Why what we do matters

In an ideal world the work of the Wijngaards Institute would be carried out within that wonderful galaxy of educational and research institutions that Catholics throughout history have set up. Sadly, this is only rarely the case. Many Catholic authorities – bishops, educational institutions, individual theologians – are reluctant to allow free public discussion concerning some of those issues, for fear of antagonizing the Vatican or undermining their careers and even jobs.

As long as this situation persists there will be a need for institutes such as ours. Wijngaards Institute is a private educational charity, and can therefore maintain full independence from external pressures. This has made it possible for us to build vast online libraries of high quality academic research on precisely those issues which are the least openly discussed in the Catholic Church.

We believe that if a teaching is sound, it can only be strengthened by exposure to the relevant scriptural and historical evidence as well as theological arguments, even and indeed especially when it appears to go against present-day Catholic beliefs. Our websites provide both the academic research which should inform those discussions, and a first-class online forum to facilitate that discussion.

We cannot stress enough how timely what we are doing is. Since the election of Pope Francis in 2013, the Catholic Church has been gently encouraged to pick up the critical self-examination started with the Second Vatican Council. But unless Catholics deepen their knowledge of theology, the task of purifying their tradition will be severely hindered. This is what we have been working towards for more than 30 years now, and with your help we will continue to do so for many more years.

Some testimonies

eyden6I wholeheartedly support the valuable work you are doing. Religious organizations are always in need of purification, and the Catholic Church is no exception. Our Church harbours unacknowledged cultural prejudices and sexist biases that need to be identified and addressed. That is what you do. In your work you show rigorous scholarship, unwavering loyalty, and courage – all in great measure. I wish there were more prophetic institutions like the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research!

Prof René van Eyden, Theology (Emeritus), Utrecht University, the Netherlands

uhrWhat I appreciate especially in your work is that you dare to speak out. As I have written elsewhere, obedience is a questionable virtue… To what extent have images of a god-monarch ruling subjects, and a father-god requiring the death of his son, influenced the manner in which church authorities rule? [N]either scripture nor authorities can be blindly obeyed. It may be wise for small children to be taught to obey their parents, but they need to learn that some orders must be disobeyed.

abrahamI am one of the 14 theologically trained religious sisters in India who, in 1994, wrote a strong, well-documented appeal to Pope John-Paul II to ask him to keep the question of women in the ministries open. We never received a proper response from the Vatican. Now, twenty years later, I am grateful that by having published our letter on your website you have kept our appeal alive ever since that time. The way authority functions in the Church must change.

bongWe are members of the Catholic Church in Malaysia who have been and still are involved in church organizations, basic Christian communities, inter-religious organizations and various non-governmental organizations for women, justice, the poor and the marginalised. We strongly support you in what you are doing… Malaysia is a religiously pluralistic society. Our culture has been moulded by the many religions, all of which come from male-dominated traditions that uphold the male as the only recognised authority in the family and society. This has resulted in a culture where:

  • Baby boys are preferred to baby girls
  • Boys are given preference in education
  • Girls are brutally raped and murdered
  • Women are abused in the family
  • Women are forced into prostitution to provide for the needs of the family
  • Women are expected to sacrifice for the family
  • Women are rarely consulted or involved in decision-making
  • Women participation is dismally low in government
  • Organisations and facilities for women are sadly lacking.

Such a culture where one half of its members are less worthy, less privileged and less holy is unacceptable to us. We desperately need the change in mindset of both men and women to bring about a just society. Just as the Catholic Church is recognised for its leadership on issues of justice and solidarity with the poor, it is in a similar position of leadership and influence for the eradication of oppression of women. The Catholic Church would once again be able to assume such a position of leadership with the ordination of women to the priesthood. When women are admitted into the priesthood in the Catholic Church, its teaching that women and men are both equally made in the image of God would be credible.

Dr Sarah A. Bong, Monash University, Malaysia, one of the 27 signatories of the letter.
Visitors to our website womenpriests.org

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italymI have just come across your website. What a wonderful and fine collection of documents, articles, and testimonies! And I like your sense of humour. Your illustrations make me smile. I also feel deeply moved because I have gone through a long spiritual search myself. I even wandered off into Buddhism. Now I am back in the Church but determined to help bring about the so necessary reforms!

Stefanella, Florence, Italy (translated from Italian).

germanymI recently obtained my doctorate in physics — and I also became a Catholic. The information you provided on God in the modern world on www.mysteryandbeyond.org was very helpful to me. Thank you!

Hildegard, München (translated from German).

francemI was 11 years old in 1945. Around me I saw hatred, violence, destruction… I asked myself: Why all this suffering? Why do we live? Does God exist? My mother told me that such questions were pointless… But when I found religion, I became a daily massgoer. I truly met God. The desire to become a priest grew in me. I wanted to give my life for God, to celebrate Mass, to preach about him, to carry him to sick people. I was shocked to be told that, as a woman, I could not be a priest… I became a pastoral worker and have been looking after parishes for over three decades. Your texts give me hope. How can I help?

Véronique, Toulon, France (translated from French).

boliviaI was studying for the priesthood and, for some years, have publicly expressed my support for reform in the Church. Unfortunately the bishop of my diocese now refuses to ordain me saying my ideas are ‘dangerous’. I feel lost and sad. Freedom of expression certainly has its cost in the Church. For I would really want to be a priest. Please, don’t give up!

Carlos, Bolivia (translated from Spanish).

usamMy wife and I are grateful to you for what you say about the Christian enjoyment of sex. We are both from traditional Catholic families and, I don’t know why, sex always makes us feel guilty. People often say that our world has become sex mad. For many in the Church it is just the opposite: sex is tainted with dirt, sin, guilt.

Walter, Chicago.