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Vatican Needs Perspective of Women Leaders

For Immediate Release July 31, 2004

Contact: Sr. Christine Schenk csj
FutureChurch Executive Director
216 513-3647 (Cell)

Fr. Louis J. Trivison
440-232-5700 ext 512

Vatican Needs Perspectives of Catholic Women Leaders
Request for Dialogue Seen as Helpful

Responding to the July 31 Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the World FutureChurch leaders Sr. Christine Schenk and Fr. Louis J. Trivison see both pluses and minuses.

“A significant plus of this new letter is that it seems more humble than previous documents,” said Schenk. “It says these reflections are a starting point for further examination in the Church and an impetus for dialogue. I have not seen this kind of openness in earlier statements, so this is both hopeful and helpful.”

Other positive aspects of the Vatican letter include linking the subjugation of women with original sin and acknowledging that women have a right to equality in the workplace as well as respect for their work in the home. “In the past,” said FutureChurch cofounder, Fr. Louis J.Trivison, “Church officials objected to viewing sexism as sinful, so I guess this is progress.”

However both Schenk and Trivison identified several major problems with the letter. Foremost according to Schenk is that “it is another in a long line of statements in which women seem to be viewed as objects. Women are discussed and reflected upon by men in the Church but not invited to give their own perspectives on their roles.” “When will we include women reflecting on women's roles and, what may be even more helpful, women reflecting on men's roles in the Church?” asked Trivison. “ For any dialogue to be credible, women’s voices must also be heard,” he concluded.

Schenk pointed to other “rather obvious biases” in the letter: “The letter has no notion of the ‘feminine’ as including active leadership which takes initiative. Instead it says that women more than men are ‘to listen, welcome, be humble, faithful and waiting.’" "Where is the image of the feminine that also sees us as active initiators and leaders? " she asked. "I do not find this emphasis anywhere identified even though the Church has been gifted throughout its history with strong women leaders who took initiative...women such as Mary of Nazareth, Mary of Magdala, Prisca, Mary Ward, Mother Teresa and Dorothy Day.”

Another bias said Schenk is that “Unless I have a very bad English translation, the presumption that women and feminist men ‘emphasize conditions of subordination in order to give rise to antagonism.’ seems remarkably short sighted. Women and feminist men emphasize conditions of subordination because of the terrible suffering women and children endure as a result of domestic violence, poverty, and unequal pay and work opportunities for women. These lead to a world in which women and children are without exception, the poorest of the poor. This is not about making men in the Vatican or anywhere else uncomfortable. It is about calling on everyone to look at the systematic exclusion of women which hurts all of our children, both male and female.”

Both Schenk and Trivison are optimistic that the letter could open the way to improved dialogue about important issues. “No one I know believes that men and women are biologically the same entities, or that biology does not impact who we are, because it does,” said Schenk. “ But I’m not sure it does so in the way this document seems to point...that is that women more than men preserve and protect life and the family. Today, men have an equal opportunity to preserve, protect and have a family life too, thank God!”

FutureChurch is a coalition of parish based Catholics who seek the full participation of all Catholics in the life of the Church. FutureChurch strives to educate fellow Catholics about the seriousness of the priest shortage, the centrality of the Eucharist (the Mass), and the systemic inequality of women in the Catholic Church. It seeks to participate in formulating and expressing the Sensus Fidelium (the Spirit inspired beliefs of the faithful) through open, prayerful and enlightened dialogue with other Catholics locally and globally. It has 5000 dues paying members and an additional 10,000 activists who use their education/organizing resources.

Sr. Christine Schenk csj is the coordinator of A Call for National Dialogue on Women in Church Leadership, which educates about the inclusive practice of the historic Jesus and advocates on behalf of lay ministers in the U.S. Catholic Church, over 82% of whom are women. The project was developed and administered by FutureChurch in partnership with Call to Action and its 41 regional networks.

URL for Vatican Statement:


About FutureChurch Headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, FutureChurch seeks changes that will provide all Roman Catholics the opportunity to participate fully in Church life and leadership. It is a national coalition of 3,500 parish centered Catholics striving to educate fellow Catholics about the seriousness of the priest shortage, the centrality of the Eucharist (the Mass), and the systemic inequality of women in the Catholic Church. FutureChurch is a nonprofit organization that makes presentations throughout the country, distributes education, advocacy and prayer resources and recruits activists who work on behalf of its mission.