Nuns praying the Angelus © Giuseppe Lami
The church and women – entire books have already been written about it. Ahead of International Women's Day on 8. March, the ie is present in several ways both inside and outside the walls of the Vatican.
Last Thursday, the magazine "Donne, Mondo, Chiesa" ("Women, World, Church") of the Vatican newspaper "Osservatore Romano" made headlines – all the way to the New York Times. The reason for the fuss is an article in which women religious tell how badly they are sometimes treated in the church. In many cases, clerics treat women religious like lowly servants, several sisters complain in the article. Behind this is often the idea that "a priest is everything and a nun is nothing". Clericalism is killing the church," criticizes a woman religious.
Criticism from Pope Francis
One day later, the "Osservatore" documented a preface of the Pope for the book of a Spanish social scientist. In it, Francis criticizes machismo, trafficking in women, violence and sexism even in progressive societies. And in the church, "the servant role to which every Christian is called sometimes slides into servitude for women". This is not the first time Francis has said this. Back in 2013, he used this phrase in an address to the Pontifical Council for the Laity.
The experience of women religious is not new, nor is Francis' criticism. But when critical tones about the discrimination of women are heard from the male bastion of the Vatican, it causes attention – especially when in a few days, on 8. March, which is World Women's Day is coming up.
"As for Pope Francis' stance on women's ies, the verdict is still out," writes Indian feminist and theologian Astrid Lobo Gajiwala on the keyword "women" in a "Pope Francis Lexicon" published Friday by two U.S. journalists. It is not because of sweeping changes for women, but because of his inner attitude, that Lobo considers the Catholic Church leader fundamentally pro-women.
Discrimination against women an ie in "Amoris laetitia"
She cites, among other things, "Amoris laetitia," Francis' teaching letter on marriage and the family. In it, the Pope criticizes the discrimination of women in families and condemns marital rape. An offense still not punishable in her native India, Lobo laments.
But the image of the reforming pope remains contradictory, according to the feminist theologian. On the one hand, Francis advocates a stronger role for women in the church, but on the other hand, keeps them out of important decisions. For example, although 30 women auditors were invited to the 2015 Synod on the Family, they did not have voting rights, due to the legal structure of a synod of bishops.
A similar picture emerges at the Pontifical Commission for Latin America. Starting Tuesday, the Vatican panel of only cardinals and bishops will discuss "women as a pillar of the Church and society in Latin America". After all, additional church and social leaders from the region were invited.
International conference on women's rights
An international conference on women's rights is also causing discussion. For this year's theme of lack of gender justice in large organizations like the Catholic Church, organizer "Voices of Faith" moves to Jesuit order buildings. "Voices of Faith" is an initiative of the Fidel Goetz Foundation that promotes women's rights.
The reason for the change of venue is the refusal of the responsible Vatican authority to accept three planned female speakers. What is said inside the Vatican is always seen from the outside as the position of the pope and the church, Cardinal Kevin Farrell of the Vatican's Ministry for Laity, Family and Life justified the exclusion. Nevertheless, the meeting will be followed closely, he stressed.
The impression remains that women still have a hard time with their concerns in the Vatican. Whether this will change, however, does not depend on the Pope alone. At least Francis, concluded Astrid Lobo Gajiwala, from his "well-meaning patriarchy," "has done more to involve women in the church than any pope before him.".
By Roland Juchem