Vatican needs more women, says Italian professor

"The problem with the church today is the lack of women in positions of responsibility at the Vatican", an Italian professor said at a Rome conference on feminism and the Church.

"This must change and I believe it will," she added, saying her argument "has nothing to do with the question of women priests."

Lucetta Scaraffia, a professor at Rome's La Sapienza University, made the comments at a 15 December conference on "Feminism and the Catholic Church", Catholic News Service reports.

However, Professor Scaraffia and American Professor Mary Anne Glendon also argue that while in any social institution directives from the top are essential, lasting change flows from the grassroots up.

Harvard Professor Glendon, who is President of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, added that unless the Catholic Church can show the world concrete models of male-female cooperation in positions of responsibility and decision-making, the Church will continue to struggle against charges that it is chauvinistic.

She said the Church "will continue to have difficulty explaining the exclusion of women from the priesthood" unless it demonstrates the seriousness of its belief that women and men are equal, but not identical, by providing examples of lay women and men and priests working together in real partnerships.

She said Church teaching that women and men are equal, but not identical, is a healthy corrective to the feminism of the late 20th century, which promoted a "unisex society."

Both women argued that, despite a widely held prejudice, for centuries the Church has been a key promoter of women's dignity and equality, particularly by offering them education and through women's religious orders, which raised up generations of strong, creative leaders.

While most people, including Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, recognise more must be done to include women in church decision-making, Professor Glendon said, "the right things have been said at the highest levels."

However, the push for women's equality too often has led to policies that force women to be "masculine" in order to get ahead in the world, the Professor said.

The more the Church demonstrates its belief in women's equality, she said, the more seriously people will take its leadership in defending the differences between men and women, she concluded.

Catholic Church must show it believes women are equal, speakers say (Catholic Online, 19/12/06)
Radical feminism and the Church (Radio Vaticana, 19/12/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
The European Union and the UN fight against Christianity (Niedzela, Sunday Catholic Weekly, Interview with Prof. Lucetta Scaraffia, 2006)
Mary Ann Glendon (Harvard Law School)
Mary Ann Glendon (Wikipedia)

Vatican delegate spells out new threats to women's dignity (CathNews, 9/3/05)
Vatican plea at UN for greater role for women (CathNews, 10/3/04)

20 Dec 2006