A Mission Impossible

With the publication of the second draft of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops' pastoral on women's concerns, One in Christ Jesus, the inherent problematic of the process continues. Simply stated, that problematic is that a committee of men, albeit men of good will, circumscribed by a patriarchal institution, are attempting to respond to the current women's movement, whose goal is to dismantle patriarchy in all its personal and structural manifestations.

Despite the bishops' extraordinary effort to listen to women in more than 100 diocesan hearings throughout the country, as well as receiving 75,000 responses to the first draft of the pastoral, the historic problem remains intact: The men of the Roman Church continue to assume the right and the responsibility to define women and to interpret women's experience.

Identifying this central problematic does not deny that the bishops on the pastoral committee have tried to respond to the issues women named in the hearings and in the responses to the first draft. They have listened, and they have been able to name many of the critical issues and unjust circumstances that shape women's lives. They have clearly identified sexism as a sin and have recognized the church's implication in the perpetuation of that sin. That is a significant admission.

They have named both the overt and the subtle violence against women, which occurs to individuals and to women as a group. They have condemned rape, pornography, incest, and domestic abuse as well as the structures of exclusion, exploitation, and diminishment women are forced to endure.

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