April 18, 2005

Women watching papal conclave ...from the sidelines

Philadelphia Daily News


WHEN PHILADELPHIA lawyer Patricia Dugan was a child, her parents took her to the 1964 World's Fair in New York City, where she saw Michelangelo's Pieta in the Vatican Pavilion.

While Dugan was impressed by the famous Renaissance work of art as well as her first-time experience of air conditioning, she was most struck by the uniformed Swiss Guards, and the other rituals and customs that dated back centuries.

"I was just hooked on the 'smells and bells' - all the rituals," recalled Dugan. She still is. ...

But other women, such as Philadelphia attorney Dugan, would like to see more specific changes in traditions and procedures that would strengthen the role of women. Dugan is one of a just a handful of women in history who has practiced canon law. She spent most of the 1980s studying in the Vatican at the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas in Rome the same university from which Pope John Paul II gained his degree. Three years ago, she became the first lay person to chair the canonists' annual convention.

"I'm a canon lawyer, but I can never be a judge, because only priests can become a judge," Dugan said. And in some cases she has handled, such as defending a priest whom she says was falsely accused of sexual abuse, she has had to wait for a special dispensation to act as canon lawyer. She said: "You're a lawyer and you can't be a judge because you're a girl? That's wrong."

Posted by kshaw at April 18, 2005 11:32 AM