August 31, 2013

Pope inspires Catholic women to aspire

While he has ruled out female priests, women are more hopeful about other leadership positions.

The Washington Post

(Continued from page 1)

A nun walks next to pictures of newly elected Pope Francis and one of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI near the Vatican
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A nun walks past pictures of newly elected Pope Francis and one of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, top left, near the Vatican on March 15. Francis says he wants to shed the image of the Catholic Church as chauvinistic.


One issue that Catholic women struggle with is the question of authority and leadership in the church. This is 2013, they say, and Catholic women want not only to lead but also to be encouraged to lead.

The exclusion of women from the priesthood is one practice that is often seen, even within the church, as plainly discriminatory. A 2010 New York Times/CBS poll found that 59 percent of American Catholics favor the ordination of women. But the church does not operate by popular opinion, and the all-male priesthood is one of the oldest traditions of one of the oldest religions in the world.

"The church simply refusing (to ordain women) means that women will never exercise authority," said Nancy Dallavalle, an associate professor of religious studies at Fairfield University. "They will never shape the institution. They are walled off from shaping" the church.

Others see nothing unfair about men and women having different roles, and they identify huge potential for female leadership in the church, from the parish level all the way to the Vatican.

"The first step is to encourage what is already permissible," Walsh said. For example, Catholic women have proved their ability to lead major organizations such as schools and hospitals. Can that authority extend to the Roman Curia?

Pope Francis says he wants to shed the image of the church as chauvinistic. Catholic women have some ideas on how to get there:

Bring more women into key positions in the Vatican, as consultants, theologians and heads of offices that don't require holy orders. Create an affirmative action plan for qualified women to infiltrate Curia positions. Encourage women to work as chancellors of dioceses around the world. Help them to prepare for careers as pastoral associates, who are needed more than ever because of the shortage of priests in the West.


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