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Catholic Culture Liturgical Living
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Vatican newspaper: Greater presence of women could have prevented abuse scandals

March 11, 2010

Lucetta Scaraffia argues in a L’Osservatore Romano article that an increased presence of women, both religious and lay, in the “decisional spheres” of the Church could have helped prevent the “painful and shameful” clerical abuse scandal.

The Italian historian and journalist cites the example of St. Daniel Comboni (1831-81), who established missions in Sudan. According to Scaraffia, the saint believed that the presence of nuns is “essential” in the missions because they are a “defense and a guarantee” of the missionary priest’s chastity. Otherwise, Scaraffia writes, the isolated priest would “not improbably” be tempted to unchastity with women or boys.

Pope John Paul II’s 1988 apostolic letter Mulieris Dignitatem and a 2004 letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith called for a “greater feminine presence in the Church,” Scaraffia adds, but these documents have yet to be fully implemented.


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  • Posted by: garedawg - Mar. 12, 2010 12:05 AM ET USA

    Maybe it is the opposite. Could it be that the nuns in the schools steered the more effete boys to the priesthood?

  • Posted by: polish.pinecone4371 - Mar. 11, 2010 10:47 PM ET USA

    LOR does have a point, as Alcuin said. You go into places like the Norbertines or Claverites and you know you're in a holy place with holy women. But 1) this was mostly the 60's and 70's when nuns weren't in high posts; 2) to think a priest or anyone bent on sexual perversity will allow a woman in a veil to stop him is naive at best; and 3) many nuns at the time were off their rockers, too - still are. What will really change things is a new sanctity.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 11, 2010 7:23 PM ET USA

    That's not proving to be true in the case of Ireland where at the moment we are hearing about abuse scandals involving the health services.In these cases the decision makers were very often women-certainly the majority of social workers dealing with the cases were women.I don't disagree that women SHOULD have a role in child protection issues,but I don't think lack of female involvement is at the heart of the matter of abuse by clergy (or any subsequent coverup).

  • Posted by: Alcuin - Mar. 11, 2010 2:47 PM ET USA

    I have had the privilege of working at a monastery run by Norbertine Sisters. I'm hard pressed to think of any problem that could not be greatly helped be these kind of women.

  • Posted by: Lucius49 - Mar. 11, 2010 10:36 AM ET USA

    Really then how do we explain all the priests that took off with nuns after the Council? Nuns presented no barrier! It might be better to look at the link between bad moral teaching and dissent and unchastity than making this a woman-issue. Unfortunately more nonsense from the increasingly puzzling L'Osservatore Romano.