World

Women in the shadows in Vatican ‘old boys’ conclave

| | Updated on: Mar 09, 2013

As Catholic cardinals prepare a secret conclave in the Vatican to choose a new pope, the only woman seen taking part in the preparations has been the seamstress sewing the ceremonial tablecloths.

The most important decision in the life of the Church is being taken with one half of the Catholic community either looking on or playing an auxiliary role as the male hierarchy deliberates.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said cardinals in closed-door talks ahead of the conclave did discuss the role of women in the Church on International Women’s Day today, but he declined to go into detail.

Lombardi also presented a female pressperson with a bouquet of flowers at a briefing — perhaps amends for an earlier comment that the only women in the conclave were there to “serve the cardinals”.

“Not hearing the opinions of half of the world is like a slap in the face,” said Janice Sevre-Duszynska, who was excommunicated after her unofficial ordination as a female priest.

Speaking to AFP in Rome, the American said the idea that only men should decide on a pope who will rule over both men and women was “a mockery”.

Sevre-Duszynska was detained by police for demonstrating at the Vatican in her ceremonial robes, with police saying they wanted to check that she had the “right to wear those vestments”.

While Benedict XVI cracked down on liberal US nuns, the hope among campaigners now is that the next pope could open the way to dialogue on the role of women in the Church — and possibly even tackle the hot-button issue of women priests.

Vatican observers say that of the 115 cardinal electors who could become pope, none are likely to overturn centuries of ingrained gender bias in the Church, which insists women cannot be priests because Jesus Christ’s apostles were all men.

“The only pretext is that the apostles were men but that corresponds to the socio-cultural context of the era,” said Vatican expert Bruno Bartoloni, pointing out that several other Christian denominations now have female priests.

He said the exclusion was due more to “a machismo that has been in the Church forever”, starting with the biblical image of Eve as “a temptress who allows herself to be swayed by the Devil.”

Neither can women be popes: according to legend, a female pope was elected in the Middle Ages but was caught out when she gave birth.

Published on March 12, 2018

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