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Pillars in the construction of the Church

· ​From words to facts ·

In the recent decades of Latin American history the people have chosen women to govern, as in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama. If we also consider those women who headed interim governments, we must then add Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Bolivia and Guyana – ten nations governed by women.

Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, “Dove”

In 2014 six women were presidents and Latin America was the region with the highest percentage of women heads of government in the world (17 per cent). Without entering into the merits of their governments, I would like to emphasize that the electors consider them just as well-educated and as capable as men of taking on a nation’s government.

The same trend is observed in the private sector.

The contribution of women gives a positive impetus to the decision-making process in both the public and the private spheres. Furthermore, in the field of education today, at a world level, we note that in 64 per cent of countries women represent the majority of the student population, which indicates that they will be better and better trained to make fully qualified contributions in professional milieux.

However, in the Church we have to recognize the absence of women in the spheres where high-level decisions are made. This produces dismay within the Church but also and above all outside her.

If as regards many other aspects of today’s life and society the Church is prophetic, defending values she glimpses before others for the present and the future of humanity and knowing how to swim against the tide openly, in this particular case this does not happen.

This state of being out of kilter is not due to a lack of conceptual clarity: the preoccupation with the situation of women in the Church has been very present in the recent Magisterium since the Second Vatican Council.

Nor is there any lack of conceptual clarity in the universal Magisterium or in that of Latin America. Yet at the same time reality indicates that these recommendations have not been put into practice. I believe that we should ask ourselves the reason for this paradox. A possible explanation might be that many pastors have still not experienced what good the contribution of women can bring to the mission, or that strong cultural resistance (male chauvinism) and internal chauvinism (clericalism) hinder changes in this field. Whatever the cause may be, a growing uneasiness is perceived among many daughters of the Church who take an active part in the mission and have so frequently heard the words repeated by the Vicar of Christ and by pastors; when they observe the lack of change their hope turns into disappointment.

It would be sad if, in justifying herself with vain arguments, the Church were to maintain the present situation, especially since the Code of Canon Law gives women the possibility of collaborating in the exercise of the power of authority in its various functions: legislative, executive and judiciary.

Pope Francis says that in this common work there must be neither subordination nor parity but rather reciprocity, for women see reality with different eyes. It must not happen that in the decision-making process the Church continues to be an institution which in practice denies female complementarity – although she nevertheless defends it in theory – and thereby ends up depriving herself of women.

The time that has passed and accumulated experience show that this contradiction between what is said and what is done will not be overcome alone. Thus it is necessary to listen to the Holy Spirit who unfolds unexpected and surprising paths with new possibilities and solutions for the good of the Church.

Like everything which is important, this transformation too can start with just a few changes.

It would be wonderful, a truly significant contribution and beneficial to the universal Church, if projects were to be born from the Church in Latin America involving the participation of women in the ecclesial government.

Alejandra Keen von Wuthenau

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