By Mary Ellen Chown
Members of the Catholic Network for Women’s Equality (cnwe.ca) were sorry to hear of the death of Sr. Louise Akers, a Sister of Charity of Cincinnati on February 7, 2018.
Sr. Louise devoted 50 years of her life to social justice work and especially to advocating for gender and racial equality.
CNWE was delighted when Sr. Louise graciously accepted our invitation to be a keynote speaker at our National conference in 2013 in Sudbury, ON. In her address, Sr. Louise urged us to see the global ‘paradigm shift’ toward a ‘prophetic imagination’ for justice and equality. We were also inspired by her own prophetic witness in 2009 when she was ordered by then Archbishop of Cincinnati, Daniel Pilarczyk to publicly renounce her support for women’s ordination in the Catholic church or else she would be prohibited from continuing her teaching, retreat facilitation and social justice ministry in the Archdiocese. Sr. Louise refused to comply with this edict, stating: “Women’s ordination is a justice issue. Its basis is the value, dignity and equality of women. I believe this to my very core. To publicly state otherwise would be a lie and a violation of my conscience. I love, support and cherish the part of church that upholds the Gospel mission and vision of Jesus.”
On behalf of the Catholic Network for Women’s Equality, the National Work Group of CNWE offers sincere condolences to the members of both Sr. Louise Akers family and her religious community. May all who knew and loved Sr. Louise be inspired by her lifelong commitment to ‘living the Gospel’. May we continue her work for justice and equality in the Catholic church and in the world.
On September 9, 2017 Pope Francis issued an Apostolic letter in the form of motu proprio (‘of his own initiative’) to revise Canon Law regarding the translation of the mass (liturgy) from Latin to the various languages of the world. This change gives national conferences of Catholic bishops the authority to revise translations used in their jurisdictions to ensure the “fully conscious and active participation” of the faithful.
English Catholics in Canada have been using a new translation of the mass that was imposed on them in 2011. This translation is seriously flawed, due to its awkward and obscure language, its narrow vision of humanity and God, and its omission of inclusive language. These changes have negatively impacted how Catholics experience the mass.
The small committee of Catholic clergy who developed this translation used a literal ‘word for word’ principle of translation from Latin rather than ‘dynamic’ translation where the goal is to use language that is easily understood. As a result, the current version is unfortunately full of long-winded sentences with multiple clauses that are often unintelligible. Obscure words have also been added that present unnecessary barriers in understanding for all, especially children and people who are new to the English language. Secondly, the current translation overemphasizes human sinfulness and unworthiness before God in its language, rather than God’s unconditional mercy and love. It also frequently uses language that reduces the many images of God found in the Bible and Christian tradition to descriptions of God as a punitive male monarch. Furthermore, although gender inclusive language is considered standard in Canada, it is virtually absent from the language that Catholics hear at mass. We respectfully remind the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops that they were leaders in the 1980’s in developing parish materials on the issue of gender inclusive language. Inclusive language should be a ‘given’ in a Church that professes belief in the equal inherent dignity of women and men.
Since 2012, members of the Catholic Network for Women’s Equality (CNWE) have brought these issues to the attention of their local priests and bishops through letters, petitions and a delegation that met with Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast. Now that Pope Francis has given national conferences of Catholic bishops jurisdictional authority to revise translations of the mass, we respectfully call on the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops to begin a thorough review of the current English language Roman Missal. Given that it has been in use in Catholic parishes for almost six years, assessing its effectiveness at this point is warranted. We would hope that such a review would allow for broad-based input from parishioners, priests and liturgical and scripture scholars. We would also hope that the end result of such a process would be language at mass that is understandable, life giving and inclusive – language that encourages the lively participation of the faithful.
Catholic Network for Women’s Equality (cnwe.ca), Canada.
Facebook: “Catholic Network for Women’s Equality – Canada”.
The Catholic Network for Women’s Equality affirms Pope Francis’ decision to establish a commission to study the question of women as deacons in the Catholic church. This decision follows a request by women religious from around the world (The International Union of Superiors General) when they met with the Pope this past spring.
CNWE members are encouraged to know that Dr. Phyllis Zagano, an international expert who has doggedly researched and advocated for restoring women to the permanent diaconate will be a member of the commission. Dr. Zagano was a keynote speaker at a conference on women deacons hosted by St. Michael’s University College, Toronto (May, 2016). As Dr. Zagano states: “Given the many evidences of women deacons throughout history, the restoration of women to the diaconate seems to be something Francis could do easily.”
For the Catholic church to flourish as a place of justice and inclusion for all, the leadership of the Church needs to dismantle sexist thought and practice, and open to the participation of women at all levels of ministry and decision making in the church. A foundation of Catholic/Christian theology is the full dignity of women and men. Due to the intransigence of our leadership, however, this has yet to be realized in the practice of our church. This commission is a step in the right direction.
As Canadian women, we are heartened that our current federal government has recognized the contribution that women can make to Canadian society by appointing women in greater numbers to our federal cabinet. We hope that this civic progress, will come to be reflected in our Catholic parishes. We will continue, as we have been doing for 35 years, to work toward that goal.
The Catholic Network for Women’s Equality is endorsing the petition initiated by Catholic Church Reform International (CCRI) to re-instate Hans Kung as an official Catholic theologian. We invite you to sign this petition to Pope Francis here.
At CNWE’s National Conference 2015 (May 29-31, Toronto), CNWE members continued the process of developing a Vision Statement, Mission Statement and Core Values. These new statements, ratified at our AGM on June 1, will serve to shape our way forward.
VISION Justice and equality for all persons manifested in word and action in the Catholic church and throughout the world.
MISSION As a Canadian organization, we connect, support and represent people who seek justice for all the baptized within the Catholic church, for women throughout the world and for all of creation.
Core values: inclusivity, creativity, celebration, solidarity, compassion, collaboration, dialogue