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US Catholic women "still face 'stained-glass ceiling'"

Despite the church's "long, wonderful tradition of women in leadership," women still face a "stained-glass ceiling" in church employment, a Chicago archdiocesan official has told a national gathering of leaders in Catholic philanthropy.

"It does exist. It is still there," said Carol Fowler, Chicago archdiocesan director of personnel.

She spoke at "Women of Faith: A Conference on Participation and Leadership," a two-day meeting of Catholic philanthropy leaders who belong to FADICA, Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities.

Conference participants discussed a need for better compensation for women employed by the church, more theological resources for and about women, and greater outreach to young women. They said increasing women's leadership is important for the good of the church itself.

They stressed that changes are needed at every level. On adequate salaries for lay men and women in ministry, for example, one participant reporting on a table discussion said his group thought bishops have to take responsibility for setting salary scales, but at the same time "the culture really has to change in the pews," getting parishioners to realize it and correct it when lay ministers are underpaid.

Mercy Sister Sharon Euart, president of the Canon Law Society of America and a former associate general secretary of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, pointed out that the basic aim of the meeting was one endorsed by Pope John Paul II. In his 1988 apostolic exhortation on the laity he said, "The acknowledgment in theory of the active and responsible presence of women in the church must be realised in practice."

The pope went on to urge a closer reading of church law in that area, she said, and in a 1995 Angelus talk "he says that it is a question of making full use of the ample room for a lay and feminine presence recognized by the church's law."

She said the legal status of women in the church changed in 1983 when the new Code of Canon Law changed the status of the laity in general: A number of church offices that used to be restricted to the ordained were opened to lay people, men and women.

She outlined the changes that resulted but also highlighted gray areas not yet resolved. One, she said, is an ongoing debate among canon lawyers and among theologians today on "holy orders, the nature of orders and its relationship to the exercise of the power of governance."

Lay leaders told women in church still face 'stained-glass ceiling' (Catholic News Service 14/3/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities | Conference Finds Women's Leadership Key to Church's Future/ More Resources for Theological Education Needed (8/3/05)
Commission for Australian Catholic Women | National Catholic Women Leaders Conference, Cairns, 27-29/4/05

Women as Builders of Peace (Zenit 14/3/05)
Catholic group to promote church overhaul (Associated Press/Seattle POst-Intelligencier 15/3/05)
Dominican activist released from jail; she refuses to pay restitution (Catholic News Service 14/3/05)
New Catholic lay group formed to promote better church management (Catholic News Service 15/3/05)
Nun begins prison sentence after protesting US torture (Ekklesia 14/3/05)
Catholic Group to Promote Church Overhaul (The Guardian/Associated Press 15/3/05)
Lay Catholic Group to Offer Counsel to Bishops (Los Angeles Times 15/3/05)

16 Mar 2005