UCA News

India

Indian women seek gender equality in Catholic Church

Demonstration part of a global campaign to give Catholic women more decision-making roles

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Updated: March 09, 2020 10:35 AM GMT
Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Indian women seek gender equality in Catholic Church

Six women demonstrate in front of the Holy Name Cathedral in India's Mumbai city on March 8 as part of a global campaign to empower Catholic women to be given more decision-making roles in the Catholic Church. (Photo supplied)

Share this article :
Catholic women demonstrated outside Mumbai's cathedral demanding gender equality within the Church as part of a global campaign marking International Women's Day on March 8.

Six women stood holding posters outside the Holy Name Cathedral after Sunday Mass seeking more roles for women in the decision-making processes of the Church.

The demonstration was part of a global campaign to claim equality and dignity for women in the Catholic Church, said Virginia Saldanha, a theologian who was part of the demonstration.

She said Voices of Faith, an international voluntary group, launched the global campaign as part of its effort to empower Catholic women to take more decision-making roles.

The group has urged its network members across the globe to join each country or create their own programs to "call for equality and dignity for women in the Catholic Church."

"We are equal citizens but the church hierarchy does not treat us as equals," Saldanha told UCA News on March 9.

The women also submitted a memorandum addressed to Cardinal Oswald Garcias, archbishop of Mumbai and president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India.

Cardinal Gracias is also a member of the team of cardinals Pope Francis handpicked to help him renew the Vatican administration.

The memorandum was endorsed by 140 Catholic women including nuns. It appealed to the church leadership to end the practice of keeping women as second-class citizens.

The women appreciated the efforts of Catholic leaders for their many initiatives that improved the lives of women, especially those in rural areas.

"Within the Church, however, not much has changed … the concerns and frustrations of women within the Church remain the same," their memorandum said.

They also accused the church leadership of being "patriarchal" and "not valuing" their ministries.

Hundreds of women are serving in pastoral and village outreach programs. "Yet their ministries are not valued as much as or given as much recognition as the ministry of ordained deacons, from which women, including women religious, are banned," the memorandum said.

They said women "continue to fill the pews despite this very visible discrimination" and that is a sign of "the internalization of their second-class status in the Church." 

"Women have no say in the policy-making that shapes the liturgy, worship, theology and practices of the Church, including those that affect their own lives," they said.

The gender policy of the Indian bishops commits to fighting violence against women. But "the norms to deal with sexual harassment in the workplace do not mention measures that will be taken to address clergy sexual abuse," they said.

"Experience has shown that women victims are often not believed, and their clerical abusers use the power of the Church to protect themselves. They continue in their ministry while survivors are ostracized, vilified and left to languish from the wounds of the abuse and injustice in the Church," the memorandum said.

Holy Spirit Sister Jaisa Antony said that "it is high time that the patriarchal Catholic Church gave a due place to women." 

Sister Antony, a signatory of the memorandum, told UCA News that both lay and consecrated women find no place in any key decision-making bodies in the Church.

"This must change. Women must be heard in every sphere of Catholic life," she said.

Support UCA News...

As 2020 unfolds, we are asking readers like you to help us keep Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) free so it can be accessed from anywhere in the world at no cost.

That has been our policy for years and was made possible by donations from European Catholic funding agencies. However, like the Church in Europe, these agencies are in decline and the immediate and urgent claims on their funds for humanitarian emergencies in Africa and parts of Asia mean there is much less to distribute than there was even a decade ago.

Forty years ago, when UCA News was founded, Asia was a very different place - many poor and underdeveloped countries with large populations to feed, political instability and economies too often poised on the edge of collapse. Today, Asia is the economic engine room of the world and funding agencies quite rightly look to UCA News to do more to fund itself.

UCA News has a unique product developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes. Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to - South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.

And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters that cover 22 countries and experienced native English-speaking editors to render stories that are informative, informed and perceptive.

We report from the ground where other news services simply can't or won't go. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don't have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.

With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.

Click here to find out the ways you can support UCA News. You can make a difference for as little as US$5...
UCAN Donate
YOUR DAILY
NEWSLETTER
Thank you. You are now signed up to our Daily Full Bulletin newsletter
 
Support UCA News

William J. Grimm, MM

Publisher

Union of Catholic Asian News

"As Pope Francis has said, we live not so much in an era of change as in a change of era. That is especially true in Asia and for the churches of Asia. UCA News is the dedicated, Asia-wide news and information service for the Church in Asia and we need your help to maintain the service."