CNWE Signs Open Letter to Pope Francis from International Coalition, (Catholic Women’s Council)

CNWE has endorsed an Open Letter to Pope Francis asking him to revise the language used in the title of his upcoming Encyclical, “Fratelli Tutti” (‘all brothers’) to include ‘sisters’.

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CNWE Toronto Participates in International Women’s Day Global Action Outside St. Michael’s Cathedral!

On International Women’s Day, Sunday March 8, 2020 at St. Michael’s Cathedral in downtown Toronto, close to 50 Catholic Network for Women’s Equality members and friends gathered from 4-5pm to call the Catholic Church hierarchy to equality for women in the Catholic Church.

This initiative, begun by Voices of Faith had actions in 36 cities around the world:

Philippines, India, Kenya, Pakistan, South Africa, Australia, the UK, Luxembourg, Germany, Spain, Austria, Ireland, Croatia, Switzerland, Italy – and Canada!

We raised our voices in song and chant while parishioners of St. Michael’s walked into mass. We gathered for dinner afterwards to continue the conversation!

This is the inaugural event for the new global umbrella group,

Catholic Women’s Council (CWC)

“The CWC has great ambitions and a limited time frame. Together we commit ourselves to work towards a major collective event in Rome in 2021 – we are visible and acting, taking responsibility and being ready to change our church for the good now. In the coming months until November 2021, all CWC members will embark on a pilgrimage, a time of study and reflection, of prayer and storytelling, of walking and talking together on real and virtual paths.”

So, in the words of the anthem we sang last weekend, “Sister, Carry On!”

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CNWE Response to Pope Francis’ Querida Amazonia

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:                                                                  FEBRUARY 23, 2020

The members of CNWE support Pope Francis’ concern for the people and environment of the Pan-Amazon region. In his Apostolic Exhortation, “Querida Amazonia” however, Pope Francis continues to have a ‘blind spot’ regarding women in the church. We remain concerned that this ‘blind spot’ prevents the changes Pope Francis is hoping for, namely: lifting people out of poverty, protecting the environment, and revitalizing Catholic faith communities.

Overwhelming evidence indicates that when women have social, educational and economic opportunities equal to men, and freedom from discrimination and violence under the law, the prosperity of the whole community is significantly improved. The Catholic hierarchy needs to stop excluding women from “functional structures” of ministry and decision-making in the Church. Otherwise, they serve to perpetuate women’s second-class status in society, and contribute to the systemic causes of poverty, suffering and violence.  

Pope Francis poignantly laments the environmental destruction of the Amazon and he sees the enormous “imbalance of power” between for-profit corporations and communities trying to live sustainably. Pope Francis does not yet see however, a connection between the harmful ethos of domination over creation and the harmful ethos of male domination over women. Perhaps Pope Francis’ ‘blind spot’ is due in part to his failure to consult, even for his Encyclical Laudato si’, the decades of prophetic work by internationally respected feminist theologians on the intersectionality of forms of domination.

Pope Francis often states that ‘relationship’ should take precedence over ‘ideology’, yet healthy relationships are prevented in the Church because the hierarchy persists in promoting an ‘ideology of complementarity’. Complementarity assumes that women and men are biologically predestined for different roles. According to this binary model, men are the norm, and women are derivative. Pope Francis states: “Jesus Christ appears as the Spouse of the community that celebrates the Eucharist through the figure of a man who presides as a sign of the one Priest.” A biblical linguistic metaphor is thus amplified into the rationale for male-only priestly ministry. In contrast, roles for Catholic women in the church are modelled on idealized versions of Mary as ‘virgin’ or ‘mother’. Pope Francis says: “The Lord chose to reveal his power and his love through two human faces: the face of his divine Son made man and the face of a creature, a woman, Mary. Women make their contribution to the Church in a way that is properly theirs, by making present the tender strength of Mary, the Mother.” (101). Pope Francis suggests that women could do “other forms of service and charisms, proper to women” (102) because ordination would “clericalize” women and make their “contribution less effective” (100).  We believe that urgent, concrete changes to the male clerical structures of the Church are called for. Collaborative and inclusive models of broad-based ministries are not only possible, they are necessary if the Church hopes to be able to read and respond to the signs of our times. It is past time for the Church hierarchy to see that serving and leading ‘in the image of Christ’ is a call that belongs to all, by virtue of our dignity as human persons and our Christian baptism.

We call on Catholic Church leaders to see that the ideology of ‘complementarity’ is undergirded by centuries of sexism and misogyny. To cling to ‘maleness’ as the determining criterion for ordained ministry and leadership in the Catholic Church thwarts the proclamation of the Gospel. It deprives the church of women who are gifted and well-qualified to minister and lead. It is starving Catholic communities in Amazonia and elsewhere who might have an itinerant priest celebrate mass once a decade! It is, in truth, giving people stones, when they are asking for bread.

We agree with Pope Francis that “authentic solutions are never found by dampening boldness.” (105). With boldness, the members of CNWE join with Catholics around the globe, in respectfully asking Pope Francis, and Canadian and international bishops and clergy, to remove their ‘blind spot’ and recognize the gifts of Catholic women in their midst. At stake are the lives of the poor, the health of creation, and the flourishing of Catholic faith communities.

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CNWE Toronto Joins Global Action for Equality and Dignity for Women in the Catholic Church

All who support the equal participation of women in Catholic ministry and leadership are welcome! Please let us know you are coming!

This action is part of Voices of Faith Global Action:

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With Gratitude for the Life of Sr. Louise Akers, Sister of Charity of Cincinnati

By Mary Ellen Chown

Members of the Catholic Network for Women’s Equality ( 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.

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