Monday, November 23, 2020


Anne Soupa
Click on any image for a larger version

What an amazing event with We Are Church Ireland.

The background was that Anne Soupa, a 73 year old French theologian, writer and journalist, had offered herself as a candidate for the vacant archbishopric of Lyon.

The post became vacant after the occupant, Cardinal Barbarin, resigned following controversy over his handling of sex abuse cases.

Following Pope Francis's appeal for more women to be active in the church, Anne figured if her application was successful that as Archbishop in the most important diocese in France, she, like her predecessor would be an automatic candidate for a red hat and a seat at the next Conclave.

This would be a very fast and novel way of responding to the Pope's plea.

Apparently in the early Church you could be a bishop without being a priest and Anne had no ambition to be a priest. However, in the meantime over two millennia, the boys had sewn up the job.

Her example was followed by seven other women who put themselves forward as candidates for various offices in the Roman Catholic Church which were currently closed to women. But we'll come to them later.

Anne Soupa

Needless to say, Anne's candidacy got nowhere. She didn't even get the courtesy of a reply to her application, but she nevertheless feels that her campaign has attracted sufficient attention to raise consciousness of the unfair and unjustified discrimination against women holding holy office in the Church.

Meanwhile We Are Church Ireland booked her for one of their sessions, and tonight was the night. Anne had prepared a talk in English and after the usual introductions she launched into it. You can read her full text here. It is well worth your taking the time [8 minutes max] to read it as it both describes Anne's motivation and is a record of one woman's attempt at direct action to right a longstanding wrong
The ban on women from being a priest, deacon, a bishop, a pope, is an abuse of power. It is against this abuse of power that I rose. My greatest hope is that women, everywhere, stand up and make their voices heard also.
The night did not start auspiciously however as the sound on Anne's internet connection was not great and it periodically froze. Nevertheless we got the general message and Anne finished up and prepared to deal with questions. At some point she vanished altogether and the host decided to press Laurence de Bourbon, who was in the audience into service.

Laurence de Bourbon

Laurence de Bourbon Parme
[I'll get a more appropriate photo when the recording is up]

Laurence was one of the seven women referred to above and she had put herself forward for the office of lay preacher.

Soline Humbert

Laurence was more at ease speaking in French so Soline became her interpreter.

Laurence had actually got an audience with the French Papal Nuncio and they had a long and deep conversation in the course of which he authorised her to do baptisms and came perilously close to ordaining her to the priesthood, a role she was not seeking.

Laurence had been doing spiritual healing for years and was well up to sparring with a mere nuncio.

We then got Anne back on a slightly better line and she dealt with questions from the audience. Although she had rehearsed some replies in English to questions supplied earlier, it was quite clear that she was more at home in French and Soline embarked on her second round of interpretations of the night.

It emerged that Anne did not think she had any prospect of getting the job but I don't think she thought she would just be ignored. Nevertheless she felt that the publicity she attracted brought the issue into wider focus and the idea was to keep hacking away at this until the movement gained sufficient traction to embarrass the boys out of keeping it up.

One questioner asked what men could do to further the women's cause. I think the answer might have surprised him when Anne suggested that the men should refuse to perform all those roles which were denied to women.

I had filed a question asking if she thought it would eventually come to a choice for the church between ordaining women or going down the tubes.

Her answer was brief: "it already has".

Incidentally I also suggested in the chat line that Cardinal Archbishop Emeritus of Paris, André Armand Vingt-Trois, would have done well to have changed his name by deed poll, particularly when you consider the embarrassment of the Pope addressing him in Italian as "il Cardinale Ventitré".

This is the man who once said:
"The most difficult issue is to find appropriately formed women. It's not enough just to wear a skirt, they need to have something in their heads."
This was in 2008, referring to lectors. But what happens when the Church is presented with a mature skirt with loads of brains for a job. Not even an acknowledgement.

Hélène Pichon

Hélène Pichon

In the middle of all this, Anne spotted Hélène in the audience and called her into play. Hélène was another of the seven women and she had applied to be a nuncio, something she had wanted to be since she was a young child.

Hélène was on her way home from work in the train - which explains the picture above.

She also got a chat with the Nuncio which seems to have gone well, but, of course there was no vacancy for the moment, which sort of got him off the hook.

Reception improved somewhat when Hélène got off at her station and we saw her reaching home safely before the end of the night.


It is very difficult to see how this issue will pan out. The boys are so entrenched and so convinced of their superiority and entitlement that they will, no doubt, have to be carried out screaming. If they are not, then the Church will continue its downward spiral into irrelevancy.

Colm Holmes & Soline Humbert

Colm was the host and Soline, as we know, the interpreter. Note the inclusive Last Supper in the background.

Follow up

The seven women are known as "Toutes Apôtres", meaning they are all apostles, and this is their Press Kit. It is in French but you could always copy and paste extracts into Google translate.

I'll put up a link here to the recording of the session as soon as it is available. Don't be discouraged by Anne's bad internet connection at the beginning, it's well worth persevering.

For myself, just meeting these three women tonight has been great.


  1. Congratulations Soline on a job well done. Your heart was clearly in it.

  2. Many thanks Pól AKA Benny for this review which succinctly summarises the presentations by Anne Soupa, Laurence de Bourbon and Hélene Pichon. They confirm that church reform has moved up a gear in France! The hierachical pyramid is collapsing.