By Matters India Reporter
Bengaluru, May 3, 2019: The ten-year-old gender policy of the Indian Catholic Church has proved to be a failed promise, women theologians say.
A great majority of women’s servitude betrays male privilege that is normalized in the families and in the Church. “This situation makes us interrogate whether the ‘Gender Policy of the Catholic Church in India’ acclaimed as the first of its kind, has remained a failed promise even after 10 years of its existence,” the Indian Women Theologians Forum said in a statement.
The forum’s April 28-May 1 annual meet at Good Shepherd Convent Bengaluru deliberated the theme, “Towards a Gender Just Church.”
The participants said they are pained at the indifference and silence of the Church leaders to sexual abuse survivors, including religious women.
“We are deeply disturbed by the double standards with which the survivors and their supporters are further victimized while the alleged offenders are sympathized and defended in various ways,” said a statement issued by the forum after the meeting.
The statement also noted that the notion of gender justice still remains an ambivalent concept or, a mismatch within the framework of the institutional Church.
“While the Christian doctrine affirms equality between women and men on the biblical foundation of the creation of humans ‘in God’s image’ (Gen.1: 26-28), women’s experience of discrimination, silencing and exclusion within the ecclesiastical structures point to the contrary,” the statement said.
At the same time the forum noted more and more women reclaiming their voice and agency in the secular sphere in India and across the globe.
Women’s “subjugation, marginalization and exploitation are increasingly being exposed, countered and challenged,” the statement underscored.
Inclusion and diversity, the forum noted, has now become an essential part of any discourse on gender.
“The emergence of new movements like the #MeToo campaign, the temple entry moves, the triple talaq debate and the many initiatives by ecumenical Churches that are creating platforms for a collective assertion of rights of women and sexual minorities are indicative of the decisive steps taken by women on the path towards greater freedom and affirmation of their personhood.”
All this, the women theologians said, impelled them to explore critically the various manifestations of ecclesiastical patriarchy.
“We reflected on religious life and questioned whether it is lived as a prophetic call or remains merely as an establishment preoccupied with survival and security concerns.
They also said that the promptings of the Spirit and their review of the women’s predicament in the Church and in society challenge them to address the situation with a sense of urgency.
“Gathering the liberative voices of biblical women and examining its significance for today’s Church, we resolve to create alternative spaces to exercise our theological and spiritual leadership as ecclesia.”
The forum also resolved to reclaim women’s position, voice and rights as disciples of Jesus in the Church.
“Stepping beyond the boundaries of gendered identity constructions that have devalued us over the ages, we wish to retrieve our full humanity as persons created, graced and commissioned by the empowering God to build a new Church and social order which is egalitarian and inclusive,” asserted the statement.
The forum also resolved to continue the struggle to build a “gender just Church” by exercising women’s collective agency and networking with individuals and communities committed to realizing the vision of the Reign of God in this world.