Women’s Church roles questioned at Rome conference

A conference in Rome has seen searching questions posed about unnecessary restrictions on women in the Catholic Church.

The Pontifical “Antonianum” University and four embassies to the Holy See sponsored the conference held on Tuesday.

It came after Pope Francis’s invitation to seek a “more widespread and incisive female presence” in the Church.

According to Vatican Radio, the conference was a “no-holds barred conversation about the structures and mentalities which continue to impede that vision and limit the leadership roles of women in the Church today”.

Religious and lay women and men asked questions about why there are not more female professors and pastoral trainers in seminaries and universities?

Other questions included: Why can’t a women head pontifical councils and congregations, preach a retreat to the Roman Curia or be included in the Pope’s council of closest advisors?

If there is a unique “feminine genius”, as Pope John Paul liked to say, then why is it not being heard and included in the decision making process at both local and universal level, the Vatican Radio article continued.

Among the conference speakers was Sr Carol Keehan, CEO of the Catholic Healthcare Association of the United States.

She is best known in the secular world for her support of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

Sr Carol said the advancement of women is not about personal or feminist agendas.

Rather, it is about enabling the Church to put the Gospel message into practice, in those places where it is needed most, she said.

She said it is right to be more concerned about the woman who doesn’t have clean water for her children than about “our little bit of opportunity”.

But if having a woman in a position of influence meant the Church could better serve the woman without water and her family, then “heaven and earth should be moved to get that woman in that job”.


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