Prelates Come Marching In, Women Sing, Police Strong Arm

This afternoon about 20 women and men met to practice our singing and chanting for a planned protest at the Synod gates.

Organized by the ever creative Kate McElwee of Women’s Ordination Conference, we wanted to send a clear message that women should be voting members of the Synod, part of the “Votes for Catholic Women” campaign.

Women from Voices of Faith, Catholic Women Speak, Womens Ordination Worldwide, a group of Catholic women from Poland and the Czech Republic, We Are Church Ireland, and FutureChurch were there.

After our short practice, we walked over to the synod gates, gathered in prayer, and began our chant.  Zuzanna Radzik began (and we all joined in), “Pope Francis, Let Women Vote.  Cardinal Baldisseri, Let Women Vote…  You get it.  We called each prelate out by name and shouted, “Let women vote.”

We expected to be surrounded by the police immediately, but we were able to chant, shout and sing for over 20 minutes.

Dressed in their finest, most of the cardinals and bishops who passed did not look our way.  A few turned around when they saw and heard us and tried to find another way in.  Although I thought our gathering was the most beautiful sight and sound around, I guess if one is used to interacting with “pray and obey” Catholics, we looked pretty fierce.

Still, to our delight, two Irish prelates, two Irish prelates, Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh and Primate of all Ireland, and Bishop Dónal McKeown of Derry came over to greet one of our group, Ursula Hallagan, well known for her presence on Irish TV, but also for her well founded critiques of the Catholic Church’s stand on LGBTQ people and women.  The two bishops seemed genuinely joy-filled at the sight of our protest and took one of our programs to carry with them.

After they Irish left, just as expected, the police moved in shouting, “Silence!”

Jamie Manson gives a stellar account of the strong arm tactics used by the police.

It was a disproportionate use of force to say the least.

Still, what I saw in Kate McElwee’s face, Zuzanna Radzik’s face, Sheila Peiffer’s face, Pat Brown’s face, Tina Beattie’s face, Petra Dankova’s face and the faces of so many of the women who were being shoved around, was shear strength born out of the conviction that women must claim their full and equal place in this Church, and no one, not even men in bullet proof vests or pink hats and sashes can stop them.