It would seem that the Church is turning a corner, but I'm not at all sure where the new road leads.
THE Catholic Church will give greater leadership and ministry roles to women on the proviso they take a vow of celibacy.
Bishop David Walker, from the Diocese of Broken Bay, has created the scheme, which stops short of ordaining women.
When it is launched next year, it will create a new vocation in which women will take a vow of celibacy and be consecrated ministers to help in the pastoral care mission within the diocese.
While the scheme will also be open to men, the emphasis will be on formally recognising women in greater ministry roles within the diocese.
Bishop Walker emphasised that the move was not a precursor to the ordination of women as deacons or priests. "This is a legitimate way of women entering in a full-time way into the Church," Bishop Walker said.
This has got to be a strictly local initiative, just for this Australian diocese. I cannot imagine what the thinking behind it is, because it only leads to confusion. It is a surrender to the notion that "bureacracy = Church" or some such. It also says, by default, that until now women haven't been taken seriously or been full-fledged members of the Church -- also nonsense. Not only have women always been taken seriously, they have been the paradigm for the very institution that is called to mother us.
Even the title of the article, "New Role ... With a Catch" implies that the total gift of self is a negative thing, or a trick. Of course, we cannot judge an initiative strictly by the nature of its supporters, but I also find this worrysome:
Bernice Moore, NSW convenor of Women and the Australian Catholic Church, an organisation that agitates for greater inclusiveness in the Church, said she welcomed the scheme.
"I see this whole proposal as positive action to include women in the life and leadership of the Catholic community," she said. "The path is made by walking and this is definitely a step on the path of being a more inclusive church and to using the gifts of all of us."
Maree Kennedy, a member of WATAC, said she saw this as a step in the right direction. "But I think it's a very slow step in something that needs to be moving a bit faster," the mother-of-two said.
I've always thought that the "gifts" some folks find rejected by the Church were not welcome for a reason -- perhaps because they conflicted with the mission of the Church, or contradicted Catholic theology. Authentic femininity has always been welcome in the Church I joined, and it doesn't need a title or a stipend to give it legitimacy.
Poor Bishop Walker may be priming himself for an enormous headache -- this is one experiment I think we could have all done without.