we need to open up its doors”.
– “Women are rendered invisible in the Church… In this age of equality, we can’t continue like this”
Yesterday July 22, on the feast of St. Mary Magdalene – “the apostle to the apostles” – the seven brave Catholic women presented their candidacies for the posts of lay preacher, deacon, parish priest, bishop and nuncio at the Nunciature in Paris, after which they went to Mass at the Madeleine church in the heart of the French capital.
The candidates were accompanied by the woman who inspired them to step up and knock on the doors of the highest ranks of the Church: Anne Soupa, the 73-year-old biblical scholar, theologian, journalist, writer and gender justice activist who in May turned in an application to succeed abuse-tainted Cardinal Philippe Barbarin as Archbishop of Lyon.
“Women are rendered invisible in the Catholic Church”, Soupa denounced to the media yesterday on the day of action organised by the Toutes Apôtres! (“All Women Apostles!”) Catholic feminist collective.
“In this age of equality, when women’s abilities are recognised by all, we can’t continue like this”, Soupa lamented, adding that the presentation of the candidaciones of the women ‘apostles’ “isn’t a move against the Church, but for it”.
– The candidates: “Being an apostle of the Lord is not a question of gender”
But who are these women who wish to be considered for high Church office, and why are they taking the daring step of challenging centuries of Church patriarchy and sexism?
Spiritual director and therapist Laurence de Bourbon-Parme, for example – a divorced mother of three and grandmother of four who feels called to become a lay preacher – wants to use her twenty years’ experience in leading Bible studies, her listening skills and her “humanity” to “participate in the evangelisation of the word of the Lord”.
Specialist in customer relations, emotional intelligence and positive management Claire Conan-Vrinat, on the other hand, seeks to use her skills and faith in the diaconate.
“Being an apostle of the Lord is not a question of gender”, insisted Conan-Vrinat.
For her part, Loan Rocher – a massage therapist and psychotherapist designated a man at birth – also wants to become a deacon to advocate for a better integration of LGBTQ + believers within the Church, among other things.
“It is time to give parity to women in the governance of the Church, to give the word to women”, Rocher declared.
Expert in the fight against social exclusion and the social integration of young people Marie-Automne Thepot is another of the candidates for deacon, who said that she wants to serve in that ordained ministry to “contribute to the creation of links between all believers so that they may find, in their parish, a fraternal community that is open, active, reconciled and resourceful”.
Sylvaine Landrivon, meanwhile – who has taught social sciences and written extensively on the place of women in the Church – is presenting herself for the position of bishop.
“When Christ’s Church falters, half of God’s people, women, would be cowardly to persevere in silence and subordination”, Landrivon wrote in a profession of faith she handed in to the nuncio.
Spanishwoman Christina Moreira, meanwhile – a priest of the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests (ARCWP) since 2015 – is seeking to carry over that same ministry into the mainstream Catholic Church with the aim of building “horizontal and non-hierarchical Church communities where services and ministries are carried out by people elected by the whole membership”.
The last of the seven candidates is Hélène Pichon, a diplomat with experience in Lebanon, Geneva, Korea, Bahrain, UNESCO, the OECD, the World Bank and the European Commission and a colonel of the Citizens Reserve of the Air Force since 2012 who is ‘running’ for the office of nuncio.
“How could a laywoman not be able to perform this role?”, she said of her desire to serve as the Pope’s ‘ambassador’.
Alix Bayle, one of the founders of Toutes Apôtres!, said that one of the goals of the women’s action Wednesday was to show solidarity with Anne Soupa in her bid to become the next Archbishop of Lyon, since “if this candidacy had remained alone in its class, one would have thought that it was only the act of one person”.
On the contrary: “We wanted to show that [Soupa’s candidacy] resonated with several Catholic women, that she was not the only one”, Bayle explained.
The co-founder of Toutes Apôtres! added that the action – which the collective hopes to repeat next year – was also about demonstrating that women have vocations to the ordained ministry “and that the fact that women are discriminated against is a suffering for some of the women who are called to these positions”.