Tuesday, October 9, 2018

To Save itself, Catholic Church Must Promote Women Leadership | Faith Matters

Moderator Christine Emba of The Washington Post interviews Joseph Cardinal Tobin, the archbishop of Newark, during "A Moral Economy: Faith and the Free Market in an Age of Inequality'' at the Fordham Center for Religion and Culture on Sept. 5, 2018. The presentation took place at the Jesuit university's McNally Amphitheater on the Lincoln Center campus in Manhattan.

Earlier this year, some 700 members of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious stood on the steps of the Old Courthouse in St. Louis as a public witness against racism.
At the World Meeting of Families in Dublin in August, CBS News correspondent Jonathan Vigliotti interviewed Sister Liz Murphy, secretary general of the Association of Leaders of Missionaries and Religious of Ireland, sitting next to Chicago's Cardinal Blase Cupich. 
Cupich said his archdiocese is committed to transparency, letting people know about accusations of sexual misconduct against priests.
"I think there's much more needed than just naming individuals, with respect, Cardinal," Murphy countered, speaking of the church as a whole. "It is a very male, masculine, institutional, top-down, dictatorial body. Who wouldn't want, as a woman, to see that collapse?"  
I almost fell off my chair at her brutal honesty, offered in the sweetest of Irish accents.
This same sentiment was said more diplomatically by Sister of St. Joseph Catherine Nerney in her new book, "The Compassion Connection." 
"I have been frustrated and saddened greatly by my sense of a gaping disconnect between the official church's life and teaching and the real concerns and needs of people I meet and care about," Nerney writes.    
Many of the church's fault lines have been exposed recently by the latest round of clerical sexual abuse revelations.
First, former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was the Archbishop of Newark, was accused of abusing two youth, seminarians and priests with impunity. 
Then the Pennsylvania attorney general released a damning reportwith information from six Catholic dioceses alleging more than 1,000 incidents of sexual abuse by 300 clergy.

Even Pope Francis has pointed the finger at a clerical culture or what some call "an old boys club." 
Much discussion has focused on the failure of the church to truly embrace the "People of God" envisioned by the Second Vatican Council -- and also the lack of women in real leadership positions in the church.
Women religious -- sisters or nuns -- have been the most faithful to realizing the reforms of Vatican II in their orders and communities. Yet, they have been attacked by U.S. bishops who had instigated a Vatican investigation into their communities and their leadership group known as the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in 2012. 
For several years, bishops were given oversight of this group. But the sisters refused to withdraw or object and worked diligently with them and the Vatican to show how disputes can be resolved. 
In an excellent book recounting their resolution of the struggle, "However Long the Night," Sister Annmarie Sanders wrote: "Entering into a commitment to regular and consistent dialogue about core matters that can divide us can be arduous, demanding work ... that is transformative." 
Joseph Cardinal Tobin, at the time an archbishop in the Vatican office overseeing the investigation, objected and was exiled by then-Pope Benedict to Indianapolis.
Pope Francis ended the investigation; Tobin's stands for the women religious helped bring closure.
There is a need to bring more women into Vatican and church leadership.
Mary Katherine Tillman wrote "Unheard Of" in the summer issue of Notre Dame Magazine, repeating the suggestion made by a Swedish cardinal that the pope needs "a College of Women to parallel the Council of Cardinal Advisers to the pope." 
Since feminist theology came into its own in the 1980s, much has been written about women's leadership in early Christianity. And none has been more revealing than Sister Christine Schenk's "Crispina and Her Sisters." She uses burial tombstones that reveal how women served as priests, deacons and even bishops in early Christianity. 
"Most people have never heard of Bitalia, Veneranda, Crispina, Petronella, Marcia Romania Celsa, Sofia the Deacon, and many other early women, even though their catacomb and tomb art suggest their authority was influential," Schenk writes.
Women's leadership disappeared around the 12th century. 
Alienating women has severe repercussions for the next generations of Christianity and Catholicism in particular. The insights and experience of women are needed to help the church get through this third wave of crises of sexual abuse.    

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