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Roman Catholic women want a greater say in their Church, survey suggests

08 March 2023


A woman retouches the paintwork on a statue of the Virgin Mary in the centre of Quito, Ecuador

A woman retouches the paintwork on a statue of the Virgin Mary in the centre of Quito, Ecuador

A SURVEY of women in the Roman Catholic Church which suggests that almost one third would be prepared to leave the Church unless it is reformed, was presented at the Vatican on International Women’s Day, on Wednesday.

The study, which was initiated by the organisation Catholic Women Speak, and published in September 2022, surveyed 17,200 women from 104 countries. It was presented at the Vatican on Wednesday as a submission to the ongoing Synod of Bishops consultative process.

In a press release, the organisation warned against viewing Roman Catholic women as a homogenous bloc, and argued that “this heterogeneity is rarely represented in official church documents, with the result that many women struggle to see the relevance of some church teachings to the complex realities of their lives.”

The full report is available to read on the Catholic Women Speak website, catholic women speak.com.

Nine out of ten respondents said that their faith was important to their identity, and 84 per cent said that they supported reform within the Church, with almost two-thirds saying that “radical reform” was necessary.

Twenty-nine per cent agreed or strongly agreed with the statement: “Without reform there is no place for me in the Catholic Church.”

Many of the respondents highlighted the sexual abuse of women, children, and other vulnerable people as an important issue, with eight out of ten saying that church leaders were “not doing enough to address the perpetration and cover-up of sexual abuse”.

A similar proportion — 79 per cent — said that women should be fully included at all levels of church leadership, with 78 per cent saying that women should be permitted to deliver the homily.

More than two-thirds (68 per cent) said that women should be eligible for the priesthood, a development that successive popes have ruled out. Almost three years ago, a commission was formed to study the possibility of women becoming deacons (News, 17 April 2020), but it has yet to report its findings.

On Wednesday, Vatican News released the findings of an audit which shows that, in the ten years of Francis’s papacy, there has been a four per cent rise in the number of women working in the Vatican: from 19.2 per cent to 23.4 per cent of the workforce, with a total of 1165.

The study shows that only five per cent of leadership positions in the administration of the Holy See are held by women, but noted that reforms last year mean that not just cardinals and archbishops but lay people, including women, could be appointed as prefects of dicastries in the Vatican.

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