Catholic Network for Women’s Equality (CNWE), Canada, Calls Catholic Bishops of Canada to Facilitate the Request of Indigenous Leaders for Pope Francis to Formally Apologize on Canadian Soil for the Legacy of Catholic-run Residential Schools


Together with Canadians across the country and people around the world, we grieve and stand in solidarity with Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation, as the remains of 215 children buried in unmarked sites have been located on the grounds of the former Catholic-run Kamloops Indian Residential School.  

As settlers on this land, we have been slow to learn the history of the devastating impact of colonization, religious coercion, and ongoing systemic racism on First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, despite overwhelming evidence. As Catholics, we have been slow to acknowledge the depth of generational trauma resulting from the ongoing legacy of residential schools run by our own Church.  As individuals, we have been slow to face, and work to dismantle, our own inherited prejudices. 

From a place of listening, mutual respect and humility, members of CNWE are committed to being allies with Indigenous peoples. In recent days, we have listened as First Nations leaders have asked Pope Francis to “issue an apology to Survivors, their families, and communities for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of First Nations, Inuit and Métis children in Catholic-run residential schools.” This request, from the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Report Calls to Action (#58) remains unmet. We call on Canadian bishops and cardinals to facilitate Pope Francis coming to Canada when it is safe to do so.

We call on all Catholic entities and dioceses to cooperate fully with the requests of Indigenous peoples to provide all documents related to residential school investigations. We also urge all the bishops of Canada to re-commit to meeting the terms of the Settlement Agreement regarding ongoing education and support (TRC Calls to Action #59-61) and to justly meeting all financial compensation obligations.

Survivors have been telling us for decades of the abuse that occurred in residential ‘schools’ and our hearts break for generations of Indigenous families whose children were not only taken away to these schools, but never returned home. We all have a moral and spiritual responsibility to be allies with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples in Canada, cooperating in the urgent work of truth, reconciliation, and justice. 

CNWE Responds to Ban on Catholic Church Blessing of Same-Sex Unions


It is with profound disappointment that the Catholic Network for Women’s Equality (CNWE) has read the Responsum of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith to the Dubium regarding Blessings of the Unions of Persons of the Same Sex. We  find unacceptable the conclusion of the Congregation that same-sex blessings are not possible, and that this is because “God does not bless sin.”

To equate love with sin distorts both the meaning of love and the meaning of sin.  We encourage the Church and in particular the Vatican to reflect more deeply on the biblical passage on love from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 13:1-13), the passage so often read at weddings.  In particular, we point to the opening line: “If I speak in the tongues of persons or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” 

The question is not whether people of the same sex love each other.  Couples the world over have testified to this truth for decades. The question is whether leaders in the Vatican can understand their love, whether they can embrace this manifestation of love, and whether they can perceive the suffering they are causing to LGBTQ+ persons with this decree.  This decree opens the door further to bigotry and discrimination because of the Catholic Church’s influence in the world.With this response, the Catholic hierarchy fails to offer LGBTQ+ persons their blessing, protection, and love.

Again, we hear the words of St Paul: “If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” How well are our church leaders exemplifying the love St. Paul is calling for when he says, “Love is kind… it does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”? 

If we cannot respect the God-given gift of love in same-sex relationships among Catholics who are our friends, family, siblings, children – if we cannot bless this love, what then are we as Church?  We cannot make exceptions to love, based on a limited and judgmental understanding of diverse identities, and still claim to be following in the footsteps of Christ. We are called above all, to be a Church of welcome, belonging, and especially love.  

Let us be the church we are called to be and rejoice as the people of God in blessing genuine love in all its graced expressions. 

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CNWE-Canada Applauds Supreme Court Ruling in Favour of Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivor, Irene Deschenes in her Battle for Justice Against Diocese of London

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 11, 2021

While justice has been done today, Catholic Network for Women’s Equality (CNWE) -Canada calls Diocese of London to enter into mediated settlement with Irene Deschenes, rather than re-victimizing Irene with another civil process. 

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled in favour of clergy sexual abuse survivor Irene Deschenes and her right to a new settlement with the Diocese of London. The Diocese misrepresented itself in the initial settlement, claiming no knowledge of the abuse, when in fact it had received a police report of three victims abused by Fr. Charles Sylvestre almost a decade before Irene was abused. In 2006, Fr. Sylvestre pleaded guilty and was convicted of the historical sexual abuse of dozens of girls over a period of 36 years. 

Rather than settling with Irene and offering her healing in this decades-long battle, the Diocese appealed the decisions of two lower courts that ruled in favour of Irene, and took this case to the highest court in the land. This misuse of legal power and resources by the diocese contradicts Vatican and diocesan guidelines recommending expeditious, just and compassionate settlements for survivors of clergy sexual abuse. The statement from the Diocese of London, following the ruling today says: “We believe in treating victims with the empathy and respect needed to help them receive justice and begin the healing process.” It’s long past time for the Diocese of London to make this claim credible and enter into mediation for a swift and just settlement with Irene Deschenes.  

Catholic Network for Women’s Equality continues to stand in solidarity with Irene Deschenes and all survivors of clergy sexual abuse.


Statement: Catholic Network for Women’s Equality – Canada Welcomes Pope Francis’ Appointment of First Woman to Synod of Bishops: Another Step Forward but Not Enough

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE February 8, 2021 (REVISED* February 11, 2021)

Catholic Network for Women’s Equality – Canada Welcomes Pope Francis’ Appointment of First Woman to Synod of Bishops:  Another Step Forward but Not Enough

Catholic Network for Women’s Equality – Canada (CNWE) says that while Pope Francis’ recent appointment of Sister Nathalie Becquart to the position of Under-Secretary to the Synod of Bishops is a step forward for women in the church, equality for women in the Church still has a long way to go. 

On February 6, the Vatican announced the appointment of Sister Nathalie Becquart of France as Under-Secretary to the Synod of Bishops. For the first time, a woman will have voting rights at the vital decision-making synods of bishops that have occurred every few years since the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). Pope Francis also named Italian magistrate Catia Summaria as the first woman in the role of Promoter of Justice in the Vatican’s Court of Appeals. We congratulate Sister Nathalie Becquart and magistrate Catia Summaria on these appointments. 

Catholics around the world, seeking justice and equality for women in the Church, have been calling for voting rights for women in the deliberations of the Church since before Vatican II. On one level, the members of CNWE celebrate these appointments. The appointments  represent decades of persistent advocacy by Catholic reform groups, women religious and some clergy. The appointments also signify that Pope Francis is listening and taking initial steps  to ‘open the door’ to women’s greater participation in decision-making roles in the Church.

CNWE is also concerned, however, that the Vatican appointment of women to a few high-level positions is also a form of ‘tokenism’. To have only one woman permitted to vote at a church synod, is in no way sufficiently representative of Catholic women, who make up more than half the church. While we welcome Pope Francis’ recent appointments as small steps forward, CNWE will continue to work for full recognition of the baptismal equality of women in an inclusive, just and accountable Catholic Church.  

*REVISION: Although our original statement of February 8 reported (based on credible mainstream press reports) that the Vatican had put the German Catholic women’s organization, Maria 2.0 ‘under observation’, we have since learned that this is not the case.