Catholic women's rights group head Vatican image of women still devastating, beautiful words no use without real equality

Catholic women’s rights group head: Vatican image of women still “devastating”, “beautiful words” no use without real equality

Chantal Götz is managing director of the charitable, non-profit “Fidel Götz Foundation”, which was founded by her grandfather, Fidel Götz, an enthusiastic Catholic, in 1969. Together with the German Cardinal Augustin Bea, he built up the Vatican “Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity”, today’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, which is led by Cardinal Kurt Koch.

For Chantal Götz, this commitment of her grandfather’s is an example of how Catholics can exert influence when it comes to a contemporary interpretation of the Church.

“Women don’t need permission”

The 52-year-old from St. Gallen has been implementing the purpose of the foundation for two decades. She acquired the necessary skills from her law studies in Bern, among other things.

Even today it is often the case that project applications from Catholic organizations and dioceses to foundations require the recommendation of the respective local bishop.

This struck the young manager right from the start.

“The best humanitarian projects worldwide are initiated, developed and implemented by women religious. No bishop or his permission is needed”.

Self-empowerment of the association

These bishop’s recommendations are pure harassment, make the women dependent on the hierarchy and deeply undermine their abilities, says Chantal Götz.

She said that many years of experience had shown that religious women were far more entrepreneurial than bishops.

The foundation therefore decided that no applications had to bear the signature of a bishop.

Through the foundation’s work, Chantal’s attitude towards hierarchy also changed: “I discovered that something was wrong in the Church system”.

Chantal found the treatment of women by the official church leadership more and more off-putting – often disgusting and degrading.

“When a woman has insight into the Vatican system, often anger comes up again and again. Good wine helps to regulate emotions”.

“Catholic is in my DNA”. For Götz, “Christian togetherness in dignity and love” is central to her religious sentiments.

Nevertheless, she often asks herself “whether she really wants to stay in this misogynist Church”.

The ever growing women’s network strengthens her, she emphasises.

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It also strengthens the women mutually. The realisation of a “sisterly and just Church can be felt”.

Francis does not have an answer

A sentence of Pope Francis in 2013 was decisive for the Catholic women’s rights group of which Götz is managing director, “Voices of Faith”: “We must strengthen the role of women in the Church”.

However, Francis still owes an answer as to how he wants to accomplish this – or rather: an answer should also no longer be expected, Götz notes.

The activity in the Foundation requires that Chantal be resident in the Principality of Liechtenstein. The Foundation office is housed in a modern glass office building with large, wide windows in a “working-spaces” atmosphere. The many windows offer a view of the Rhine plain.

The Vatican, which is surrounded by thick walls, is quite different. Thanks to the Foundation’s connections to the Vatican, but above all to Chantal’s “months-long insistence”, “Voices of Faith” was able to celebrate International Women’s Day within the walls for the first time in 2014.

“We first celebrated ourselves, because the men fled the scene right from the start”, Chantal recalls.

Everything went well until “Voices of Faith” decided that “being nice” and “adapting to the rules of the host” did not contribute to a change in mentality.

“Outside Vatican walls” is better

In 2018, “Voices of faith” expanded the themes to show that injustice to women in the Church is no longer acceptable, explains the women’s rights activist.

It came to an head. The appearance of former Irish President Mary McAleese, an “authentic, confessed Catholic”, was not well received by the Curia.

The Irish politician suggested that the church system should be made more gender-just so that dignity and equality could be implemented.

“In 2018 we decided that we are freer if we conduct these discussions outside the walls of the Vatican,” explained Götz.

One of the aims of the “Voices of Faith” initiative is to mobilise women. This includes religious women, of course.

“My vision is for Catholic women to network and empower themselves”.

It’s starting off efficiently. On 8 March 2020 committed Catholic women want to present a clear first result of this vision worldwide – so also in Zurich.

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The church leadership – “just 0.01 percent of all believers” – still acts according to the principle “divide et impera” (divide and rule). A further step is therefore to gather together women’s forces. “This has never happened before in the Catholic Church”.

“It’s worth it to work for the Church in the true sense of the word”.

A “gender-equitable Church” remains the concern of the Foundation, in which the “dialogue” between men and women becomes reality.

“Voices of Faith” wants to concentrate on those believers who are still committed to the Church – “still”, according to Chantal  – and who have the feeling: “It is still worthwhile to stand up for the Church in the truest and most original sense”.

The silence on celibacy

On 12 February, the day of the appearance of “Querida Amazonia”, the Catholics who were willing to reform were put under pressure. On that day it became known that Pope Francis does not support a relaxation of the celibacy obligation for Catholic priests and the introduction of women deacons. How does Götz assess this development?

“This reality is not at all reflected in the Pope’s letter. I am actually very glad that no official decision has been made regarding ‘viri probati’ or women deacons”, she replies.

The ordination of married men as priests would have been of “no use anyway” in Amazonia, since 70 percent of all congregations there are led by women. This reality was not at all expressed in the Pope’s letter.

The Vatican image of women was still “devastating”. Women bear the main burden of work in society and church. They fight for their children.

They often suffer from violent, alcoholic spouses and are exposed to a Catholic Church “which ignores their reality. So all the beautiful words of the Church about tender women are of no use”.

Mary could, of course, be the model for women. With the Magnificat, she has set the program “which we all sign on to. I fervently hope that ‘Querida Amazonia’ will be interpreted in such a way as to encourage Catholic women to be creative, active and finally empower themselves”.

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The exhortation Querida Amazonia of Pope Francis “fits in wonderfully with our global message for the coming International Women’s Day: Catholic women take responsibility and no longer ask about their future. We are the change”.

(Source: Georges Scherrer, kath.ch via Voices of Faith)

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Mada Jurado

Reporter and community manager at Novena
Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.