The Nun Reshaping the Role of Women Inside the Vatican

Sister Nathalie Becquart will play a prominent role at the Synod of Bishops next year as Pope Francis tries to encourage new voices in the hierarchy.

Sister Nathalie Becquart will serve as under secretary of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops next year in Rome.

By Celestine Bohlen

Sister Nathalie Becquart, 53, a French Roman Catholic nun, was named to serve as under secretary of the Synod of Bishops, a summit of 250 bishops from around the world that will meet in Rome in 2023. She will become the first woman with a right to vote at such a high-level Vatican gathering.

What is the significance of your appointment?

We can read this as a call by Pope Francis to have a woman be there — not just as a woman, but as a lay person. I am a lay woman, since as religious (a church term for members of religious orders), we are not clerics. He really believes that the Holy Spirit speaks not only through the hierarchy, but also through all baptized people.

At the beginning of the church, there was this idea that the church was first of all a community. Then, for many historical reasons, the church put the focus on the institutional hierarchy. And now we rediscover that the main focus of the church is people walking together: Everyone has a role. Nobody should be set aside. We are together, the church, the people of God, all of us — bishops, men, women, lay people, religious, married, single, children — baptized. So we all have to be protagonists of the mission of the church.

What kind of issues will you be voting on at the synod?

That’s difficult to say. The Synod of Bishops is a process, one that was founded at the end of Vatican II as a way to continue the experience of the pope meeting with all the bishops, an advisory body for the pope. Now, it is a listening process that has already started in dioceses all over the world. This synod — which follows synods on youth (2018) and on the Amazon region (2019) — is about what kind of church we want to be, how we can best serve the world.

So far we are at the listening stage, the first time in the history of the church that we have such a broad-based listening process.

How has Pope Francis given women a greater voice in the Church? What difference has it made?

Pope Francis has been trying to fill the gap that has sometimes been put between leaders and faithful — those who know or who teach, on one side, and the rest.

Women are a part of the church. Which is why it is so important that they have a voice, that they participate. There was a major change a year ago when Pope Francis opened up the possibility for women to have a specific role (in church services) as lectors and acolytes; before, that was only for men.

What are the obstacles to women being ordained priests in the Catholic Church?

The vision of Pope Francis, through this synod, is to get rid of a clerical church and move to a synodal church — to disconnect participation in the leadership of the church from ordination. We can say that the way now opening up is to listen to all different views; for instance, not everyone thinks ordination of women is a good path. You have some groups calling for that, but you also have some groups calling for new ministries.

The question of women is a sign of the times. It is a powerful call within our societies and in the church. The church has already said we should fight against any discrimination against women. But it is a long way, not only in the church.

What have been your experiences as a woman in what were once all-male gatherings?

I was the first woman to be director of the national office of youth and vocation at the French Catholic Bishops Conference; before it was always a priest. At a gathering in Lourdes, I remember a very old bishop asked me, “So whose secretary are you?” I said, “No, not a secretary, I am a director of a national office.” He was a little bit surprised because someone from his generation — they were usually trained in minor seminaries since the age of 12 — didn’t have a lot of experience with women.

The younger generation is different; many have had professional experiences. I work with young priests, and for many of them, working in team with women who may be their boss, it is no longer a question.

You have degrees in business management, philosophy, sociology and theology; you have worked as a volunteer in Lebanon; studied in Boston and Chicago; and worked as a consultant at a marketing agency for nongovernmental and religious organizations. What parts of that experience led you to this critical — maybe history-making — role at the heart of the Catholic Church?

When I was young, I was a girl scout and later a scout leader. It was kind of a school of leadership.

As a student at HEC Paris (the prestigious business school), I specialized in entrepreneurship, how to take risks, to organize a business plan. I learned a lot about how to work as a team, about project management, how to develop the spirit of entrepreneurship, how to take risks.

I became a nun in 1995, at age 26, so there is also my experience in religious life. I would highlight my spiritual path of transformation, of conversion, of living in a community. Throughout life, you face difficulties, crises, storms. But if you are really rooted in faith, and sure that Christ is with you, the main message of the Gospels and the church is that darkness is not the end. There is always this message of hope and resurrection. This has helped me, even through difficult times.

You are also a great sailor.

I am a skipper! And yes, sailing has been a great school of life and leadership. When you are a skipper, you have to listen to your crew. For many years, I received the gift to sail and lead retreats for young adults. It was a way to put together my experience sailing and my call for a ministry to help young people. Truly, the sea is my place.

Complete Article HERE!

Refusal to Accept LGBTQ Equality Is Still Causing Divisions in Churches

A Methodist pastor’s rainbow stole signifies an open and affirming attitude toward LGBTQ believers.


Another shoe fell last week in the ongoing process of Protestant religious denominations splitting over efforts to accept or reject equality for LGBTQ folk in the pews and in the clergy. Conservative members of the United Methodist Church, the largest mainline (e.g., non-Evangelical) denomination and the second largest Protestant denomination (behind only the Evangelical Southern Baptist Convention) announced that on May 1 they will be launching a major new grouping of congregations to be called the Global Methodist Church, as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

So Methodists hewing to a homophobic view of godly behavior can’t wait on the division of churches and property informally agreed to by the UMC in 2019, and are striking out on their own. They are seeking a flat divorce settlement of $25 million to cover the church properties they will now seek to recruit from a denomination that has been very closely divided on the issues generating the split (mostly acceptance or rejection of same-sex marriages and ordination of non-celibate gay clergy). The UMB is arguably the most conservative of the mainline Protestant groupings, especially in the South, where Methodists often are not all that distinguishable in their faith, culture, and politics from their Evangelical neighbors.

The UMC is going through a sorting-out on LGBTQ equality that has already occurred in other mainline denominations. Episcopalians, the largest Lutheran group, and most recently the largest Presbyterian group have accepted full equality, at the cost of losing some members. The more liberal United Church of Christ (a.k.a. Congregationalists), the Society of Friends (Quakers), and the Unitarian-Universalist Association accepted LGBTQ equality with less controversy. Some mainline denominations, including the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the Progressive National Baptist Convention (of which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the founders), defer to local congregations on such matters, but put no obstacles in the way of those who want to bless same-sex marriages or ordain gay clergy.

Most Evangelical Protestant denominations and conservative spinoffs from mainline churches reject LGBTQ equality with greater or lesser militancy. Beyond Protestantism, of course, the Roman Catholic Church, while not as uniformly conservative as its Evangelical cousins (with whom it sometimes cooperates on issues like abortion and so-called “religious liberty”) continues to regard active homosexuality in any form as “intrinsically disordered” and thus as sinful, even though Pope Francis has struck a new tone of friendly tolerance short of full acceptance. Eastern Orthodox churches are typically even more resistant to LGBTQ equality as Catholics, though lay members do not appear to be as conservative on such issues as clergy or the hierarchy.

More generally, you can argue that U.S. Protestantism, and even Christianity itself, are evolving toward big left-right coalitions divided over cultural and even political issues (driven in part by divisions over scriptural “inerrancy,” which often drives conservatives seeking validation for their cultural and political views), with the old denominations (mostly imported from Europe) becoming steadily less important and distinct. It’s probably a confirmation of a paradigm shift in religious faith and practice that Methodists are no longer “united” while friends and enemies of an open and affirming stance toward all believers seek alliances with each other.

Complete Article HERE!

In pope’s homeland of Argentina, court jails powerful bishop for sex abuse

Roman Catholic Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta, accused of sexually abusing young men in northern Argentina, sits in court, in Oran, Argentina March 3, 2022.

by David Alire

A Catholic bishop accused of sexually abusing young men studying to be priests was found guilty by a court in northern Argentina on Friday, capping over a week of often graphic testimony in the latest criminal abuse case to hit the global Church.

The high-profile trial played out in the home country of Pope Francis, the former archbishop of Buenos Aires and the first Latin American pontiff of the Church.

Gustavo Zanchetta, the former bishop of Oran in Argentina’s northern province of Salta, was convicted of sexually abusing two former seminarians, which prosecutors said in a statement was aggravated due to his status as a cleric.

The court handed down a prison sentence of 4 1/2 years to begin immediately.

Zanchetta had denied all charges in the criminal trial, as well as a separate Vatican canon law investigation, insisting he had “a good and healthy relationship” with all seminarians, according to summaries of the closed-door trial provided by the local judiciary. read more

“We’re going to appeal,” Zanchetta lawyer Javier Belda told Reuters in an email.

Summaries of testimony provided by the judiciary included witnesses describing unwanted touching and sexual advances by the bishop, as well as requests for massages and gifts he doled out to seminarians he was said to favor.

Other witnesses testified to the discovery of porn on the bishop’s phone as well as a history of visiting pornographic websites on a church computer he used. read more

Zanchetta often spoke about his close friendship with the pope, according to trial testimony.

Zanchetta had worked for the Church in Rome, tapped in 2017 to help lead the Vatican’s Administration of Patrimony of the Apostolic See, a financial and accounting office that also manages its properties in Italy. He was re-appointed to the job by the pope in 2020 despite an ongoing criminal investigation., a U.S.-based abuse tracking group, hailed Zanchetta’s conviction in a statement on Friday.

“This is a stunning ruling from the Pope’s homeland. It’s a sign that even where the Catholic Church wields power, civil societies increasingly will not tolerate sexual abuse of young adults by powerful figures,” said the group.

It also blasted the pontiff for what it described as his “disturbing” refusal to provide prosecutors with files from the Vatican’s own investigation into the case.

“Pope Francis should finally condemn the bishop’s crimes publicly and strip him of his title and privileges,” the statement said.

The Vatican did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Three priests first accused the Argentine bishop of sexually abusing seminarians, as well as abuse of power and financial mismanagement, in 2018, which they claimed took place at the Oran seminary the bishop founded a couple of years earlier.

A local prosecutor called for Zanchetta’s arrest the following year, but the case has dragged on amid legal delays related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Vatican’s investigation.

Complete Article HERE!