Between Institutional Oppression and Spiritual Liberation: The Female Ordination Movement in the Catholic Church and its Utilisation of Social Media

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 4:00 PM
Room: Harbor Lounge B
Oral Presentation
Lyndel SPENCE , University of Sydney, Australia
The female ordination movement within the Catholic Church is a dynamic and forceful example of the paradoxical binary of institutional oppression and individual liberation operating within the contemporary religious sphere.  Proponents of this movement are seeking justice and gender equality in the face of the systematic patriarchal oppression of women within the Catholic Church. This radical and pioneering international movement is struggling for recognition as a legitimate religious formation as it campaigns for a more inclusive and accountable Catholic Church. The female ordination movement thereby provides a fertile conduit for examining how religion can both oppress individual freedoms and also be used to mobilise political, social and spiritual liberation from institutional disempowerment.

This paper will utilise critical discourse analysis of various social media outlets and webpages to elaborate on the institutional oppression and spiritual liberation which lies at the heart of this religious group. Drawing on feminist theology and a feminist epistemology, this paper will explore the effectiveness of social media in connecting women across the world who are facing institutional religious repression and who are seeking support from likeminded faith believers. Through critical discourse analysis, this paper will find that social media is used by groups involved in the female ordination movement such as The Catholic Network for Women’s Equality, Women’s Ordination Worldwide and The Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual, to subvert the dominant attitudes towards women within the Catholic Church and to provide an alternative form of religious expression for disaffected Catholic women. These groups are thereby able to mobilise women into a solidary international religious formation which empowers women who have experienced suppression or subjugation from the Roman Catholic Church.