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Bishops and the Women Question

By Diogenes (articles ) | Jun 04, 2003

After the NCCB's women's pastoral fiasco of a decade ago, which resulted in the eminently forgettable "Partners in the Mystery of Redemption," the U.S. bishops have made piecemeal efforts to communicate their sympathies to feminists. Another series of "listening sessions" has just ended. Was any woman you know invited? Exactly.

Ability and willingness of priests, especially the newly ordained, to work with women. This was a major issue throughout the consultation. Participants felt that a significant number of newly ordained priests are not prepared to work with women as colleagues in ministry. Some had experienced a lack of respect. Others said that some newly ordained priests show an excessive concern for power and authority; some cannot accept women as their supervisors. Participants expressed concern about the psycho-sexual development of newly ordained priests, especially as it affects their ability to relate to women.

There's lots more, but you get the drift. The idea that such an agency can accurately canvass "women's concerns" is as fruitful as a survey of "men's concerns" -- that is, not very. But this is a product of the Bishops' Committee on Women, itself a task force of the Secretariate for Family, Laity, Women and Youth. As the patronizing name itself indicates, "women," for episcopal-bureaucratic purposes at least, are one more special interest group, comparable to Ruthenians or the hearing impaired, who require an occasional pat on the head and a popsicle. Bishop Joseph Imesch of Joliet master-minded the first pastoral, which suggests that the bishops give this kind of job to the guy they don't trust to drive the lawn tractor.

The theme of this round of "breakout sessions" is collaboration between women and clergy. I haven't seen all the documentation yet, but no home-schoolers or pro-lifers seem to have qualified as women -- or, if they did, their constitutional bashfulness kept them silent.

Regarding those who voiced "concern about the psycho-sexual development of newly ordained priests, especially as it affects their ability to relate to women" -- do you think they were referring to gay clergy whose mannerisms and emotional immaturity were repellent to moms on the parish school board? Neither do I.

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