Catholic document calls for more women leaders More decision-making roles needed, bishops say

October 14, 1998|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

Roman Catholic bishops and pastors should appoint more women to leadership positions in the church, U.S. bishops

declared yesterday in a 15-page document about the roles women can play in parish and diocesan life.

While the document, "From Words to Deeds: Continuing Reflections on the Role of Women in the Church," breaks no new ground in doctrine, it does attempt to shift attention away from what Catholic women cannot do -- be ordained as priests -- to what they can do in the church.

The statement suggests placing women in decision-making positions in parishes, dioceses and Catholic organizations; hiring spokeswomen; and training women to act as legislative advocates and community activists.

It also suggests giving women more theological and pastoral education, and creating committees to track progress on bringing women into leadership roles.

The document was issued by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Women in Society and the Church as a follow-up to the 1994 pastoral reflection on women, "Strengthening the Bonds of Peace."

Church-watchers say it may be intended as encouragement to lay people, especially women, who have been bombarded by repeated documents out of the Vatican emphasizing that the priesthood is reserved for men.

More broadly, the bishops' statement calls on all parts of the church to "appreciate and incorporate the gifts of women" and to promote greater collaboration between men and women.

Another bishops' committee released a document yesterday, "Ten Frequently Asked Questions About the Reservation of Priestly Ordination to Men."

The document, issued by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Doctrine, upholds and explains church teachings that an all-male priesthood is based in Scripture and not subject to change.

"Just as the Church cannot alter the elements of the Eucharist, so the Church cannot determine the recipients of priestly ordination in a manner that contradicts the actions of Christ," according to the document. "No one has a right by baptism to ordination."

Pub Date: 10/14/98

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