It is long overdue for a proper Vatican level study of the status of women in the Church, and the 1988 Apostolic Letter from Pope John Paul II: Mulieris Dignitatem: On The Dignity and Vocation of Women On the Occasion of the Marian Year is a good place to start, as this recent Conference did.
Last year Whispers in the Loggia noted the position of women in Church leadership from a Vatican perspective.
This article in America Magazine from the leader of The National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management about meetings with Curial leadership in Rome addresses this.
My colleagues and I learned a long time ago that to do nothing is to be complicit, so we welcomed the opportunity to go to Rome to promote the role of women. Our passion for this goal comes, in part, from the belief that women deserve to be equally valued, to experience being equally valued and to be entrusted with leadership and decision-making responsibilities in the church. The dignity of the human person, equally accorded, is at the heart of Christianity. Yet our passion for these conversations is also deeply rooted in our conviction that valued female leadership is what the church deserves and needs in order to grow in its potential and to be more effective in its mission. By failing to attend properly to the leadership of women, the church misses out on the talent of half of the people made in the image and likeness of God to further its mission. Women bring unique experiences and alternative approaches to challenges. When companies and governments augment the percentage of women in leadership, prosperity increases. The church would likewise benefit, in terms of spiritual riches….
During our visits practical solutions are proffered in earnest and discussed in detail: Expand the number of women in professional roles in each dicastery. Increase the number of women who serve on advisory councils to each pontifical congregation and council, and expand the pool of candidates who are called to serve in such advisory roles. Restore women to diaconal ministry. Appoint women to the diplomatic corps and to the communications apostolate. Ensure in the selection of bishops that criteria include a candidate’s ability to relate well to women. Review the current Lectionary and reclaim the many Scriptural passages with women as protagonists that have been left out of the readings heard at Mass. Ponder the effect and impact such exclusion has had over time in the catechesis and participation of women and girls in the life of the church….
Our discussions and recommendations include the aspirational and practical. We offer simple, immediate steps that can be taken and more detailed projects requiring hard work and perseverance. A practical proposal we have championed is providing day care at the Vatican so that parents and especially mothers of young children who work there have safe, reliable and convenient child care. Likewise we have recommended that a network of women working in the Vatican be formed to support and promote one another.
We recognize that there are far more ideas worthy of consideration and action, and we encourage a global discussion among the faithful. What are the obstacles that might be removed in order to appoint lay women to the College of Cardinals? Perhaps Pope Francis could invite women to join his committee of advisors on reforming the Curia. Perhaps he could establish a Council for the Promotion of Women in the Church, and recruit women (and men) from every continent to serve.
The church should make use of the expertise of women religious who have served in congregational leadership at the international level. Must leadership in each and every instance require ordination? For symbolic reasons alone these appointments would be stunning, but also the decisions would reflect how much the church stands to benefit from such perspective and expertise. Strategies for evangelization would be significantly strengthened by the input of women. Women can help our beloved church be holier, more effective, more relevant, more welcoming and more faithful in its mission.