After the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse crisis, female theologians are calling for changes to leadership


August 16, 2020

By Siobhan Hegarty

Sixty per cent of churchgoers in Australia are women, yet in the decision-making ranks of the Catholic Church, female voices are largely absent.

The lack of women in leadership roles is a point of contention for many theologians — not just for equity reasons.

According to Robyn Horner, from the Australian Catholic University’s school of theology, the church’s sexual abuse crisis demonstrated the failings of a male-only leadership structure.

“I think the church has protected itself for a long time with patriarchal attitudes and the exclusion of women from decision-making roles, even if they’re not ordained roles,” she says.

“This just means there’s always a temptation to involve secrecy and silence and keep it as a boys’ club.”

Associate Professor Horner views the sexual abuse crisis as a line in the sand, “which says either the church is going to change or it’s going to die”.

As of this month, changes are being made.

Last Thursday, Pope Francis appointed six women to a group overseeing the Vatican’s finances. These positions are thought to be the most senior female appointments in the Church’s leadership structure.

But reformers in the Catholic Church are pushing for greater structural change.

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