Fighting for radical change: The Catholic movement Maria 2.0
The Roman Catholic Church is facing a difficult time. Resistance is growing against its refusal of reforms. What are the claims? And is real change possible?
It is time for change. This is the view of members, initiatives, and even some dignitaries of the Roman Catholic Church. And it is especially obvious now that the Church is once again causing a lot of negative turmoil.
On the one hand, there are multiplying scandals concerning sexual abuse and its cover-ups. The most recent is in Munich, Germany, with explicit allegations against the former Pope Benedict XVI. On the other hand, there are contentious debates on the conservative ideology concerning sexual morals, women, LGBTIQ+ and so forth. For instance, queer German clerics and lay workers denounced under the name #OutInChurch the systematic discrimination within the Roman Catholic Church.
Another matter altogether is the role of women in the Church. During the last decades, many demands over increased participation and women’s equality have been made. But the central positions have not changed.Therefore, resistance has emerged in the form of various reform movements. They chose to stand against the rigidity within the Roman Catholic Church.
Maria 2.0 – a progressive, feminist, and grassroots movement
One of these initiatives is Maria 2.0. Since its beginnings in Germany in 2019, it has reached transnational significance. It has grown to a network of local groups in German-speaking countries and advocates for a more progressive Catholic Church and gender justice.   Through its protest campaigns such as Church Strikes, they have gained a lot of attention.  Furthermore, many Catholic organisations like the Catholic Women’s Council have backed up the movement.  
But despite these successes, the movement’s main target audience – the powerful men in the Church – remain immovable. In fact, Maria 2.0 itself is under surveillance by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Even a countermovement called Maria 1.0 has emerged. This movement defends celibacy, male priesthood, and other points of criticism, and refuses the idea of change. 
Subversive actions for radical change
Nevertheless, the driven activists are keeping up their fight for a radical change and took some subversive actions. The most spectacular was the posting of theses at the beginning of 2021. Using the example of the reformer Martin Luther, they hung up 7 propositions on the doors of over 1,000 German churches. Their vision of a Church fit for the future gives weight to diversity, sisterliness and brotherliness. All in all, they point out the grievances and demand drastic changes. Their claims are:
- Access to all offices for all people
- Shared responsibility and shared power
- Handling of sexual violence: thorough investigations, hold those responsible accountable, and root out the causes
- Valuation and recognition of self-determined, considerate sexuality and partnership
- End of compulsory celibacy
- Sustainable management by Christian principles
- Focus on the message of Jesus and be relevant for people, society, and the environment
The Synodal Path as bearer of hope
The activist group realised this campaign before a meeting of the German Bishops’ Conference in February 2021. The bishops’ reply referred to the responsibility of the Vatican and the Synodal Path. The Synodal Path and the World Synod are part of long-standing debates concerning current challenges within the Catholic Church. The subjects of discussion include female priesthood and sexual morals. Many people set high hopes and expectations on the process.
At first glance, these debates look like a step forward. But Maria 2.0 warns against the boost of clericalisation because laypeople, especially women, are not much involved.  Therefore, they claim more participation and sharing in decision-making.
Giving up and carrying on
Meanwhile, the hope for change seems to have left some of the main initiators of Maria 2.0. As a result of their experiences as activists, Lisa Kötter and Andrea Voß-Frick have, in the end, left the Church. They remain Catholics but will not be part of the institution of the Roman Catholic Church anymore. They had the insight that the inherent hierarchy forbids real change and the institution itself is irreformable. Further, the concentration and maintenance of power within the Church is an “act of treason against the message of Jesus,” according to Lisa Kötter.
At this point, it seems like a dead end has been reached. How can the movement survive in the light of resignation? And is there indeed no chance to transform the Catholic Church? The two female initiators have not given up the fight completely. They still take a stand for the cause and remain active in the movement. Given the recent negative incidents concerning the Roman Catholic Church, Maria 2.0 is quite active. Due to its statements on the current situation, the initiative gets a lot of media attention.  It occurs there is a lot to work on for the movement, and so their journey is carried on.
Hope, silver linings, and despair
Whether the whole undertaking of change finally succeeds depends on the willingness of the responsible people. The Roman Catholic Church is facing lots of difficulties, and reform movements like Maria 2.0 seem to threaten the status quo. Many high Church officials now recognise the need for change, and the Synodal Path is a sign for more openness. Even a few women were placed in important positions with some authority lately.  
But these are just baby steps, and much more is needed to pave the way for a profound transformation of the Roman Catholic Church. Movements like Maria 2.0 hope and strive for their Church as a diverse, inclusive home for believers in contemporary society. Nevertheless, hope is waning, especially considering the recent revelations on sexual abuse.
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