Urges Bishops' Committee
WASHINGTON (October 13, 1998)--The church must speed up promotion of women in the church wherever possible, the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Women in Society and in the Church said in a statement approved for release October 13.
"We urge that the steady, though sometimes slow, journey from words to deeds continue and that, wherever possible, it be accelerated," the Committee said.
"We assume that all roles in the church are open to women, unless otherwise stated by canon (church) law," the Committee said also.
The statement, titled From Words to Deeds: Continuing Reflections on the Role of Women in the Church, was approved by the U.S. Bishops' Administrative Committee, September 15, in Washington.
The statement calls on church leaders to
- Appreciate and incorporate the gifts of women in the church.
- Appoint women to church leadership positions.
- Promote collaboration between women and men in the church.
The Committee statement builds on Strengthening the Bonds of Peace, the 1994 pastoral reflection on women, approved by the full body of Bishops.
The Committee statement is addressed to all church leaders -- laity, clergy, and religious -- and encourages them to accept and act upon Church teaching regarding the equality and gifts of women, their rightful place in church leadership, and the importance of collaboration between women and men.
It especially encourages the recognition and use of the gifts of younger women, outreach to women of various cultures and appointment of women to church positions that entail significant responsibility and influence.
For the first time a bishops' document discusses collaboration between men and women in detail.
"For the Church, collaboration is not an option; it is the way that mature Christians express their unity in Christ and work together to accomplish His mission in the world," the Bishops said.
The Committee suggests practical ways to promote collaboration, beginning with an examination of one's own beliefs and behaviors, especially those that hinder the ability to work together. It also notes that collaboration requires communication skills, the ability to work with groups and to accept diversity, and conflict management and resolution skills.
Each of the three sections in the 26-page document includes practical suggestions for parishes, dioceses, and organizations. To promote collaboration, for example, the Committee suggests that workshops and training be offered to parish and diocesan staff members on the possibilities and the difficulties of collaboration.
It also suggests that inclusive language be used where permitted, that the lines of authority in the parish be clarified, and that discussions be held around the changing roles of women and men. It notes that marriage preparation is an opportune time to reinforce the value of collaboration.
In developing From Words to Deeds, the Committee, chaired by Bishop John C. Dunne, auxiliary bishop of Rockville Centre, New York, consulted widely with individuals and groups. All U.S. bishops were invited to review and comment upon a draft of the statement during the summer.
Bishop Dunne noted the statement's significance.
"Words to Deeds is being offered to the Church in the United States, both to foster and encourage the place of women in leadership," Bishop Dunne said. "Without the voice, gifts, and presence of women for the mission of the Church, that mission would be diminished and left incomplete.
"Words to Deeds both challenges and points the way for all church personnel to embrace the gifts of women, in a collaborative manner, for building up the body of Christ and bringing it to full stature."
Bishop John J. Snyder of St. Augustine, Florida, who chaired the Committee when it drafted the 1994 pastoral reflection, praised the follow-up document.
"From Words to Deeds is honest in acknowledging the pain of women as well as the progress which has been made," he said. "It builds on insights from Strengthening the Bonds of Peace and offers pastoral suggestions that are reasonable and achievable."