Imagining the Church of tomorrow

A woman candidate for the archbishop of Lyon! Anne Soupa’s provocative declaration has Catholics talking. Some supporters are infuriated or consider it inappropriate.

Jun 14, 2020

By Monique Baujard, Véronique Fayet, Marie Mullet-Abrassart, Véronique Prat, Dominique Quinio      
A woman candidate for the archbishop of Lyon! Anne Soupa’s provocative declaration has Catholics talking. Some supporters are infuriated or consider it inappropriate. And still others are indifferent and think that the fight lies elsewhere, reminding us that Christians also have to get involved in the world to make it more just and more united.

But the initiative is shaking up the Catholic imagination, and that is a good thing. Is it really necessary, however, to use acts of provocation?

We all need to work together to envision the Church of tomorrow, a Church capable of accompanying the existential questions of our contemporaries.

Of course, the issue is not the relevance of the Gospel, but the way it is proclaimed and how it is shared in a society that understands less and less the language and symbols Catholics use to express and celebrate their faith.

In a rapidly changing world, the Church needs to leave the beaten path. Pope Francis invites us to do this by calling for a Church that “goes out of itself”.

But we are like prisoners of our imagination and must admit that it’s an imagination that has been shaped for centuries by men and for men.

Scripture, the interpretation of events and history, theology, the governance of the institution, preaching... All this has been the exclusive prerogative of men for centuries.

And because of this, it’s not at all clear that the men of the Church will spontaneously decide to share these responsibilities with women. How can we fail to see that theology can also be used to maintain the status quo?

The image of the Church has cracked
The sharing of responsibilities with women is, moreover, only one aspect of the more global question of the role of the laity. The image of the Church today has cracked because of the many different types of abuse that have been committed within it.

Sexual abuse, the abuse of power and conscience, and abusive spiritual relationships that lead to situations of control. There are endless examples and they have provoked disgust among many Catholics.

Beyond individual faults and deviations, we have seen that priests or founders of communities are often put on a pedestal, making them above all suspicion. There is an urgent need to deconstruct this illusion in order to establish more fraternal relationships that take into account each person’s fragility.

Finally, we are still locked into a territorial vision of the Church, modelled on parishes. But these attract fewer and fewer people, and those who do participate in parish life don’t always find the spiritual nourishment for which they are looking.

In order to reach our contemporaries, we have to invent other places of Church. There are already many initiatives, even if some are only modest.

Forums for dialogue are lacking
Inventing the Church of tomorrow requires being able to speak about this imagination, the existing gaps with the reality that Catholics experience and to work on its transformation. The Letter of Pope Francis to the People of God urges us to do this.

But the Church lacks forums for dialogue. When there is little room for discussion on the role of women in the Church, some think they have no other option than to be confrontational and provocative.

The popes have written much about the so-called “feminine genius” and the role of women in the Church. But they have never instituted a real dialogue with women.

In France, the bishops have already invited lay people to come and discuss ecological issues with them. This is a very important subject that challenges our lifestyles and can, in turn, also help renew the Church.

One dreams of going even further today. Many Catholics are ready to work with the bishops in imagining the Church of tomorrow.--LCI (

Total Comments:0