By Isabelle de Gaulmyn (in Paris) | France
November 24, 2023
The disadvantage of a book written with several authors is that it necessarily goes off in several directions. Such is the case with a new 180-page book on the Catholic Church written by seven women theologians, six French and one Italian. The title – Se réformer ou mourir – pretty much says it all – the Church must "reform or die".
Meanwhile Véronique Margron, the Dominican sister who is currently president of the Conference of Men and Women Religious in France (CORREF), reminds us what the sex abuse crisis has brought to Catholics, particularly with regard to the relationship between power and abuse.
Ursuline Sister Laure Blanchon, professor at the Jesuit Faculty of Theology (Centre Sèvre) in Paris, looks at the Church's preferential option for the poor. And Isabelle de la Garanderie, a consecrated virgin who has a doctorate from Centre Sèvre and teaches highschool religion, shares reflections on Church reform.
Reforming a Church that's still too clerical
But we would like to express a particular preference – albeit a subjective one -- for Anne Soupa's. Readers may remember that she's the lay theologian who "applied" to be Archbishop of Lyon in 2020. Soupa offers a beautiful reflection reforming a Church that she sees as overly clerical. She starts from what seems most promising to her, namely the baptismal way. Baptism is the only sacrament "capable of lifting all the muted but powerful exclusions that structure the Church", and, in particular, the difficult relationship between the laity and the clergy.
Soupa thus moves away from overly ecclesial debates to focus on a more spiritual vision, and insists on the role of the baptized in the Church she so earnestly desires. She refuses to despair in the face of the crisis facing the institution, asserting that we must continue to bear witness, "because Christianity can only be transmitted from face to face. And all it takes is a few".
The institutional Church, she insists, must not hide the Church of Christ, which is something much more. Catholics must return to a "vigorous, ardent and well-argued proclamation of the resurrection", prepare for the Kingdom, and place love at the heart of their message, she says. In this way, the Church's "purified, scintillating" Christ-like purpose must emerge from its now anachronistic structure.
Se réformer ou mourir (Paris: Salvator, 2023)
Laure Blanchon OSU