The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) received a harsh condemnation from the Vatican after a three-year study into its practices and stances. The critique expresses concerns that women religious have been too tolerant in their views about sexuality, too supportive of universal health care despite its long history within official Catholic social teaching, and too silent in opposition to abortion. As we have watched the U.S. bishops become completely identified with right wing Christian politics in recent years, we now see the Vatican join the current “war on women” that is dominating the presidential race on the Republican side.
But this is not a new war for the Vatican. This is old time religion. The Catholic Church has been a repressive place for women for its entire history. We could easily point to the exclusion of women as priests, a role which presides over the Sacraments which bind the church community to each other and to the divine source of life. Finally, at Vatican II in the 1960s, women were allowed to have more participation in the Catholic liturgy by reading from the Scripture, serving at the altar and providing the Sacrament of the Eucharist to parishioners. Under the current Pope, all reforms of Vatican II are being questioned with the inclusion of women in specific ministerial roles in jeopardy.
But a more telling statistic about the importance of women’s voices in the Catholic Church is found in its official teaching. Despite the hard work of nuns and lay women who are often the heart of local parishes and schools, no single document ever published by the Catholic Church has ever been written by a woman or a group of women. For 2,000 years, each and every teaching of the Catholic Church has been the viewpoint of men. And, more than not, women were not even consultant about the content. This includes church documents written about women and their role in society and the church. And, of course, it includes official teaching on sexuality and motherhood. [More]