27th Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival

ji-hlavadok-revuecdfEmerging producersInspiration Forum

Various doctrines have been stipulated by the Catholic Church officials relating to the role of women in society. They are often in line with the conservative tradition and out of sync with the public opinion. However, calls for change are growing strong inside the Catholic Church – an institution characterized by striking inequality between men and women. What is the role of women in the context of religion and how to rethink the traditional and predominant power structures? How is this situation viewed by women who actively participate in the work of the Church? How do they reflect the experience of other Christian doctrines where women can become parish priests and take other positions in the Church hierarchy?

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Equality in the Pews

The Catholic Church is an institution that has been ignoring the topic of gender equality with the issue being practically taboo. In the context of the Catholic tradition, the position of women seems to be an unbreakable rule that has only minimally been questioned in public discussion. To what extent is it desirable for the Church itself to allow women to play a major role in positions conventionally reserved for men? What are the limits of the development of the Church and its social role that are consequential to the fact that this has not been happening? What to do when merely praying for women does not work?

GuestsVeronika SedláčkováHana BlažkováVeronika Matějková
ModeratorPetr Vizina

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Hana Blažková (CZ)

A member of the Christian-feminist collective RFK, which sees churches as more than just a community of believers, but also as an institution that holds political power. They rally against the church hierarchy, patriarchy, nationalism, and asocial behaviour that is prevalent within Czech church institutions. RFK is a community based on mutual respect and care and has been operating in Prague for at least four years now.

How would you describe your work and your goals within the context of RFK's activities?
After spending the first few years primarily criticising the Czech Roman Catholic Church, we now strive to abandon the reactionary method found in politics and to focus on creating our own agenda. One issue that has been very important to us since our inception is the climate crisis. It’s becoming increasingly more clear that spirituality can play a crucial role in climate change action, not only by providing comfort in the face of the global crisis, but also developing our sensitivity to all living things and enabling us to build relationships with others – whether they be humans, animals, or plankton.

What do you consider important in the light of the current situation and what issues do you think we, as a society, should take seriously?
What we really need right now is solidarity. Radical solidarity that’s not riddled with empty promises or inaction, but that instead offers concrete, material support for all those affected by the coronavirus crisis. Now more than ever, we need social housing and an end to debt collection. But we should also avoid going down a path of isolationism and instead look beyond the borders of our state to various places around the world where the coronavirus crisis is being used as a tool to restrict human rights. In neighbouring Poland, for example, the country’s ultra-conservative government has taken advantage of the current situation to further restrict abortion and reproductive rights. Therefore, in a similar vein, we can’t allow for economic cuts to become an excuse for delaying a Green New Deal.

What resonated with you the most from this year's literature and artistic releases?
I was very impressed by a meeting with the Polish collective Wspólnota międzygatunkowa (Interspecies Community), a group that combines political criticism of the Roman Catholic Church and the patriarchal order with a very distinct form of spirituality, which they use to try and cope with the historically superior position of man over nature. The community creates its own rituals that are inclusive of all kinds of creation while still based on the local folk tradition and brutally strong in their simplicity. In terms of new literature, I was probably most interested in Pavel Bareš's book Meta – a literary work based on the young adult genre, which deals with sexual violence in a superhero style. At the same time, the book speaks the language of a generation that is "doomed to freedom," suffering from the anxieties of their future on this planet, and certainly not doing as well as their parents imagined in 1989. Unfortunately, the voice of this generation is still falling on deaf ears.

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Veronika Matějková (CZ)

he is currently completing her doctorate studies at HTF UK with a focus on practical theology, specifically dealing with the catechesis (religious education) of adults. Her interest in education was already evident after she had completed her studies in the field of social and special pedagogy (FF and PEDF UK). Her home church is the Czechoslovak Hussite Church (CČSH), where she works, among other things, as a clerk in the Department of Ecumenism and External Relations.

How would you describe your work and your goals within the context of faith education?
Faith education might vary slightly from church to church and denomination to denomination. Some churches place more emphasis on catechesis before the sacraments, some on the teaching of biblical knowledge, and some wouldn’t even consider these activities to be educational in nature because all attention is focused on the work of the Holy Spirit. It therefore depends on the degree of organisation of such education, its goals and, last but not least, on the theological-anthropological conception, i.e. the perception of the subject and its possibilities and limitations. Speaking from a CČSH context, the Hussites’ first patriarch K. Farský defined the church as a community of people who decided out of boredom that they would learn together in their religious life. This idea of personal decisions and common education, such as growth in a relationship with God, which manifests itself in love and care for one's neighbour and the world, actually establishes my motivation in education. I try to leave room for both individual and communal growth, both in my work at the faculty and in my work at the Church, to encourage people in their specific life situations and to share with them the mystery of the faith. And my goals? These are still heavily rooted in the house of worship, but in recent years for me faith education has focused on the process of growth, development, and so-called "empowerment" of man in fulfilling his true humanity, or in more secular termns, in order to become himself.

What do you consider important in the light of the current situation and what issues do you think we, as a society, should take seriously?
In light of the current pandemic situation? Perhaps the most basic thing that comes to mind is to leave more time for personal silence, prayer, and meditation while walking in nature ... to still have (and live) something that we can rejoice in and that will encourage us. On the contrary, try not to be overcome with fear of ever-changing or increasing uncertainties, not to be manipulated into hating certain groups of people or, conversely, not to resign to everything and not to live a selfish life without any respect or regard to others and the potential consequences. For almost a year now, more than we have been used to, we have been confined mostly to the online world with very little social interaction, so what we read, what we watch, and how we think about it only strengthens our current worldview and people from opposite sides of the spectrum. I think we should ask about the deeper roots of the radicalisation of some such groups in our society, how we can better learn to work with information and uncover media manipulation, how to restore trust and establish a positive attitude towards others, how to strengthen personal responsibility and respectful relationships. How to learn these things and how to teach them to others.

What resonated with you the most from this year's literature and artistic releases?
I must admit that this year I read more archival works that fall under the same topic as my dissertation, so if someone would like to learn more about the time of the protectorate from the point of view of CČSH, I would recommend reading (in Czech) JINDRA, Martin. Sáhnout si do ran tohoto světa: perzekuce a rezistence Církve československé (husitské) v letech 1938-1945 (Reach into the Wounds of this World: Persecution and Resistance of the Czechoslovak Hussite Church in the Years 1938-1945). Prague: The Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, 2017. Blahoslav (Czechoslovak Hussite Church). ISBN 978-80-879-1280-5. And I'm gearing up to go see the ongoing A. Mucha and P. Oner exhibition at the Kampa Museum, I'm just waiting for a more convenient time.

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Veronika Sedláčková (CZ)

Czech journalist. Veronika worked for 11 years at Czech Television as an editor and presenter. After a short detour into commercial media, she headed for public radio, where she has been working for 13 years. She moderates various debate programs, at present Interview Plus and Vertikál. She regularly tapes longer journalistic interviews on current topics for TV NOE and also works with non-profit organizations and civic associations, especially on the issues of education and social affairs.

How would you describe your work and your goals in relation to the transformation of the church in the Czech Republic?
I deal with ecclesiastical topics from time to time on Czech Radio and on TV NOE. I especially try to raise awareness in the Czech public of the process of change as well, a process we can observe especially in neighboring Germany. Although religious and ecclesiastical issues are not the primary topics of my journalistic work, I consider it important not only for people organized in churches, but also for society as a whole. In the Czech Republic, the need for reform, especially of the Roman Catholic Church (to which I belong), is discussed only carefully and lightly, especially in intellectual circles. It also encounters stiff resistance from time to time. Nevertheless, I think that there is no greater challenge in this area than the effort to fight clericalism, as well as the greater involvement of lay people. The integration of women into the life and organization of the Church is also particularly important.

What do you consider important in the light of the current situation and what issues do you think we, as a society, should take seriously?
We live in a time that is unstable and very fragile due to the global Covid-19 pandemic. We are seeing a huge crisis of public confidence in state and public institutions, including growing scepticism about the work of journalists. This is further enhanced by disinformation websites. It’s so hard to even imagine how the experience we’re going through will affect our existence in the future. An overloaded and tragically underfunded health care system, economic problems currently affecting the weakest sectors of society (including children from socially disadvantaged families, who often lose all contact with their school due to distance learning) - this is all now cause for concern. The task of those who influence public opinion is, first and foremost, to regain confidence in the common cause, in democratic institutions and in society in general, whether it's the men and women in politics, the media, or even church circles. I consider working to deepen the sense of belonging, solidarity and cooperation to be the most important task today. It affects all areas of life, and in a society as divided as ours, we may run this race for many years.

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Petr Vizina (CZ)

Majored in theology and applied ethics at KTF UK and is currently working in media ethics. He writes and records interviews for Aktuálně.cz and Czech Radio. He was a member of the editorial offices of Lidové noviny and Hospodářské noviny and led the culture editorial board at Czech Television for seven years.

How would you describe your work and goals with regard to transformation of the Church in the Czech Republic?
In my opinion, the hot topic of today is the conflict of liberal and conservative thoughts and ideas, and it would be foolish to think that this conflict is in any way secular. Proponents of conservative thinking should be well articulated and informed on liberalism while liberals should look for similar qualities in their opponents. The media can either help clarify their political positions and opinions — after all, fair is fair — or they can choose to do the opposite and create obscurity in favour of their own personal favourites. I'm for the former.

What do you consider to be important in light of the current situation and what issues do you think we, as a society, should take seriously?
I think that the fundamental issues of today are justice and human dignity; that is, housing, wages, health care, and education. But first, the question is whether we can manage to talk to each other at all or whether we’ve already ruined politics forever.

What resonated with you the most from this year's literature and artistic releases?
Often, these are topics "embedded" in a different time and context, a recent example being the extensive work of German historian Volker Mohn on Nazi cultural policy during the Protectorate or Kundera's playful farewell to writing with his book The Festival of Insignificance.

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Once Upon a Time in Poland (Vít Klusák, Filip Remunda, Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, 2020)

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If you want to delve deeper into this topic, we offer you a selection of the most interesting sources that we came across while thinking through the program of this year's Inspiration Forum.


The German Catholic women's movement Maria 2.0 first received widespread coverage back in the spring of 2019, when its members started a boycott that included halting the volunteer work that women were doing within churches. As a result, the movement got the attention of Catholics across Germany as well as the European Catholic media. Their goal is to reform the Catholic Church so that, among other things, it would allow women to participate within all roles of the Church and force the Church to take more drastic steps against sexual abusers.

“It began in January 2019, in a small parish in the northwestern city of Münster, where women who felt that for too long they had been marginalized within the church went on what they called a church "strike." What that meant in practice is that they refused to enter the church building, no longer helped in the sacristy, and eventually began praying together outside the church itself. It was not long before Lisa Kötter, one of the founders of the movement, was getting inquiries from all over Germany, as well as from Austria and Switzerland.”



France is also having a public debate over the inclusion of women within the Catholic Church. Seven prominent French Catholic women decided to apply for positions at the Apostolic Nunciature in Paris which are, in the current structure of the Catholic Church, strictly reserved for men. The specific positions in question are those of deacon, lay preacher, priest, bishop and the nuncio. The Church is increasingly having to answer questions about the tireless (and often overlooked) work women put into maintaining the Church, as well as questions about the declining numbers of nuns in response to the numerous cases of domestic and sexual violence. The French academic Anne Soupa, who applied to be a bishop and who is a long-term critic of the low status of women within the Church, raised the question: "Currently, we imagine that all bishops look a certain way. But does a bishop really need to be just a single, elderly man dressed in black?”

“But some say [the Pope’s] actions barely begin to tackle gender discrimination in the church. In launching her campaign, Soupa said on Twitter: “To exclude half of humanity is not only contrary to the message of Jesus Christ, but is also harmful to the church, which is thus maintained in an environment that is conducive to abuse.”



Another debate that often goes hand in hand with that of women's status within the Church is that of allowing married men to become ordained into the lower rungs of the Church, which would represent a significant shift in the idea of celibacy. Both these questions were recently raised by a proposal put forward by two hundred bishops from the South American Amazonian region, which is currently dealing with a lack of priests, as a result of which some religious locals have to wait months for their confession. The Pope, however, did not offer a direct answer in the Querida Amazonia (Dear Amazon) document published earlier this year, dodging the question of allowing women to be ordained as deacons. In an older column of his, Matěj Senft commented upon the stances that Popes Francis and John Paul II took towards the role of women in the church.

“In villages and smaller towns, it's common practice that women work for free or, if they are paid, the amount is so small that not even a hermit could live off of it. At the same time, the Czech Catholic Church made 12 million CZK [roughly half a million dollars] on the stock market last year. Nevertheless, there still aren’t enough resources to pay the women who keep its churches running. At the same time, though, the Church spends money on buying and blessing luxurious cars for Cardinal Dominik Duka.”

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Ministerstvo kultury
Fond kinematografie
Město Jihlava
Kraj Vysočina
Česká televize
Český rozhlas
Kudy z nudy