Listening

A comment has suggested that the Catholic Church does not listen to the voices of women, thus this site will not receive much support.

The statement raises many issues, namely what is commonly understood by the Catholic Church and in what way does she not listen? The Catholic Church does not merely consist of the Vatican or the CDF, but it is the mystical body of Christ, here on earth. The church came into being when Christ died on the cross, but was formally instituted at Pentecost when Christ sent the Holy Spirit as He had promised. The Catholic Church is then, the society of those who have been baptized, and who profess the faith of Christ, and who are governed by their bishops under the visible head, the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, as Pope Pius clarified in his encyclical, Mystici Corpus Christi.

If we say that the Church is not listening to women’s voices, this needs to be defined further, is this on a local level or this this more a perception about church doctrine not reflecting the concerns of women? The Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (CDF) in Rome does not formulate Church doctrine, which has already been revealed to us by Christ and passed down by Apostles. The job of the CDF is not to formulate doctrine, it is not a political party think-tank, rather its role is to promote and safeguard the doctrine on faith and morals in the whole Catholic world; so anything that falls into this sphere such as for example, priests or religious who may, even unwittingly, be spreading confusion, dissent and heresy amongst the faith, comes under the remit of the CDF.

Church doctrine, which is what this site is set up to promote and defend, is what we believe as faithful Catholics, doctrine is the truth of our faith which cannot be changed – it transcends temporal notions of identity politics. Whilst our understanding of a doctrine might develop, this is always organic, in sympathy and in accordance with what has gone before, it never changes the key belief or teaching.

In the light of this then, it’s difficult to ascertain how the Church may appear not to be listening, given that its role, when it comes to doctrine, is to protect, defend and promote what Christ gave us.

Whilst there may well be a case for more suitably qualified women to be appointed to prominent lay roles within the Curia, which may well do much to change the public face of the Church which can sometimes appear predominantly male, that is not quite the same issue as suggesting that the church is not listening as has been suggested by female liberal Catholic theologians.

It may be that the Church is not listening or appointing certain women to dicasteries, Pontifical Councils or influential positions, not because of the sex of these women, but simply because their voice is one of dissent.

Here is a list of some of the women who hold positions of influence and authority within the Holy See:

  • Sister Helen Alford, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Angelicum University.
  • Sister Jane Livesey, Superior General of the worldwide Congregation of Jesus – the Mary Ward Sisters.
  • Sister Eugenia Bonetti, runs the human trafficking network of the Union of Italian Mothers Superior.
  • Dr. Francesca di Giovanni – works in the Secretariat of State
  • Prof Jane Adolphe – on special assignment in the Secretariat of State
  • Dr Flaminia Giovanelli, Under Secretary in the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace
  • Philippa Hitchen, one of the key anchors of the global Vatican Radio service.
  • Professor Donna Orsuto, Director of the Lay Centre.
  • Dr Martina Liebsch – Policy Director, Caritas Internationalis development and aid network
  • Ana Cristina Villa Betancourt, Head of Women’s Section, Pontifical Council for the Laity

Furthermore women run schools, abbeys, charities, church departments all around the globe. They take a lead role in parishes, teaching, managing, organising, administering and ministering. In dioceses we see the presence of women on direct commissions, in charities, and Higher Education Institutions. There are literally thousands of women headteachers or pincipals in Catholic schools around the globe. We are the key voices in Catholicism.

When Pope John Paul II chose new patron saints for Europe – rulers, prophets and academics – half were women who had a profound impact on the era they lived in: St Bridget of Sweden was a formidable mystic and leader; St Catherine of Siena publicly admonished the Pope; St Edith Stein was a leading German philosopher of the early twentieth century. The Church is not afraid of the abilities of women; it was the Church which first set up schools in Europe to educate them. And looking at the Church across the globe, it is hard not to conclude that women drive the great Catholic enterprises which witness to Christ’s love for humanity.

More recently Pope Benedict XVI declared St Hildegard of Bingen a doctor of the Catholic Church, stating that

Various female figures stand out for the holiness of their lives and the wealth of their teaching even in those centuries of history that we usually call the Middle Ages.

So, if the Church is not truly listening to or does not value the voices of women, unless one defines the Catholic Church as being solely about priesthood, or as priesthood as being the most important role to play within the Body of Christ, how is this manifested?

29 thoughts on “Listening

    • she certainly is no slouch when it comes to academic qualifications …… from the Lateran, among other places, if I remember rightly. She was chosen to represent Catechists in the opening Mass for the Year of Faith, so someone in Rome noticed …..

  1. I am a Catholic husband and father, with an amazing Catholic wife who supports the Church, although I don’t want to sign the other petition for her. I think the mission of this blog is spot on. And while there will always be voices of dissent, while this group of women supports the Church, Pope, and doctrine, I will be supporting you through my prayers. We have two daughters and they will know just how much the Catholic Church supports and honors women. Need we look further than our Holy Mother? As a man of Christ, I will “love my wife, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her..” Eph 5:25

  2. Catholic nuns have great power……to do good. Why so many Catholic women ignore this….I don’t know.

    Love the name of your blog, Blondpidge. And I pray that it can become a movement of education and evangelisation. A call to Catholicism to the women of the world.

  3. They only define “Listening” as opposing Catholic teaching and becoming anti-Catholic, in essence. There are women Doctors of the Church (Therese the Little Flower), Theresa of Avila to name two.They are not feminists in the modern sense of the word but they are feminine in the true sense.

  4. May I suggest a great text to include in discussions here? Mary Douglas was one of the most respected anthropologists of the 20th. C, and also a very orthodox Catholic. She wrote a superb article entitled “A Modest Proposal: A Place for Women in the Hierarchy”, which was published in Commonweal Magazine (14 June 1996). It is full of fantastic insights and extremely sensible suggestions. Cheers!

  5. More Catholic Women –
    Molther Theresa – more impactful than thousands of priests.
    Mother Angelica – same in broadcasting
    Mary Ann Glendon – held numerous high level roles, perhaps not IN the church but the church sure listens to her.

  6. Could we not be so parochial/English-language-based?
    What about Soeur Angélique? What about Dolores Aleixandre?
    Do you really want to restrict yourselves to the English-speaking Catholic world? May I say that’s very UNcatholic?

  7. How about the whole Church? The Church herself is feminine and the male priesthood serve her and the male laity reveal her by their male presence. Our hope of salvation is realised through Christ AND the Church – Bridegroom and Bride. No small bit part in the human story!

  8. In response to a comment above, I have been trying to find out a little more about each of these women, and I have discovered (as far as I can identify) that the 24 women mentioned in this post and in the comments (and OK, I added St Hildegard of Bingen as she is mentioned elsewhere on the blog) represent 12 nationalities, spanning 4 continents: Europe, Asia, North America, South America .
    However, what is notable about their distribution is not so much that many of them are anglophones, but that the vast majority come from North America and Western Europe. There is one Latin American and the two Asians are Mary, Mother of God, and Mother Teresa (who had Indian citizenship). I could speculate on a variety of reasons for this, but this is a comment, not a blog post…

  9. How many women know of the Nashville Dominican Sisters whose teaching apostolate is growing rapidly?
    Just this year, Sister John Mary Fleming, O.P. was chosen to be the executive director of the Secretariat of Catholic Education of the USCCB. Catholic Truth is proclaimed clearly from these joy-filled brides of Christ!

    • The new issue of Veritas, the publication of the Dominican Sisters of Nashville, St. Cecelia Congregation, provides a wonderful overview of the various aspects of their teaching ministry. Every one of the young sisters is beautiful and their smiles burst out of the pages. A truly heart-warming testament to women religious of today.

  10. I agree whole-heartedly with our Holy Mother Church. Thank you for being a forum to voice that without fear of condemnation or being belittled.

  11. Wonderful, wonderful idea – I am notifying many friends of this website. More power to Catholic women!! Our Blessed Mother is the source of so much profound inspiration. SHE is the woman that ALL faithful Catholics devote so much time to in heartfelt prayers. How can the liberal/modernist/secular brigade be so blind, so stupid, so downright ignorant as to ignore this fact??
    I am an Easter 2012 convert married for nearly 38 years to a wonderful, gentle, kind, loving and very faithful woman who was baptised as a Roman Catholic. We have two sons and three grandsons. I am truly blessed, thanks be to God. I have learnt through all the many trials & tribulations of life that LOVE conquers all things. Faith, family and community are my life. I try to use my God-given skills, knowledge & experience to help Holy Mother Church in a variety of ways. Beauty & Harmony; Dignity & Trust; Love & Peace; Respect & Truth; Tenderness & Majesty – these are all crucial elements of my vocational calling.
    Blessings to all of you.

  12. I believe everything the Roman Catholic Church teaches. I am a retired Public High School Principal, a wife and mother. I attend the TLM at an FSSP Parish.

  13. I am a Roman Catholic woman who attends mass daily, Adores at least 30 minutes daily, says a Rosary daily, prays the Divine Mercy chaplet daily, prays the St. Michael chaplet daily. Whenever possible, I attend the extraordinary form of the mass at a (somewhat) nearby FSSP parish, but spend most of my time at my local parish, which is a Novus Ordo parish leaning more to the right than to the left. Out of reverence for Our Lord, when before the Blessed Sacrament, I wear a mantilla. When the Blessed Sacrament is exposed, I will never turn my back on Our Lord to leave the chapel, but will walk backwards so as to always be facing him. I love our Church, our Faith and am faithful to her teachings. I love Our Lord and although I fail miserably on a daily basis, I try to be a good representative of the Body of Christ.

  14. The whole notion that the Church doesn’t “listen” to women comes from a small dissatisfied group that is clamoring for things that are clearly opposed to Church teaching, such as women in the priesthood and a change in the stance toward abortion and contraception — and marriage. Vast numbers of women — myself included — are very happy with Church teachings, but we don’t get much media coverage because generally the secular media like to show dissatisfied Catholics as a way to weaken the power of our beautiful Faith. I was once a radical feminist who enjoyed tearing down the Church, especially the teachings on abortion, marriage, and the all-male priesthood, but then I had a conversion experience and realized the beauty and the Truth of Catholicism. (I wrote about my journey in “Confessions of an Ex-Feminist” published by Ignatius Press). Those who criticize the Church seem to get plenty of airtime, but the millions of faithful, who love and accept the teachings, even the difficult ones, usually are invisible.

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