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?