Today, in the Church, we women, although more numerous and very active, are still mostly relegated to marginal and subordinate roles. This is one of the contestations shared by a group of members of the Women in the Vatican Association. Over the past few months, they together, have been reflecting on the synod document, Enlarge the Place of Your Tent, regarding the question of women in the Church.
The introduction of “pink quotas” [affirmative action to readdress underrepresentation] may also be useful in fostering a cultural change. New spaces such as the diaconate, preaching, and teaching in seminaries should be opened up to women. It emerged from the exchanges that sexism is still very much present in the Church. Some spoke of “humiliations” experienced in their working environment, and wished for a management approach that is instep with that of the synod.
Another problematic aspect is clericalism, which is also expressed through language and reveals prejudices that are still present. The majority of the participants emphasized that women who hold top positions in the Church often run the risk of being conditioned by the ‘toxicity’ of environments steeped in this macho culture or of being reduced to an insignificant presence. Women religious, even in the Vatican, struggle to see their dignity fully recognised and are often undervalued.
It is believed that women should first of all become more aware of their own value and that the Church should welcome femininity by valuing women’s’ specific contribution and defend her characteristics, including motherhood too, which must not be penalized.
The feminine, however, does not only concern women. If it is necessary for us to acquire greater self-awareness, it is equally essential for their male counterpart’s mentality to change. Even within the Church, therefore, everyone must learn to consider women as equals in terms of dignity and value, while promoting reciprocity.
Among us, some have pointed out that in the document under review, the denunciation of gender violence appears too lukewarm. In the Church in particular, domestic violence is hushed up and women in difficulty often do not find adequate support. Among our proposals is that of a concrete gesture of recognition of the suffering and discrimination inflicted on women throughout history, even by men of the Church. It is sad, we noted, to read in the synod text that the progress achieved in general in civil society with regard to women’s participation “could serve as a model for the Church”, when it should be exactly the opposite. Our hope is that the synod will lead to concrete changes; that the Church is now called upon to convert, one associate argued, to recognise women’s equal space “in the tent”.
By Margherita Maria Romanelli e Consiglio D.Va
Women in the Vatican Association