Pope Francis’ prayer intention for the month of May 2016 is that
“in every country of the world, women may be honored and respected and that their essential contribution to society may be highly esteemed.”
In a video released May 3, Pope Francis talked about the plight of women around the world, saying,
“We have done little for women who are in very difficult situations: despised, marginalized, and even reduced to slavery. We must condemn sexual violence against women and remove the barriers that prevent their full integration into social, political and economic life.”
But L’Osservatore Romano, the semi-official newspaper of the Vatican, says “Not enough!”
On the same day the Pope’s prayer was released on video, L’Osservatore Romano published its new magazine section, titled Women-Church-World. An editorial by Lucetta Scaraffia, coordinator of the new magazine section, alleges that the Church has ignored the contributions of women to Catholic culture.
According to The Tablet, Scaraffia claimed that
“…a ‘hidden revolution’ had taken place during the last century with women making an increasingly important contribution to the intellectual life of Catholicism.
But this, she explained, had been ‘almost ignored’ by the Church even though it had intensified in the years following the Second Vatican Council when more and more women started to study theology.”
Lucetta Scaraffia is an Italian journalist and associate professor of contemporary history at La Sapienza in Rome. The Tablet identifies Scaraffi as a “Lutheran pastor,” although she was one of 30 female auditors for the recent Synod and a contributor to a book of feminist essays titled Catholic Women Speak: Bringing Our Gifts to the Table.
While Scaraffia does not support the idea of women priests, she has been an outspoken critic of the Church’s male-dominated leadership. She hopes that the Church might eventually appoint female cardinals, who need not be ordained to the priesthood. In 2010, she wrote that the bishops had created an “omerta,” the Italian word for “code of silence,” in their handling of the clerical sexual abuse crisis. If women had been permitted to occupy senior roles in the Church, she wrote in L’Osservatore Romano, they
“…would have been able to rip the veil of masculine secrecy that in the past often covered with silence the denunciation of these misdeeds.”
And in a 2013 interview with the Catholic Herald, Scaraffia said,
“Many things that the Church says on the moral level would be much more credible if they were said by women in important positions.”
The editorial by Dr. Scaraffia is not the first nudge by L’Osservatore Romano toward greater roles for women. On March 1, the newspaper carried a series of articles urging the Catholic Church to permit women to preach from the pulpit at Mass. I reported on that for the National Catholic Register, and you can read my response here.