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Women and Reform

· Editorial ·

The anniversary of the decision of Luther, who initiated the separation between Protestants and Catholics 500 years ago, may be approached from different points of view. Of course what interests us most, that is, the comparison between women belonging to the different Churches born from the Reformation and women belonging to the Catholic Church, opens one of the most controversial and hence most interesting fronts: that of the priesthood of women. 

Lucas Cranach the Younger, “Martin Luther Preaching” (detail)

Indeed all the Protestant Churches and ecclesial communities have given women access to the various levels of priesthood or to the pastoral role and discuss their projects for the future at meetings in which the female presence is never missing, in complete contrast with what happens in the Catholic Church. One of the first questions we should ask ourselves is whether this difference stems from the different attitude that Protestants and Catholics have assumed in the face of modernity – an attitude which has seen Protestants accept changes not considered acceptable by Catholics (such as birth control or same-sex marriage – or whether it is rooted in more substantial and profound theological changes of direction. The felicitous collaboration which began after the Second Vatican Council between Catholic and Protestant experts in biblical exegesis in a common – or in a certain sense also a rediscovered – search for the role of women in the Christian tradition leads us to think that the question may be deeper and that the substantial knots to be untangled require an ecumenical effort. And women are fully aware of this.

Ecumenism among women in these past decades has been an ecumenism that does not consist of declarations and commissions but rather of substance: not only high-level intellectual collaboration and comparisons but also work together in defence of women who are oppressed or in danger. In fact Protestants and Catholics are committed together to saving from slavery young Christian and Hindu girls raped in Pakistan, women raped as war “booty” in Africa and immigrant women who arrive humiliated and shattered in Europe. There is however a difference on which we reflect in our monthly publication: namely that the Catholic women involved in these battles are far more numerous and organized, even though their commitment remains invisible. (lucetta scaraffia)




St. Peter’s Square

Feb. 21, 2020