The Catholic Church backtracks on the role of women, giving hope to reformers

Voters also backed a motion calling on the Church of Australia to act ‘in a way that gives clear witness to the equal dignity of women’ by ‘overcoming the assumptions, culture, practices and language that lead to inequality “.

Full council deputy chairman Shane Mackinlay said the church had averted disaster by accepting the reworded motions, saying: ‘I believe that in time we will look upon this as a tremendously significant event in the lives of of the Church in Australia”.

Mackinlay – the Bishop of Sandhurst, which covers the Bendigo area of ​​Victoria – said the initial failure of the motions was a “terrible look” for the Church.

“It was seen as a rejection of legitimate concerns that women and men in the Church have had for so long,” he said.

Mackinlay said there was a “great sense of celebration” when the motions finally passed, but attendees were “emotionally drained” by the week’s drama.

“After a negative experience, that damage is never fully repaired,” he said.

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John Warhurst, a prominent advocate of Church reform, said: “This must be seen as an encouraging step forward from a group of men who hold the ultimate power in the Church and who have resisted any effective recognition of ministries for women in the past.

“Now we have some hope that the Australian Church can move forward towards realizing the ideal of gender equality accepted in other parts of society,” said Warhurst, president of Concerned Catholics of Canberra. Goulburn.

Marilyn Hatton, a Catholic feminist, said she was delighted the Church had recognized it needed to make improvements in gender equality.

But she was disappointed that the motion on women deacons had been “watered down”, saying: “It would be much better if our bishops were at the forefront on this issue.”

Maeve Louise Heaney, director of the Xavier Center for Theological Education at Australian Catholic University, said she hoped the council would mark a turning point for the church.

“It was very tough, we all came out of the week bruised,” she said.

She said she believed the final approved motions were superior to those that originally failed to attract enough votes from bishops nationwide.

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