ROME – After seven women in France last month “applied” for ecclesial jobs traditionally open only to men, including the priesthood, a representative of the Vatican’s ambassador to the country has made a phone call to several of them offering a sit-down meeting.
The calls apparently are unrelated to death threats one of the women “applicants” says she received.
On May 25, a woman named Anne Soupa sent the Vatican embassy in Paris her application to be the next Archbishop of Lyon, a post which has been vacant since the resignation of Cardinal Philippe Barbarain in March amid an ongoing legal battle to clear himself of allegations that he covered up sexual abuse.
After Soupa sent in her request, several other women joined her cause, forming a coalition called, Toutes Apôtres!, meaning, “All Apostles,” which is dedicated to promoting equality in the Church for all baptized regardless of their gender, marital status, profession or sexual orientation.
On the July 22 feast of Saint Mary Magdalene, seven other women who are part of the coalition presented their “candidacy” to the nunciature for ministries currently open only to men, including the diaconate, the priesthood, the episcopacy, the status as a Vatican nuncio, and as preachers.
Each of the women included a cover letter, an explanation of the position they were applying for and a résumé. The women also asked for a group meeting with the Vatican’s ambassador to France, Italian Archbishop Celestino Migliore, formerly the Holy See’s observer to the United Nations in Geneva.
In a statement released July 31, the organization announced that on July 27, four of the seven women who sent in their applications have received a personal call from Migliore’s secretary offering a one-on-one sit-down meeting in September, as he is currently on vacation.
The other three women who were not called had not included their phone number as part of their application and are currently waiting to see if they will also be contacted.
In their statement, Toutes Apôtres! said the offer of a meeting “shows a willingness to dialogue,” but underlined the fact that the women were invited for individual meetings, while they had requested a group meeting.
The coalition also clarified that the call from the nunciature had nothing to do with a death threat that one of the women had received on the same day, as the call was made before the organization had made details of the threat public.
At the moment, the coalition said it will provide no further comment the status of the meetings, as the organization is currently waiting to hear if the three women who were not contacted will also be offered the same opportunity.
Speaking to Crux, Alix Bayle, a representative of the coalition, said that achieving success in her view would mean getting the Catholic Church to the point “where all baptized are equal, and it’s not just about gender.”
A Catholic herself, Bayle said the coalition she is a part of is composed of women from different backgrounds, and represents “one of the first times in France that those women have been able to work together” in pursuing issues they believe will lead to a more inclusive church.
“We’re working for equality of all baptized Catholics, and we understand that in a very broad way,” she said, but insisted that it’s not just about the priesthood.
“What should be clear is that we don’t just want ordination for women, and actually some of us don’t want that … but we do want a reformed Church, we want the Church to be reformed so that also laypeople have more responsibilities and actions, and that true synodality is lived.”
Bayle said there is a common feeling inside the coalition that the Catholic Church “is in urgent need to respond on many fronts,” one of which is “asking for equality for all baptized women.”
“The discrimination of women in the Church is such a central issue,” she said. “By just asking for that issue to be discussed and by asking for women to have equality, real equality in the Church, it is a way to start a process of true synodality and a true reform of the Church.”
The Vatican embassy in Paris declined a Crux request for comment on the nature and status of the meetings to be held with Migliore.
Follow Elise Ann Allen on Twitter: @eliseannallen