‘A long way to go’

— Catholic women call for wide-ranging church reforms in new international survey

By and

Catholic women across the world are calling for a wide range of reforms to the church, according to the results of our survey of more than 17,000 Catholic women from over 100 countries published this month.

A substantial majority were concerned about the prevalence of abuse, racism, and sexism in church contexts, and many raised issues relating to transparency and accountability in church leadership and governance.

The International Survey of Catholic Women is one of the most extensive surveys of Catholic women ever undertaken, and its findings should inform lasting and genuine change in the Catholic Church.

Why we did this survey

The survey was initiated by Catholic Women Speak in response to the invitation of Pope Francis for the Catholic Church to engage in a process of “synodality” for the 2021-2023 Synod of Bishops. The Synod will examine how the church comes together and is considered to be of great importance to major issues facing the church.

The aim of the survey was to gather feedback on the experiences of Catholic women. It provides insights into the complex realities of Catholic women’s lives, the ways in which they express their faith, and their relationships with the institutional church. We devised and managed the survey along with Professor Tina Beattie from the University of Roehampton, London.

The large number of responses clearly indicates a desire by Catholic women to share their aspirations and frustrations, and to make their views on the situation of women in the Catholic Church known to the Synod.

Respondents identified themselves as women from all walks of life – single, married, divorced, LGBTIQ, and religious. While the findings cannot claim to be representative of all Catholic women, they articulate the diverse hopes and struggles of women in the worldwide church.

The views of Catholic women reflect the cultural and communal contexts within which their faith is experienced and practised. This diversity is rarely represented in church documents or theology, and many women struggle to see the relevance of church teachings to the complex realities of their lives.

Many women ‘conflicted’ with the Catholic Church

The survey found that even when women have considerable struggles with Catholic institutions, nearly 90% said their Catholic identity is important to them. Many continue to practise their faith despite ongoing difficulties with the institutional church.

Several respondents used words like “frustrated”, “hurt”, “angry”, and “conflicted” when describing their relationship with the church.

Most respondents said they would welcome reform in the Catholic Church, especially – but not exclusively – regarding the role and representation of women.

One woman from Australia observed “we walk the line of being valuable members of society but voiceless in many elements of the church”. Another, from Nicaragua said, “stop making women invisible”.

Respondents raised issues related to:

A minority of respondents expressed a preference for church reform based on a pre-Vatican II model of authority, priesthood, and liturgy. Vatican II was an important meeting of all Catholic bishops held in Rome between 1962-1965 who made progressive decisions about the future of the worldwide church.

Abuse remains a central problem

Respondents consistently identified the sexual, physical, and emotional abuse of women, children, and other vulnerable people as a central problem for the church.

Some respondents disclosed experiences of abuse and harassment, while others expressed disappointment at the lack of effective action to address the crisis of sexual abuse.

One woman from Canada wrote:

they have a long way to go in dealing with the scandal and cover up. I know this firsthand. I feel as betrayed by the institutional betrayal as I do by my abuser […] This is coming from a committed lifelong Catholic who has never left the church.

Many respondents were deeply concerned about transparency and accountability in church leadership and governance. There was agreement that a less hierarchical and authoritarian model of the church was urgently needed, with greater collaboration and sharing of authority between clergy and laity (lay people).

A substantial majority of respondents identified clericalism as having a negative impact on church life. Clericalism is the idealisation of male clerics and subsequent abuses of power.

A respondent from Panama remarked, “I wish that women had more voice and that we were not abused by clericalism that excludes us and takes away our dignity”.

Most respondents linked their Catholic identity with social justice, and wanted church leaders to address poverty and marginalisation. Several raised the issue of economic justice in church affairs, including the lack of adequate pay for female church workers, both lay and religious.

The challenge for the Synod is to demonstrate that the many concerns raised by respondents in the survey are carefully listened to and addressed.

Complete Article HERE!

Church of England Stops Desmond Tutu’s Daughter From Officiating Funeral

Rev. Mpho Tutu van Furth, an Episcopal priest who is married to a woman, said the funeral of her godfather was moved to his garden to allow her to participate.

Rev. Mpho Tutu van Furth, right, with her wife, Marceline Tutu van Furth, in Cape Town in 2016.

By Isabella Kwai

The daughter of the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu had wanted to honor her godfather’s personal wish: that she officiate his funeral in England after he died last week.

But the Church of England stopped the Rev. Mpho Tutu van Furth, a priest ordained in the United States, from doing so this week because she is married to a woman, she said.

“I’m stunned by the lack of compassion,” said Ms. Tutu van Furth in a phone interview from Shropshire, in central England, on Friday, calling the decision to bar her from officiating at the funeral of her godfather, Martin Kenyon, 92, unkind. “You can’t speak a message of welcome and love and live a message of exclusion,” she said, of the church’s teaching.

Mr. Kenyon was a longtime friend of Archbishop Tutu, a powerful force in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa and an early, outspoken critic of the Anglican Communion’s stance on gay rights. The archbishop was also a godfather to Mr. Kenyon’s daughter.

The incident has put a spotlight on the longtime divide within the global Anglican Communion over whether to accept same-sex marriages and ordain openly gay priests and bishops. The Church of England and the Episcopal Church are tied together in the global Anglican Communion, which represents about 85 million worshipers around the world.

But the communion has been slowly fracturing for years as it has debated policies toward clergy and worshipers in same-sex relationships and marriages. The Episcopal Church has taken a stance in favor of acceptance of gay clergy and members, starting with the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson, an openly gay priest, in New Hampshire in 2003.

The Church of England, however, has said that under its religious laws, while it permits same-sex civil partnerships, it does not support same-sex marriage because it would go against its teachings. Gay clergy are expected to remain celibate, and those in same-sex marriages are not permitted to be ordained.

Rights campaigners and some religious leaders have condemned the incident and the church’s policies as homophobic, discriminatory and at odds with the religion’s message.

Ms. Tutu van Furth said that she was informed by local representatives of the church that while she could sit in the congregation during the ceremony, she would not be permitted to deliver the eulogy, say prayers or perform readings at the funeral. She said she understood why local officials had conveyed the message, but said the way church authorities had handled it was “not right.”

Ms. Tutu van Furth at an event in South Africa in 2013.
Ms. Tutu van Furth at an event in South Africa in 2013.

The local diocese of Hereford, in which the funeral was held, acknowledged it was “a difficult situation,” adding that they had followed advice given in line with published guidance from the church’s senior leadership — which said that getting married to someone of the same sex was not “appropriate contact” and would “clearly be at variance with the teaching of the Church of England.”

“The Church of England believes that all people are made in the image of God and must be cherished for who they are,” a spokesman for the church said in a statement. The church was in the process of “learning and listening about questions of identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage,” the statement said, which had caused “deep and painful divisions.”

Bishops are expected to formally publish recommendations on a way forward on L.G.B.T.Q. policy among other topics in February, when the General Synod, the national assembly of the Church of England, will meet.

“There are people of every age who need the church in the times of hardship and pain and loss,” Ms. Tutu van Furth said, adding that the decision had also upset the family of Mr. Kenyon. “This is supposed to be the place for people to go who have nowhere else to go.”

To honor his wishes and allow her involvement, Ms. Tutu van Furth said that the funeral — which she described as prayerful and joyful — was ultimately held on Thursday not in a church but in the garden of Mr. Kenyon’s home in Shropshire.

Mr. Kenyon and Archbishop Desmond Tutu grew close while the two lived in London in the 1960s as Archbishop Tutu studied theology in King’s College. (Mr. Kenyon also gained a bit of fame for his responses to being one of the first people in Britain to receive a Covid vaccine in 2020, telling The New York Times he was looking forward to being embraced by his grandchildren.) The archbishop was a supporter of gay rights, telling the BBC in 2007: “If God, as they say, is homophobic, I wouldn’t worship that God.”

Martin Kenyon, who was godfather to Ms. Tutu van Furth, outside the London hospital where he received the Covid-19 vaccine in December 2020. He was among the first in Britain to get the shot.
Martin Kenyon, who was godfather to Ms. Tutu van Furth, outside the London hospital where he received the Covid-19 vaccine in December 2020. He was among the first in Britain to get the shot.

Ms. Tutu van Furth has spoken previously about her painful experiences with the church after she married Marceline van Furth, a Dutch academic specializing in global children’s health. That forced her to hand back her license to officiate as a priest in the Anglican Communion’s province in Southern Africa, a decision, she said at the time, that felt like it “stripped away” a part of her. Based in the Netherlands, Ms. Tutu van Furth now preaches at a church in Amsterdam.

For Jayne Ozanne, an advocate for gay rights in the church and a member of the Church of England’s General Synod, its legislative body, the reverend’s experience reaffirmed that the Church of England was “institutionally homophobic.”

“It’s a cruel, crass and hypocritical decision,” she said, adding that church leaders had kept silent for too long on L.G.B.T.Q. rights.

“We are investing millions in mission and evangelism without getting the core basics right of a church who serves all and shows the unconditional love” of God for England, she added.

Complete Article HERE!

French Oblates plan to kick out Johannes Rivoire

NTI, victims of former Nunavut priest’s alleged abuse met with Rivoire Wednesday, demanding he return to Canada

Kilikvak Kabloona, NTI’s chief executive officer, speaks to the media following a meeting between Rev. Johannes Rivoire and the NTI delegation inside the French Oblates’ headquarters in Lyon, France, while David Aglukark, an NTI employee also part of the delegation, looks on.

By Emma Tranter

For years, Inuit in Nunavut have called for Rev. Johannes Rivoire to return to Canada to face justice over allegations of sexual abuse, but they were met with silence.

On Wednesday, one of the victims of his alleged abuse, Steve Mapsalak, and two children of another victim, Marius Tungilik, met face to face with the now 91-year-old priest, at the French Oblates’ headquarters in Lyon, France.

Rivoire, a Roman Catholic priest in Nunavut from 1960 through the early 1990s, was charged with historical sexual abuse in relation to allegations in 1998, but those charges were stayed in 2017.

RCMP laid a new charge of indecent assault against Rivoire earlier this year.

Rivoire left Canada in 1993 and has lived in France since. Even though France has an extradition treaty with Canada, French nationals are protected from extradition.

Rev. Vincent Gruber speaks to reporters outside the Oblates’ headquarters on Wednesday.

The delegation, which arrived in Paris on Monday, had just pulled into the Lyon train station on Wednesday when its members were notified Rivoire had agreed to meet with them.

Clearly emotional, delegation members took seats at a boardroom-style table in the French Oblates headquarters, sitting across from Rev. Vincent Gruber, who leads France’s Oblates, also known as the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

The delegation’s meetings with Rivoire — which lasted two hours — and with Gruber were both closed to the news media.

Gruber told reporters in French that the Oblates have begun the process of removing Rivoire from their congregation, a process that takes up to three months and that could go all the way to the Vatican.

Gruber said he had to act, given Rivoire’s repeated refusal to co-operate.

Members of the NTI delegation settle into the room where they met with Rev. Vincent Gruber before meeting with Rev. Johannes Rivoire in another room.

“He loses all his rights on our side,” Gruber said. “It’s because he didn’t obey the order to present himself to justice [in Canada].”

“I believe the victims. Since the beginning. I have no problem with that,” he added.

The meeting with Rivoire came less than 24 hours after the delegation, led by Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., appealed again to French authorities for Rivoire’s extradition. That appeal was met with refusal.

Gruber also said the Oblates plan to appeal to the Vatican to push Rivoire to face his charge in Canada.
He said he believes it’s essential that Rivoire face justice in Canada.

“Not only for the presumed victims, for the Inuit Peoples, but also for the Oblate missionaries and the Catholic Church,” he said.

Gruber said the Oblates also want a commission to look into past actions and why there was so much “delay and silence” from the Catholic Church regarding the allegations against Rivoire.

Rivoire refused to speak to media who were waiting inside and outside the Oblates’ headquarters, though at one point it seemed like he might come out, Gruber said.

A view from the street of the French Oblates’ headquarters in Lyon, France.

Before NTI arrived in France on Monday, Rivoire had told the delegation through his lawyer that he would not meet with them.

Kilikvak Kabloona, NTI’s chief executive officer, told reporters that in the meeting, Rivoire denied all allegations of abuse.

“He does recall individuals in Nunavut and then he completely denies any allegations,” she said, adding language was not an issue.

“It is clear to me that Rivoire understands English. He acknowledges that he remembers Steve and other individuals in Naujaat,” Kabloona said.

“He had nodded his head when Steve was speaking, and yet he denies everything.”

Kabloona also said Rivoire speaks Inuktitut and that he understood Inuktitut when it was spoken in the room.

He refuses to travel to Canada because of his “skin condition,” Kabloona said.

Gruber said getting Rivoire to agree to the meeting was “very, very, very difficult.”

He said the Oblates plan to continue to urge Rivoire, who was still in the Oblates’ headquarters on Wednesday evening, to fly to Canada to face justice.
NTI, which is leading the delegation, has purchased a plane ticket for Rivoire to return to Canada on Friday with the delegation.

“I want to see Rivoire on that plane. That is clear,” Gruber said.

A view of the back of the French Oblates’ headquarters.

“We will speak with him again strongly … I can’t force him. I will do everything possible to try to convince him.”

Gruber was also clear that the Oblates are not paying for Rivoire’s living expenses, his lawyer or his pension.

“We are not paying for Rivoire for a very long time,” Gruber said. “We are determined to pursue our efforts to the maximum to convince Johannes to present himself to the Canadian justice system.”

The other members of the delegation declined to speak to media immediately following the meeting.

NTI is expected to hold a press conference in Lyon Thursday morning.

Complete Article HERE!

German Bishops Fail To Pass Document Radically Altering Church Teaching On Sex

By John Rigolizzo

Liberal Catholic bishops in Germany failed to approve a document changing the Church’s teachings on sex and sexuality.

The 30-page document, entitled “Life in succeeding relationships – The principles of renewed sexual ethics,” was brought to a vote at a meeting of the German Bishops’ Conference’s “Synodal Way” in Frankfurt Thursday. The resolution to approve needed a two-thirds majority to be adopted, but it did not meet that threshold. The document would have radically reformed the Church’s teachings around same-sex relationships, gender identity, and masturbation, among others.

“We are convinced that it will not be possible to re-orientate pastoral care without re-defining the emphasis of the Church’s sexual teaching to a significant degree,” the preamble to the document stated. “This is why we are suggesting such a major re-emphasis, as we consider it urgently necessary to overcome some of the restrictions in questions of sexuality, for reasons of sexual science as well as theology. In particular, the teaching that sexual intercourse is only ethically legitimate in the context of a lawful marriage, and only with a permanent openness to the transmission of life, has caused a wide rift to open up between the Magisterium and the faithful. This threatens to completely obscure other important aspects of God’s Good News which could have a liberating effect on shaping dignified sexuality.”

A total of 33 bishops voted to approve the document; 21 voted against it. Three bishops abstained from voting, The Pillar reported.

The leaders of the conference expressed outrage at the result. Delegates took the floor for two hours after the vote concluded, blasting those who voted to disapprove, and claiming that the move would foment division in the Church.

Bishop Georg Bätzing, the president of the bishops’ conference, threatened to take the document to Pope Francis’ worldwide bishops’ synod in 2023, despite failing to approve it. “We will take it to the level of the universal church when we are in Rome in November for the ad limina visit when we go about preparing the World Synod with the continental bishops’ conferences in January,” he said, via Fox News.

The first reform the German bishops pushed was for the Church to honor all forms of personal sexual identity, including gender identity. The German bishops’ document also affirms non-binary and so-called “intersex” identities: “[b]iological gender cannot be clearly determined in binary terms in some cases,” the document states, noting that intersex people have physical and chromosomal variance, while transgender people have a difference of “gender perception” from their biological sex. “As a Church, we must respect the individual self-perception of the sexual identity of any person as an inviolable part of their uniqueness as made in God’s image,” the document says.

The document went on to call for a radical reform of the teaching on homosexuality. Church doctrine declares homosexual acts as a mortal sin that completely separates the individual from God. The document called on the Church to reject that. “Same-sex sexuality – also expressed in sexual acts – is therefore not a sin that causes separation from God, and it is not to be judged as intrinsically bad,” the document declared.

The document would also have radically altered Church teachings on masturbation, which is also a mortal sin under Church doctrine. “Experiencing one’s own body through self-stimulation in a pleasurable way can be an important building block of self-acceptance for everyone,” the document declares instead.

Complete Article HERE!

A French priest suspected of sexual assault in Canada: his congregation in embarrassment

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An extradition request from Canada for 92-year-old Father Joannes Rivoire, suspected of sexually assaulting young Inuit between 1968 and 1970, places his French congregation in a delicate situation: forced “to assume” this cumbersome heritage, she vigorously refutes having “concealed” it.

In the living room with obsolete armchairs of a house in Lyon (south-east), which houses the French headquarters of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI), Provincial Vincent Gruber, who acts as national leader, readily admits: the Rivoire affair, “it’s a poisoned package”.

The subject is at the heart of the next visit of a delegation of Inuit who will travel from September 12 to 15 to Paris and Lyon in the hope of obtaining justice.

In the Canadian Far North, the case is seen by many as the symbol of the impunity of sexual aggressors within the Catholic Church, especially since the recent “penitential pilgrimage” of Pope Francis to Canada, centered on the violence perpetrated in the residential schools.

The nonagenarian, who lives in a retirement home in Lyon, has never been worried. Targeted by an extradition request filed in early August by Ottawa, he disputes all the charges.

The order, which has 3,700 missionaries worldwide, including 87 in France, says it was not informed that in 2013 of the existence of the first warrant of arrest issued against him… in 1998 in Canada.

Why and how, this congregation could not know anything during all these years?

Inexcusable dysfunctions

“It is incomprehensible, insane… There were inexcusable dysfunctions. We have had no documents from the Oblates in Canada. Nor did the French government seek to inform the Oblates in France. Unless someone knew about it and didn’t say so…”, assures AFP Mr. Gruber.

“It creates the situation of today, with time running out and victims facing emptiness. Everything should have been settled in 1998! “, laments the manager, in office since 2014.

Mr. Gruber knows that this “situation” exposes his congregation to criticism.

The Order “overprotected” Father Rivoire, “those who should know knew that serious questions were being asked about him,” says Mr. Devaux, whom the Inuit contacted to prepare for their visit. And to launch: “nobody asked the question about his arrival in Lyon in disaster in 1993? “, when two first complaints were filed against him.

In a recent email to Mr. Gruber, of which AFP had a copy, Kilikvak Kabloona, an Inuit representative, assures that in 1993 the bishop of the diocese of Churchill-Baie-d’Hudson on which Joannes Rivoire depended had been informed of these complaints. And that, “shortly afterwards”, the missionary fled “with only a rucksack, probably under the instructions” of the bishop, “in order to avoid any negative publicity” to the Oblates.

“I know that in the Church, people have hidden, covered up, exfiltrated” perpetrators of sex crimes, “but believe us or not, we have never done that! “, argues Mr. Gruber.

In 1993, after 33 years in the field, Father Rivoire left the Far North for Lyon, officially to temporarily take care of his parents. He will never go back.

He joined the Notre-Dame-des-Lumières site (south-eastern France) from 1993 to 2015, and “does mainly gardening there”, according to Mr. Gruber. But this sanctuary must close and here it is transferred to Strasbourg (north-east) in 2015, in a “seniors’ house” managed by the OMI.

He is placed “under surveillance” when the Oblates learn that he is wanted: “he remains on our radar”, assures Mr. Gruber and a report is made to the Strasbourg prosecutor’s office.

The monk is returning to Lyon in 2021 for reasons of health and personal convenience.

“We cannot tie him up and put him on the plane! “says Mr. Gruber, assuring that he has been urged several times to “go and face justice in Canada”.

Father Rivoire “vigorously disputes the facts” and believes give back to anyone, ”according to his lawyer, Me Thierry Dumoulin. He refused to meet the Inuit delegation, including one of his presumed victims.

Father Gruber will receive the group on September 14: “we believe what the Inuit tell us” and “that’s what they’ll be told”.

Complete Article HERE!