Women at the Vatican – more needed

Women at the Vatican

Ask me about almost anything related to the church or politics, and I will err on the side of traditionalism, conservatism…whatever you would like to call it.

I have always been a rule follower: I liked wearing uniforms at my all-girls Catholic schools, and I get annoyed when the priest goes off-book saying some of the prayers during Mass.

I even enjoy the Latin Mass, at least during the few times I have attended.

So this realisation, which I had soon after I started working at America, surprised me: The church needs (more) women in the hierarchy of the Vatican and its decision-making processes.

Again, I usually do not call for big changes or support radical ideas.

If the church has worked this way for 2,000 years, I used to think, who are we to change it now?

But then I ended up working in an organisation that is mostly male, and I realised that for the first time, I was a minority. (America Media has more women and lay staff than it did a decade ago. But there are still more men than women.)

Up until a few months ago, every religious space I had ever been in was mostly or all female.

The religious authorities I knew (outside of my parish priest) were all women, and from what I saw, they never felt the need to have their decisions validated by men.

I went to a small all-girls Catholic school from fourth to eighth grade, then I attended a slightly larger all-girls Catholic high school.

My university’s student body skewed mostly female (nearly 60 percent), and the Catholic studies program I was in had an even more pronounced majority of women.

Thus, almost every religious conversation I had with leaders or peers or family, was initiated by women who were not afraid to speak their minds on church teaching or anything else.

I never really considered the role of women at the Vatican.

In my mind, the authority that Sister Mary Thomas, or my lay teachers, had behind school gates extended to the wider church. Who would dare to tell Sister Mary Thomas that her opinion is not welcome on church governance?

Now as a woman, I am part of a minority at America, and yet I am working in a religious space that is otherwise familiar to me. I find it strange, though it is probably normal for working women in the rest of the world, to have life experiences that are different than, and perhaps not fully understood by, my male colleagues.

Some examples: I would avoid going to the halal cart outside my apartment alone after about 9 p.m. (the man who works there is a little too friendly with the women in my building).

I would not think to go on a walk when it’s dark out, nor would I be comfortable sending a friend home late at night by herself. Some of these could be attributed to my self-ascribed status as “mom friend”: the person who acts in a quintessential “mom” way, slightly overprotective and responsible for others.

But the fact is that as a woman, I react to personal safety issues in a different way than men do.

What does this have to do with running the church? Continue reading

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