This sentence, issued on June 25, marks a milestone in what some see as a fight against gender discrimination inside the Catholic Church Photo: IJ Editores

Woman Wins Lawsuit Against Two Bishops in Belgium for Refusing to Accept Her for Diaconal Formation

The archbishops of Mechelen-Brussels were sentenced to pay compensation for “gender discrimination”

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(ZENIT News / Brussels, 27.06.2024).- In an unprecedented court ruling, the Civil Court of Malines has ruled that the current Emeritus Archbishops of Malines-Brussels must each pay a 1,500 euros compensation to a woman for refusing to admit her to diaconal formation. This sentence, issued on June 25, marks a milestone in what some see as a fight against gender discrimination inside the Catholic Church in Belgium, and others as government meddling in ecclesial laws.

The Court established that Archbishops Jozef De Kesel and Luc Terlinden acted incorrectly when evaluating the request of Veer Dusauchoit, a baptized Catholic woman with decades of service in her local community of Herent. Dusauchoit was rejected twice for the four-year diaconal formation program.

Luc De Cleir, the Court’s spokesman, clarified that the decision is limited to admission to diaconal formation and does not touch the right to ordination. “To determine discrimination in the admission does not infringe religious liberty, given that the Archbishops can still decide who is suitable for admission.”

Although the sentence is not legally binding and might be appealed by the Archbishops, it has been celebrated by defenders of gender equality, many of them not even Catholics and others not even practicing. “It’s a historic triumph against gender discrimination in the Church,” said Dusauchoit’s lawyers.

Veer Dusauchoit expressed her hope that this ruling will motivate the Church to reconsider its position on the inclusion of women in traditionally masculine roles. “I hope this decision will facilitate the participation of more women in diaconal formation in the future,” she said.

For its part, the Archdiocese of Malines-Brussels is evaluating the ruling. “We are reviewing the sentence and will decide how to proceed,” commented a spokesman to the local media. Up to now, the Archdiocese has held that only men can be ordained Deacons, although it committed itself to explore how to include women in other aspects of ecclesiastical formation.

This isn’t the only recent conflict between the Church and civil laws. Last year, the Belgian Data Protection Authority accepted the complaint of a man who was requesting the elimination of his inscription in the Baptismal Register, a case that still continues in appeal process.

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Joachin Meisner Hertz

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