Mumbai: Catholic women in Mumbai advocating for gender equality within the church's religious hierarchy have expressed dissatisfaction with the recent bishops' meeting in Vatican. They are disappointed because the event did not yield a clear statement on the issue of ordaining women as priests and bishops.
The Women's Ordination Conference (WOC), an international organization dedicated to advocating for the ordination of women as bishops, priests, and deacons in the Roman Catholic Church, stated that they were 'dismayed by the failure' of the meeting to address the calls for opening all ordained positions to women in the 1.4 billion-strong church.
In Mumbai, Catholic women supporting the campaign for the appointment of women as priests emphasised that the church's message of being more inclusive to women has not been backed by any tangible changes.
Synod of Bishops' Ordinary General Assembly: Limited Progress on Women's Ordination, Says WOC
The month-long 'Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops,' a significant event in the church, was held in October. This meeting, often compared to the transformative 'Vatican II' in the 1960s, focused on discussions about new ideas and challenges in the global church, including the increased role of women in church administration.
The latest synod marked the culmination of a long process of local discussions and meetings, initiated by Pope Francis, to address these issues. One of the key topics on the agenda was the enhanced participation of women in religious life. However, the Vatican's 'final document,' released on October 28, indicated that the conversation on women in ordained positions might be limited to the permanent diaconate or 'new ministries.'
In response, the Women's Ordination Conference (WOC) expressed support for the meeting's message advocating greater involvement of women in religious activities and church management. Nevertheless, WOC highlighted that the church's stance, limiting the discussion on women's ordination as priests or bishops, does not align with the needs of today's church.
Why Are Women Angry? Challenges Persist Despite Recent Vatican Meeting
Many women express frustration at the Church's recent decisions, particularly the allowances made for married men to enter lower levels of the religious hierarchy. In March 2017, the Mumbai Church ordained two men as deacons, granting them significant responsibilities, excluding religious services, confessions, and 'anointing the sick.' While these changes have eased the workload for priests, women question why the diaconate was opened exclusively to married men, sparking discontent among female church members like Dr. Astrid Lobo Gajiwala, a vocal advocate for gender equality.
Some Christian denominations, such as the Anglican Church and its counterpart in India, the Church of South India, have been quicker in appointing women as bishops and priests, highlighting the Church's comparatively slow progress in gender inclusivity. Despite positive developments, including women attendees being allowed to vote alongside bishops at the Vatican meeting, challenges persist in achieving full equality for women and LGBTQ+ individuals in the Church.
While the meeting acknowledged the 'wounds women have experienced at the hands of the Church,' it fell short of addressing these issues substantially. The Women's Ordination Conference (WOC) emphasized the need for concrete steps to dismantle oppressive church structures and policies. Although the Church's decision-making process allowing women to vote alongside male counterparts is a notable development, the document's shallow treatment of the injustice faced by over half of the Church's members raises concerns for advocates of gender equality.