Transgender Woman Among Catholic Feminists Applying for Church Offices Reserved to Men

Loan Rocher (third from left) with the fellow founding members of Toutes Apôtres!

A transgender woman was part of a group of eight women who recently applied to fill roles in Catholic ministries that are currently reserved for men. The group, called Toutes Apôtres! (All Apostles!) is part of a new wave of French Catholic feminism.

The first application took place on May 25th, when Anne Soupa, a cisgender woman, sent in an unsolicited application to become the Archbishop of Lyon, an office vacant since Cardinal Philippe Barbarain resigned following charges he covered up child sexual abuse, Crux reported.

Following Soupa’s application, seven more women, including Loan Rocher, a transgender woman, sent in applications to become bishops, priests, deacons, nuncios, and preachers. These women then formed the new advocacy coalition, “Toutes Apôtres!”, which describes itself as:

“. . .  promoting equality in Catholicism for all baptized regardless of their gender, marital status, profession or sexual orientation, and the organization is composed of women throughout France and beyond.”

In response to their applications, the Vatican’s ambassador to France, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, scheduled individual, sit-down meetings with four of the women. The three who did not receive offers of meetings had not put phone numbers on their applications.

On August 29th, inspired by the French women’s efforts, Voices of Faith, an international organization of Catholic women, hosted an online discussion titled, “Empowering Women to Unlock Their Vocation,” which featured the eight women. The discussion included a variety of viewpoints and more than 250 participants from all over the globe attended.

Greater inclusion of the LGBTQ community in the church was one of the topics discussed, along with women’s ordination and an increase in the number of women in Catholic leadership. Crux reported:

“Speaking of her personal experience, Rocher said that for the past 12 years she has been ‘a transgender female and believer,’ and strives to help people through spiritual healing learn to love one another without judgement, ‘but they don’t find this absence of judgement in their Church.’

“‘I can keep my faith in Christ, but for many like me it’s not possible because they are not in the Church. I want to build bridges, ties, so that borders and walls might disappear,’ she said.

“‘For 12 years I’ve been a transgender female and I want to tell the Church to open all doors and windows. The Church is universal. There are walls that divide people into categories,’ she said, voicing her desire to help others ‘spread love around the world.'”

Similar themes from the other women abounded. Marie-Automne Thépot, who also applied to be a deaconess, said that as a deaconess, she “want[s] to participate in bringing a Church that is joyful, that’s plural, and … make room for everyone to spread the Gospel in the world.” The women in the discussion expressed a “richness of diversity,” as many of them came from different backgrounds and had different viewpoints on what exactly must be done to forward women’s inclusion.

Soupa, who began this movement with her first application, stated that she hopes that “this will be the start of something big.” The meetings with Migliore, the discussion between and among Catholic women on the subject of women’s inclusion, and the new coalition to forward the inclusion of “all apostles” are all signs of the hopeful sparks of determination towards a more universally inclusive Church. Lastly, a transgender woman applying to be a deacon is an important landmark for the church, since universal inclusion cannot be complete without the LGBTQ community.

Madeline Foley, New Ways Ministry, September 29, 2020

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