Sunday, 1 March 2009

Invisible women?

The Sunday Times headlines a short piece in today's issue "Cherie in warning to churches over invisible women". This is a trail for a programme on Channel 4 tonight, in which Cherie Blair presents the last episode of their series Christianity: A history. According to the Channel 4 website:
Leading British lawyer and committed Catholic Cherie Blair investigates Christianity over the last 100 years and explores its future prospects.
Cherie Blair is quoted by the Sunday Times as follows:
..when it comes to the public face of Christianity, now women are virtually invisible.

Like, for example, Mary Ann Glendon. Until President Obama was elected, the US Ambassador to the Holy See. And she is a professor of Law at Harvard. And she is is still, I think, president of the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences. Like, she is a pretty visible Catholic woman. And she has a high profile position in a Pontifical Academy.

Like, for example, Chiara Lubich. Founder, and the spiritual source, of the Focolare Movement. Founder and leader of a movement spread throughout the Church, and which leads in many ways the dialogue between the Church and different areas of contemporary life - economics, politics, the media - under a heading "Culture of Unity". Oh, and the constitutions of the Focolare Movement mean that the President can only be a woman .... Like, Chiara was a pretty visible Catholic woman, as is her successor Maria Emmaus Voce.

But there is a difference between women like this and Cherie Blair. They are women who are visibly faithful to the Church. Cherie, for all her high profile, is not known for the Catholic nature of that profile. Is she really, as The Sunday Times suggests, "one of the most influential lay figures in the Catholic Church"?


Anonymous said...

Or the dean of Social Sciences at the Angelicum, Sr. Helen Alford, OP. Mrs. Blair must know her, since Sr. invited her to speak recently.

Also, I think M. Teresa was pretty visible.

It's true that I can't name 15 women off the top of my head, but I wouldn't be able to name 15 cardinals either :)

Anonymous said...

I am surprised cherie Blair said that-if it wasn't taken out of context- as there are women vicars in some denominations of the Christian churches,so they aren't invisible and there may also be women Bishops shortly.

Fr John Abberton said...

It is obvious what this is all about - isn't it? She wants women priests in the Catholic Church AND she wants women to have "more" of a say in Church teaching on sexual and medical morals (that is, more woemn of her ilk). Mrs. Blair is not a closet liberal - she is up in front! We know what she means, in spite of her cleverness in the use of language and in striking poses. I'm sure she is quite sincere in her liberalism, and for that reason is all the more dangerous.

Actually I try to avoid most religious programmes since they always disappoint or anger me. Anne Widdecombe's presentation of the Reformation failed in the end because of her lack of knowledge. She needed to read Prof. Duffy or Prof. Scarisbrick. This is what turns me off these programmes - poor research and, consequently, poor conclusions.

Paul said...

It might be more accurate to call Mr Blair something like "one of the most visibly Catholic laypeople in the secular media in Britain".

Still, I've just spotted that Janne Haaland Matlary (to some extent) agrees with her, and considering the source that makes me readier to accept the position that more could be done to showcase women's contributions. Assuming Mrs Blair and Professor Matlary mean the same thing by that.

Anonymous said...

Maybe this already exists, but I would be interested to read a clear guideline about which positions in the Church need necessarily to be filled by priests.

The bishops are the successors of the Apostles and therefore they should be the ones doing the shepherding, but there might be room for more non-ordained in "visible" advisory or administrative roles (vowed religious would be a great choice, for practical reasons).

The tasks that don't need a priest or bishop should be done by the best man for the job, and that might be a woman. No feminism needed to arrive at that conclusion! And if there are more "visible" women, they could be asked to charitably explain why they don't think they should be ordained...

...although, not wanting to be sour, the other side might just conclude they have been brainwashed. Because that's what they tend to do if Heaven forbid a woman doesn't want to join the sisterly cause.

Anonymous said...

At least the television companies still think it is worth the expense of making a series of programmes on Christianity.Probably to Joe public , there did seem to have been a good deal of research and they may have been hearing it for the first time.
Who knows what interest it may conjure up in people who may go on to explore further.
Although Cherie Blair is Catholic she was meant to be doing a programme on Christianity in general so may have felt she had to address what many people would think eg invisible women in the Church.
mention what many women

Joe said...

Thank you for the comments received. Paul: I have the text of Cherie Blair's address to the conference at the Angelicum. I have yet to study it fully, though!