ROME – Several French women, who earlier this year applied to be clergy, voiced disappointment after Pope Francis on Thursday named Bishop Olivier de Germay of Ajaccio as the next archbishop of Lyon – a vacancy a woman had applied to fill – arguing the decision perpetuates Catholicism’s machista culture.
“It would have been exemplary to show the power of the Gospel, the Good News equally shared between men and women,” the Toutes Apôtres organization said in an Oct. 23 statement, issued a day after de Germay’s appointment was announced.
However, “Pope Francis apparently preferred to comfort some conservative Catholics,” they said, referring to the fact that de Germay holds close ties to the personal prelature of Opus Dei – generally seen as conservative with strong ties to the legacy of St. John Paul II.
“When will we see the nomination of a member of the People of God by election?” they asked.
On Thursday the Vatican announced that de Germay had been tapped to lead the Archdiocese of Lyon, succeeding Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, who was convicted of failing to report clerical sexual abuse before that charge was overturned.
Despite his acquittal in January, Barbarin asked that Pope Francis allow him to resign for the sake of the archdiocese and the scandal surrounding his case. His resignation was accepted in March, seven months prior to his 70th birthday.
Two months later, on May 25, a woman by the name of Anne Soupa filed an application to become Barbarin’s successor.
Soupa’s gesture drew public attention, and eventually began a movement when several women throughout France banded together to create the Toutes Apôtres collective, meaning, “All Apostles,” but using the French feminine plural, meaning the name refers to all women.
The organization is dedicated to empowering the Church to be more inclusive of women in its leadership and governance and is also committed to making the Catholic Church a more welcoming place for those with same-sex attraction.
On the July 22 feast of St. Mary Magdalene, seven other women imitated Soupa’s gesture and submitted their own resumes for ecclesial positions open only to men, such as the episcopate, the priesthood, the diaconate and nuncios, who are the Vatican’s diplomatic corps.
The seven women were offered sit-down meetings with the Vatican envoy to France, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, which took place between Sept. 14 and Oct. 2. The women described their meetings as not only cordial, but friendly and welcoming, calling Migliore a good listener.
According to the organization’s statement Friday, Soupa never received a response to her application to become the next archbishop of Lyon.
Upon hearing of de Germay’s appointment, Soupa said it “perpetuates a macho and clerical mode of governance that contributes to widening the gap between civil society and the Church.”
“If the Catholic Church does not appoint women to real responsibilities, it will disappear,” she said, adding that in her view, nothing in de Germay’s background suggests “that he is aware of the urgency of gender equality.”
She criticized John Paul II’s teachings in his Theology of the Body, which among other things backs marriage as between a man and a woman, condemns contraception, defends priestly celibacy and emphasizes the differences, yet complementarity between men and women.
The Theology of the Body, Soupa said, is “neither a theology nor a reflection of the body.”
Similarly, Sylvaine Landrivon, who in July applied to be bishop and who is a resident of Lyon, said the diocese for years has been suffering from “the gaping wounds left by the pedo-criminality, which plagued the Church that St. Irenaeus wanted to be so beautiful.”
“Our community needed to heal its divisions, to regain the sense of welcome that made its reputation for more than a hundred years thanks to the heroes of social Catholicism,” she said, adding that Lyon had been hoping for “a doctor,” who would be able to offer the words of care to a diocese that “needs so badly to be appeased.”
Landrivon pointed to Soupa’s example, saying she showed the way toward “a governance which would depart from self-segregation and deleterious silence,” yet Pope Francis in appointing de Germay “has decided otherwise.”
However, Landrivon insisted that she and the other candidates won’t give up, saying, “the many voices of women must be heard, for they will no longer be silenced.”
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