Women in Church Leadership

The Pontifical Council for Culture presented a new advisory group this week that is being hailed as the beginning of greater representation of women in leadership at the Vatican.  Needless to say, the Vatican has been a male-dominant culture basically forever, although efforts have been made to encourage more female participation for some time. The introduction of this new advisory group, however, indicates the desire to hear more from women at the highest levels.

What is also very encouraging is that the women are not there to speak about “women’s issues” but rather to give a female perspective on a wide variety of issues. Donna Orsuto, a member of the group, is quoted by CNA: “This idea of men and women working together for the good of the Church and society” is key, she said, adding that she’s “very pleased that the focus isn’t just on women and women’s issues.”

The CNA article also quotes Consuelo Corradi, coordinator of the Women’s Consultation Group and vice rector for research and international relations at the LUMSA University of Rome. The theme that links all of the members together, she said, is “the female difference,” because “there’s a perspective from women (and) there’s a way of living human life that’s specific to women.”

I’ve always disliked complaints about the male hierarchy of the Church, but I came to see that it does indeed exist. For the most part, I love and respect the men that form our clergy. At the same time, I have observed that many of them are out of touch. Their lives are too often detached from regular family life and the joys and sorrows that go with it. They think they know – after all, we all come from families – but what they know is often from a juvenile perspective and they need help to realign their view.

Those of us who have been married a long time can look back with some amusement at how we spouses have tried to “help” the other understand how we feel about something. All that Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus stuff has some truth to it. And the main point of that is that both perspectives are valid while being nearly incomprehensible to the opposite sex. Hopefully, the advisory group will help their esteemed male colleagues to incorporate a more balanced view on the important issues of the day.

Another interesting aspect of this advisory group is that not all members are Catholic. Non-Catholic members bring yet another viewpoint, not to challenge dogma, but to put discussions in a wider context. This, I think, is very helpful as it breaks up the natural tendency towards cliques, which are death to healthy discussion.

The advisory board was formed in 2015 as a temporary project that worked so well that it has now become permanent. What a great example for local dioceses to follow! A robust female presence, comprised of women mostly not employed by the Church, would be a tremendous asset to the community. Kudos to the Pontifical Council for Culture. May many others follow their example for the betterment of the whole Church.

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