Catholic Women Speak: “It’s Time for Change” - Hope 103.2

Catholic Women Speak: “It’s Time for Change”

A new report by Australian academics reveals that a majority of Catholic women hope for reform in their male-dominated Church.

By Mike CrooksWednesday 8 Mar 2023NewsReading Time: 3 minutes

Catholic women are hungry for change in their church.

According to a new report, women in Australia and across the globe, are seeking reform in the Catholic Church.

Catholicism, which is the largest religion in Australia, has long held traditions, including celibacy before marriage, and women not being eligible for priesthood, among many other doctrines.

The report, titled the International Survey of Catholic Women, was a joint undertaking by researchers Dr Tracy McEwan and Dr Kathleen McPhillips at NSW’s University of Newcastle, and Professor Tina Beattie at the University of Roehampton, London.

Conducted for the Catholic Women Speak network, it involved a survey of 17,200 women from 104 countries – the largest global survey of Catholic women ever undertaken.

“As the largest ever survey of Catholic women across 104 countries and 8 language groups, we are hopeful that the report will be read by many people both within and outside the Church,” Dr McPhillips told Hope 103.2.

“Given the substantive weight of the survey … we would hope that Church officials and communities will take the time to read and digest the findings and hear the voices of women in the Catholic Church.”

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The report revealed that 84 per cent of women supported reform in the church, and two-thirds wanted radical reform.

“The full inclusion of women in parish life and wider church activities was a clear concern,” the report stated.

One surveyed woman from Italy said: “Christianity should be the faith of love and second chances, should include everyone or make everyone feel important. Instead, taboo hierarchies and interests transform it into a monolithic old and male wall.”

Some respondents revealed they had left the Church because they felt there was no longer a place for them.

“You must understand that I didn’t want to leave,” said a woman from Canada. “But I could no longer participate in a church that doesn’t seem to care about the people it should be doing the most to advocate for – and is more concerned about protecting its own power and interests.”


One of the issues that the report addressed was leadership roles in the church. There is a long-held principle within the patriarchal Catholic Church that only men can be ordained as priests.

But almost 80 per cent of the women surveyed said that women should be included at all levels of church leadership.

Further, more than 65 per cent said that women should be eligible for the priesthood.

“The Church needs to rethink the way [it] perceives women,” said one respondent from Brazil.

“I feel ashamed of my Church when I see only men in procession and celebrating the Eucharist as they exclude women.”


More than 72 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement: “Remarriage after civil divorce should be allowed.”

One middle-aged woman from Guatemala revealed she had not been an “active” Catholic of late “because I am divorced and felt that the discourse in my parish was not welcoming and accepting,” she said.

“Also, I identify myself as a Catholic feminist and that is not common nor accepted in my country.”

Contraception and abortion

Among the women surveyed, some drew attention to the potential harm of the church’s teaching regarding sex.

“The Church’s attitude towards contraception is completely unclear in the context of real-life situations,” said one woman from Poland.

Another said, “The church must take note that ‘banning’ premarital relationships … over time, causes divorce and psychological harm.”

A Guatemalan woman wrote of “a need to be more forgiving and objective in abortion-related situations.”

Vatican stance

The report will be presented to the Vatican on International Women’s Day on Wednesday, March 8.

But while Pope Francis has opened the door to women deacons and for women to deliver homilies or sermons, he has ruled out ordaining them to the priesthood.

“And why can a woman not enter ordained ministry?” he said in an interview late last year. “It is because the Petrine principle has no place for that.”

The Petrine principle revolves around Jesus Christ giving the “keys of the Kingdom” to his apostle Peter, the first Pope.

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