— Published as women worldwide mark International Women’s Day, the survey shows a growing push for reform.
BY Ruth Gledhill
There are calls for the Catholic Church to ordain women as deacons and priests and to allow women to preach the homily during Mass from in a new survey of more than 17,000 Catholic women around the world.
The International Survey of Catholic Women, carried out last year in response to the call for submissions to the 2021-2024 Synod of Bishops on synodality, is published as women worldwide celebrate International Women’s Day.
Recommendations include changes to Canon Law to permit women to preach the homily during Mass and considering the ordination of women to the diaconate and priesthood as a legitimate expression of doctrinal development.
There are also calls to respect women’s freedom of conscience in matters of sexual and reproductive health and decision-making, and for changes to Catholic theology, doctrine and liturgical practice to ensure women, LGBTIQ+ Catholics, and divorced and remarried Catholics “are valued and fully included in all aspects of church life”.
The report, devised and managed by researchers Dr Tracy McEwan and Dr Kathleen McPhillips at the University of Newcastle in Australia and Professor Emerita Tina Beattie at the University of Roehampton, London, draws on 17,200 responses from women in 104 countries.
Of those surveyed, 79 per cent agreed women should be fully included at all levels of church leadership, 84 per cent agreed reform is needed, 85 per cent agreed clericalism is damaging the Church and 80 per cent agreed Church leaders are not doing enough to address the perpetration and cover-up of sexual abuse.
Participants were recruited across multiple networks and forums worldwide including dioceses, parishes, and women’s networks and organisations.
“There was a significant concern regarding the prevalence of sexual, spiritual, physical, and emotional abuse in church contexts,” the report says.
“Respondents highlighted the misuse and abuse of power as a central factor in historical and current sexual and gender-based harm. Clericalism was identified by a substantial majority of respondents as an abuse of power and an indicator of a need for urgent reform measures.
“Many respondents drew attention to a lack of accountability and transparency in church leadership and governance, particularly in the hierarchy’s handling of sexual abuse allegations. This was a barrier to participation in church life.”
Respondents also conveyed concern for those who are marginalised by Catholic theology, doctrine, and liturgical practice, including LGBTIQ+ Catholics, divorced Catholics, and single parent Catholics.
“There were differing interpretations of what inclusion of LGBTIQ+ Catholics means in the life in the Church. A slim majority of respondents supported same-sex marriage,” the survey says.
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