May 19, 2005

Pope's test: women's place in ministry


Angela Bonavoglia is the author of "Good Catholic Girls: How Women Are Leading the Fight to Change the Church."

May 19, 2005

There is a new face of Catholic ministry in the United States, and it is female. With the crushing shortage of Catholic priests worldwide, maintaining the commitment of Catholic women to ministry is one of the most important challenges facing the new pope.

More than 80 percent of the nearly 30,000 Catholics in lay paid parish ministry in the United States are female. They pastor priestless parishes. They serve as directors of religious education and family ministers. Seventy percent of the members of theAbuse Tracker Association of Catholic Chaplains are women, too; they work in hospitals, hospices, universities and prisons. ...

To keep Catholic ministry alive, Benedict XVI must respond to women's concerns. Recognizing the profound disagreement among leading theologians about the church's ban on women's ordination to the priesthood, he could respectfully resist the temptation to declare that ban an infallible teaching, which no previous pope did. He could at least ordain women deacons. He could lead an effort to guarantee just wages and working conditions for women in ministry. He could ensure sexual safety for Catholic women and their children by addressing the crisis of priest sexual abuse and exploitation worldwide.

Posted by kshaw at May 19, 2005 04:19 AM