Vatican is living in a Patriarchal Bubble

Vatican is living in a patriarchal bubble

25 July 2020
The new instruction issued on 20 July 2020 by the Congregation of the Clergy confirms the Vatican is living in a patriarchal bubble. It is an attempt to reassert clerical male authority and lay (especially  female) subordination.

Most disappointing is that Pope Francis appears to want to have it both ways. He has time and again spoken about the need to remove the evil of clericalism from our church. Yet he has approved this new instruction, which seeks to reinforce a rigid clericalism from the last century.
After 7 years in office when will the real Pope Francis stand up? Maybe he would abolish the Congregation of the Clergy whose main role seems to be to promote clericalism?

Change is not happening in the Vatican. Change is happening around the world where lay people and especially women are leading their communities. They are the evangelisers keeping Christ’s message of love alive in today’s divided world. They are leading liturgies and house Eucharists and ZOOM Eucharists. They understand the Law of Love, where the Vatican clings to the Love of Law. Change is coming from below with the Holy Spirit in the people of God.

We Are Church International (WAC) founded in Rome in 1996, is a global coalition of national church reform groups. It is committed to the renewal of the Roman Catholic Church based on the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and the theological spirit developed from it.

Colm Holmes
Chair, We Are Church International


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  1. Mary Vallely says:

    The ‘real’ Pope Francis is a product of his Italian Argentinian cultural background and his long years of being part of the system. The equality of women has never been a priority in the long list of priorities he wishes to emphasise. I would gently point out that I do believe he is motivated by the ‘law of love’ rather than the ‘love of law’ however and has, in his wonderful LS encyclical among other writings and his own personal life style choices, shown us a great example of how to live like Christ. I doubt he will change his attitude towards women, to be honest, at this stage of his life. We will always be sweet ( or sour ??) cherries on the cake!

    No, it is the whole misogynistic, patriarchal system we need to change and that has to start with ourselves, mainly the women enablers of the system. Mea culpa. I applaud WAC especially Colm and Soline’s ongoing efforts to keep the momentum going. Merci mille fois/ go raibh míle maith agaibh. Thank you. ??

  2. Jo O'Sullivan says:

    The sincere and hard-working providers of community development project in a remote African village observed that the women spent about three hours each day, walking to get water from a well that was miles away. They concluded that what was most needed was a well in their own community, and proceeded to spend the money earmarked for the project on providing such a well.
    Three years later, they re-visited the community, to find that their well had fallen into disuse and the women were still walking for the three hours each day. Totally baffled by this, they asked the women why (or, more likely, asked the men why the women were doing it!). It turned out that, for the women, the daily walk to the well was part of the fabric of their days, time spent talking with their neighbours and meeting up with the other women from the surrounding villages – time when they were able to find out what was happening in the various communities, and time when they could offer each other mutual support and encouragement to deal with the trials and tribulations of life.

    What has this got to do with the document “Pastoral Conversion of the Parish Community”?
    Simply this. How much consultation was done with Parishioners in the preparation of this document?

    Also, a contributor to the Australian Catholica Forum, Journeyman, has done a rough count on the number of times various categories of people are mentioned in the document. It’s rather telling.

    Bishop -62
    Priest – 140
    Consecrated men – 9
    Consecrated women – 9
    Laity – 10
    Lay men – 2
    Lay women – 2
    Men – 4
    Women – 0
    Lay persons – 2
    Lay person – 1

    I’m afraid this document strikes me as a re-enforcement of clerical power – it does not accept the priesthood of the laity in any form. It certainly does not accept lay people as mature, faith-filled, discerning adults. The whole thrust of it is to keep the power structures as they are. The lay parishioners can’t be trusted to know what is needed in their parish – where they have lived and worshiped with their neighbours all their lives. The Parish Priest, even though he may only have come into the community a wet week ago, will know better. He can decide to provide a well in the village.

    It’s a great pity.

  3. Iggy O Donovan says:

    Colm wherever change comes from it will not be from the Vatican.
    Francis may have clipped the wings of the CDF but really nothing has changed. In fact in recent times I believe they have gone backwards. At least that is my experience.

  4. Joe O'Leary says:

    The Vatican is not patriarchal. Patriarchs have dealings with women and found families. Some Vatican personnel may have parish experience at weekends, but hardly in sufficient doses to give them a deep knowledge of what’s going on on the ground. We all know that the Vatican is an all-male homosocial enclave. When it talks about women and fatherhood it shows its out-of-touchness with every word.

  5. Soline Humbert says:

    ”We all know that the Vatican is an all male homosocial enclave ”.
    Actually, 22% of Vatican employees are women.

    Many of course are kept totally invisible …
    And who shop,cook,serve at tables,clean, wash the underwear,make the beds,launder,starch and iron the fine clothes and vestments,even walk the dog (!)for the Vatican monsignori and eminences?
    Women !
    A report published in March 2018 (ed. Lucetta Scarrafia) exposed the scandalous abusive exploitation of women, mainly religious women and their roles as barely paid servants.
    Has anything changed ?Who cares ?it’s only women.

  6. Soline Humbert says:

    Thank you Paddy.Novena News has a lot of good articles. There is a growing awareness of the systemic injustices in the church and the damage done by what amounts to a form of gender apartheid, which has nothing to do with the Gospel and all to do with ingrained human prejudice.

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