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Landmark Declaration on Women in the Catholic Church Issued Ahead of Papal Visit, Calls for Women to Have Greater Choice

July 25, 2015

Forum on Women in the Catholic ChurchCHICAGO – An unprecedented gathering of progressive Catholic leaders confronted the dreadful treatment of women in their church and, in advance of Pope Francis’ upcoming visit to the United States, called for change. At the conclusion of the “Forum on Women in the Catholic Church: What Francis Needs to Know,” the community issued a declaration that urges the church to recognize women “as the equal partners that God created”—with regard to fair wages, sexuality, church leadership positions and more.

Serving as the capstone to a day-long forum at the Chicago Theological Seminary where academics, authors and advocates discussed issues such as reproductive health, family and marriage, LGBT rights, ordination, gender equality and others, the declaration captures an important voice of the progressive Catholic movement at this moment.

“While this is an exciting and hopeful time for Catholics thanks to the pope’s pastoral approach, it’s also time to acknowledge the blind spot that Pope Francis and other leaders have when it comes to women,” said Sara Hutchison Ratcliffe, domestic program director at Catholics for Choice, a co-convener of the forum. “By bringing together a large number of faithful, concerned Catholics, we’re calling on the pope to be a leader and a champion for modern Catholic women. We are also calling on everyone in the church to bring a revolution so women are heard, valued, consulted and treated equally.”

The forum was co-convened by Call To Action, Catholics for Choice and CORPUS with nine co-sponsors. Its ultimate goal was for participants to educate one another about the need to confront discrimination and prejudice in the church while strategizing about how to advance social justice.

“Everyone at this historic gathering loves the church and yearns for their church to be better,” said Marian Fredal, Vision Council Member of Call To Action, another co-convener of the forum. “Catholics want and need a church that views women as unequivocally equal, a church that values the lived experiences of women in every aspect of life. This gathering, and the declaration the assembly affirmed, reflects the deep yearning of every Catholic to have their church be inclusive and relevant in their lives.”

“Pope Francis is affectionately known as our ‘holy conundrum.’ His words emphasize a sensitivity to, and an embrace for, the marginalized and poor,” said Linda Pinto, co-editor of CORPUS Reports, the third co-convener. “But his actions—especially on issues that affect women the most—still do not recognize or celebrate their human dignity, worthiness and full inclusion in the church.”

The forum was livestreamed and will be available on Monday, July 27. To receive a link to view the day’s events in full, as well as an announcement of the declaration, email

Chicago Declaration on Women in the Catholic Church

As the Catholic church strives to cultivate a faith rooted in human dignity and equality, we are aware that women in the church are neglected, cast aside, abused and dismissed. We know that historically women have been exploited as labor, denied reproductive healthcare, discriminated against because of whom they love and not allowed to fulfill their call to ministry. Women have not been recognized for their human dignity.

We believe that, rooted in Catholic theology, education and the lived experience of Catholics today, our faith teaches that the church is not meant to be this way.

We imagine a world and a fully engaged church where women are heard, valued, consulted and treated as the equal partners that God created. Inspired by a love of the church, we imagine:

  • A church where women are recognized for their human dignity and as beings who are guided by their conscience to make choices that are good for themselves and the community.
  • A church where women are respected for their choices about their health, welfare and lives.
  • A church where women are able to fulfill their calling to be leaders in the church.
  • A church where women are appreciated for their work in the church and fairly compensated for it.
  • A church where women can exercise their sexuality in ways that celebrate the love God has for them.
  • A church where women are able to love and form families in whatever way fills their souls.

We have faith that one day our church will meet our vision of what is right and what is true to who we are as Catholics. Out of a shared concern for the future of our church, we believe it can and should change.

We commit ourselves to work to make this vision a reality. Since we are all part of the church, we will work in our community, in our family and in our parish council and ministry. We will work with all Catholics, including women religious, priests, bishops and all those who share the loving grace of the Catholic church.

In faith, we declare our commitment to make it so.

We hope you will join us.

Call To Action
Catholics for Choice
National Coalition for American Nuns
New Ways Ministry
Quixote Center/Catholics Speak Out
Roman Catholic Womenpriests
Southeastern Pennsylvania Women’s Ordination Conference


About Call To Action

One of the largest Catholic organizations working for equality and justice in the church today with over 25,000 members and supporters and 50 chapters nationally, Call To Action educates, inspires and activates Catholics to act for justice and build inclusive communities.


CORPUS advocates for a reformed and renewed priesthood, rooted in the Spirit of Vatican II and open to all regardless of gender, marital status or sexual orientation.