Is it possible that Benedict has been convinced that a little job parity will help the Church's image with women?
Pope Benedict is working on a plan to put more women in top jobs at the Vatican, his spokesman has disclosed.
Briefing journalists after visiting the Pope at his holiday retreat in the Alps, the Vatican's secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said the pontiff would give women "more space and more importance". At a debate late on Wednesday, the cardinal, who runs the Vatican bureaucracy, said changes would be introduced in an expected reshuffle of senior posts.
"We're drawing up the new appointments in the Vatican - everyone knows that - and in the context of the responsibilities of the women, there'll be posts that they take up", he said.
The top priority of Benedict's papacy is to tackle what Catholic leaders see as rampant secularisation in Europe. A key reason for this, in the view of many Vatican officials, is the disaffection of women who once formed the backbone of Catholic congregations.
Personally speaking, this does nothing for me. Besides the fact that I heppen to believe that Christ died for my sins and established the Church on the rock of Peter, I love the Church because of her teaching on women. I am in the image and likeness of God and find my dignity in the beautiful truth of authentic femininity.
Will women who are disaffected from the Church say, "Aha, the Pope takes me seriously" because of such a manoeuvre? Not a chance. Disaffected women (and men) usually disagree with the Church's view of human sexuality, the nature of the family, and/or the Church's uncompromising respect for all human life. Usually, people leave due to a personal choice or proclivity, and often it's related to a particular wound. The average Catholic -- disaffected or not -- hasn't a clue who's in the hierarchy and who's pushing papers in the Vatican.
Now, that said, it's entirely possible that if women push certain papers, they would push them along a trajectory that will end up engaging women to reconsider their dismissiveness of the Church, but even that is doubtful to me. When the Holy Spirit guides an apostle, good things happen, and there is no gender-game that makes things succeed. (In that case, all sorts of quotas would have to be used to attract souls to Christ.)
Sadly, even the notion of this seems to pander to the male-model that "power brokers" make things happen, and unless women have their hands on some of those "levers of power," women won't be taken seriously in the pews. The Church is not only a sign of contradiction, but should be a manifestation of nuptial love. Redecorating with pink chair setasides is dangerous because of the very premise, and utterly unnecessary, since the Church is the one institution on earth that has always taken women seriously.
And finally, we also know that tokenism is toxic to those trying to accomplish things, surrounded by folks who are suspicious of the "why's and wherefore's" of their very presence.