It is not only in Germany that female Catholics are asking themselves: What will the role of women in the church look like in the future?? In France, a theologian has now applied for the highest office in the archdiocese of Lyon.
It sounds a bit like the Maria 2 church women's protest movement active in Germany.0, but in French. In the neighboring country, too, the question is: Why should women wait until they are invited by the church to apply for leadership positions?
The 73-year-old theologian Anne Soupa is now putting her money where her mouth is. On Monday, she submitted her application to head the Lyon archdiocese to the nuncio in Paris. She sent the Vatican ambassador a statement of faith, a reform program, her curriculum vitae – and flanked it all with a press release.
Francis accepted Barbarin's resignation
The position in Lyon has been vacant since March. In late January, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin was acquitted of charges of failing to report abuse in a second-instance appeal hearing, but offered to resign so a new chapter could be turned for the archdiocese.
Pope Francis accepted this offer of resignation on 6. March to. In June, he had given the leadership of the Archdiocese of Lyon to the former bishop of Evry-Corbeille-Essonnes, Michel Dubost (78), on a transitional basis.
Soupa criticizes church
Theologian Soupa sees her application as a response to the pope's call to do more to combat abuse and encrusted power structures. Although Francis has denounced clericalism, the church continues to nurture it, the theologian criticizes.
Barbarin and his three predecessors failed in their most important task: protecting the archdiocese's communities from abuse, Soupa wrote on Twitter.
Committed to the church for 35 years
With this she alludes to the affair that was Barbarin's undoing. Former priest Bernard Preynat is accused of sexually abusing dozens of children in the archdiocese in the 1980s and 1990s. "How to regain the trust of Catholics, lay people and priests," he said?", Soupa asks.
Why the theologian sees herself as an ideal candidate to succeed Barbarin? She knew Lyon, had lived there for four years. "I have been involved in my church for over 35 years, locally, as a Bible expert, theologian, journalist, writer," she writes. She is also co-founder and current president of the "Comite de la jupe".
"It's not about having a skirt, it's about having something in mind."
This "skirt committee" was founded in 2008 by Soupa and writer Christine Pedotti after Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois said of greater participation by women in church life, "It's not about having a skirt, it's about having something in mind."
Vingt-Trois later apologized for the statement, but the association persisted. In addition, the "Catholic Conference of baptized French-speaking Christian women" ("Conference catholique des baptisees francophones") was founded from this, in which Soupa also took on leading functions.
More responsibility for lay people
"At a time when the Church is in a very deep crisis, we need a new approach," she expresses conviction. And argues that lay people can and should be allowed to take on more responsibility. "If my candidacy is forbidden by canon law, it is only because I am a woman," she writes.
Women could not become priests and only priests who become bishops could lead the church. "The church remains torn, a prisoner of this clericalism," Soupa laments. She sees her application as an "outstretched hand" toward modernization.
Waiting for the answer of the nuncio
The theologian does not want to leave it at her own application. She calls on all women with experience in the Church via Twitter to apply for vacancies "to which they feel called". She seems to have hit a nerve with her announcement. Countless French media are already reporting on her unsolicited application on Monday afternoon.
Via the news service Twitter, even France's secretary of state for equality, Marlene Schiappa, applauded her. Now we have to wait – for the answer of the nuncio. After all: In the Swiss diocese of Fribourg, a woman now replaces the episcopal vicar. Nevertheless, she is not a "bishop's vicar," says Marianne Pohl-Henzen. For that, it would have to have the ordination of priests.