Catholic News Service has an interesting article this morning Women chip Vatican's glass ceiling with increased numbers, influence.
To sum it up:
Women now make up 21% of Vatican employees but few have real decision-making power. That's because the power to "govern" in the Church has historically been understood to require ordination.
In 2004, Salesian Sister Enrica Rosanna was named an undersecretary of the Vatican congregation that deals with religious orders. That's No. 3 in the chain of command, a position that has always been understood to involve governance, and it made her the highest-ranking woman at the Vatican. But it didn't settle the question of whether she, as a non-ordained person, could exercise the power of governance in her role.
CNS points out that
"Strangely, women remain a small minority -- about 10 percent -- in the ranks of consultors to Vatican agencies. These are experts around the world who advise the congregations or councils on matters under study, and who generally come to the Vatican once or twice a year for meetings.
Most congregations have between 30 and 40 consultors. But at present, the congregations dealing with doctrine, liturgy, clergy, saints' causes and Eastern churches have no women consultors at all.”
(Sherry’s note: the Congregation for the Clergy oversees all matters related to parish life and the catechesis and the religious formation of the all baptized, two areas that profoundly affect the lives of nearly all practicing Catholics and where lay consultors would seem to be not only appropriate, but essential.)
Since I can never think in tidy politically correct categories, I have often been struck by the fact that the acrimonious debate over the ordination of women and feminism in general in the west has obscured and distorted several other critical discussions.
Like the fact that the debate over governance is not first and foremost a male-female issue. It is a ordained/non-ordained issue. And male cleric and non-ordained woman are not the only two categories at issue here. What about lay men?
Of the approximately 500 million Catholic men in the world, only 441,669 are ordained bishop, priests, or deacon. That's .0008833 %, folks. Only 9/100th of 1 % of all Catholic men are ordained. Yes, we ordain men but it doesn't therefore follow that the charisms, leadership and creativity of men, as a whole, have been honored and welcomed. (Of course, that also imply that simply changing the gender make-up of this tiny ordained minority would not mean that the charisms, leadership and creativity of women, as a whole, would have been honored and welcomed either.)
It has been my experience that the role of lay men is the least honored and appreciated one in the western Church today. The debate over feminism have made most western Catholics eager not to seem to be sexist. (This is clearly less true in cultures where women are regarded as inferior). In the west, because the image of the male cleric looms so large, there isn't a lot of room for another kind of strongly Catholic male image.
The debate over governance and leadership in the Church is not just, as it is so often portrayed, a battle of the sexes. It is most profoundly, a opportunity to consider the implications of the Church's teaching on the apostolic anointing of all the baptized (female and male), the insistence that the Church's primary identity is that of mission outward, and the integration of the “co-essential” (as Pope John Paul II put it) charismatic and institutional dimensions of the Church.
As we become clearer about the mission and role of the laity, it sheds new light on the ordained priesthood, whose entire purpose for existence is the fruition of the baptismal priesthood, and the larger issue of leadership as well. If Church’s primary mission is truly outward, not inward, that has huge implications for all forms of leadership, ordained or lay.
The CNS story acknowledged the larger issue of the role of the laity with these final paragraphs:
"Some sources noted that while attention is often given to the men-women ratio at the Vatican another slow but significant shift has occurred in the number of lay employees in the Curia.
Laypeople now represent about 38 percent of employees in major curial agencies, numbering close to 300 people. Fifty years ago, half of the 12 Vatican congregations had no laypeople on their staffs; among the handful of laity who did work there at the time, none were women."