A Larger Role for Women in the Catholic Church? Yes!


Cardinal Leonardo SandriComments agitating for “women in the priesthood” are found throughout the media, voiced largely by outsiders to the Catholic Church, either non-Catholics or those who have willingly distanced themselves from the Church, so when I read this headline – “Exclusive: Women deserve bigger role in Church, says key cardinal” — my visceral reaction was negative.

“They must have a much more important role in the life of the Church … so that they can contribute to Church life in so many areas which are now, in part, open only to men … This will be a challenge for us in the future,” added the 69-year-old cardinal [Leonardo Sandri], who was interviewed in his office just outside St Peter’s Square

Why should women ask for a ministerial role in the Church; I bristled, what’s the matter with the role of life giver and primary educator to future priests? But upon closer reading of the Cardinal’s remarks, I softened my tone a bit. He was not suggesting that the Church open the priesthood or even the diaconate to women.

Women deserve to have more key positions in the Vatican administration “where they can make a very important contribution because of their qualifications,” Sandri said, adding, “But they must also be co-participants in the dialogue and the analysis of the life of the Church and in (other) areas, even in the formation of priests, where they can play a very, very important role.”

Currently, women in the Catholic Church cannot go beyond the position of under-secretary in Vatican departments, the number three post after president and secretary — which are open only to ordained men. At present, only two women are under-secretaries, one a nun and one a lay woman.

It must first be addressed that a majority of the women — in my experience and that of many faithful Catholics in this country — who have risen to positions of authority in the Church tend to be opposed to an all-male priesthood, and the Church’s moral teaching, they are largely feminist nuns or laywomen. They  have created a tension in the Church between factions, which has not been a means of blessing  — to put it charitably. A priest friend reported that, while in the seminary, he was subjected to an art show containing obscene images of Our Lady and, when he refused to applaud such an outrage, he was promptly informed that his ordination was in jeopardy by the feminist behind the shameful display.

This abuse of power by women in the Church is the reason orthodox Catholic women automatically reject the idea of a larger role for women in the Church. Well meaning bishops have allowed such dangerous women to assume leadership of many religious orders and diocesan offices. Catechism and adult faith formation have been deconstructed; religious orders, Catholic healthcare, and Catholic schools have been decimated. We saw a sister in charge of the major conglomerate of Catholic hospitals sign on to Obamacare, which we know contains mandatory funding and provision of contraception and abortion.

We, who joyfully embrace our Church for her exaltation of the role of women and veneration of the Blessed Virgin as a role model, are often too busy maintaining our Domestic Churches to take on larger roles in the Church. But the Internet can change that, as an army of faithful Catholic women bloggers attests.

Women who embrace the doctrines of the Catholic Church are speaking out from the keyboards in our homes and, I believe are making a difference in what is said about the Church in the public square. We are giving testimony to the truth of papal documents our feminist forebears reviled for decades, like Humanae Vitae. We are testifying to the joys of family life lived in accordance with the fullness of truth found in the Catholic Church. We love our Church and want to strengthen her.  We have a lot to offer seminarians and even the Vatican, and, in increasing numbers, the Vatican is calling us to offer our experience and opinions.  I  know several women who attended Vatican conferences on women, the family, and social communication.  Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle, Lisa Hendey, Elizabeth Scalia, Mary Rice Hasson, Teresa Tomeo, Dr Janet E. Smith, Helen Alvare, Pia Solemni, Genevieve Kineke, and Kathryn Lopez to name a few. These women and other dynamic women of faith write articles and books, appear on Catholic and secular media, and form the bulk of the feminine contribution to the New Evangelization.

If the cardinals want to invite women to contribute to the administration of the Church and to offer guidance on what should be part of priestly formation, then I am most enthusiastically in favor of such women having a larger role in the Church. Why wouldn’t I, when I began writing seven years ago in order to be a voice in support of the New Evangelization and the Culture of Life ? I edited a book,  A Special Mother is Born,  a collection of 34 stories from Catholic moms (and some dads) on how their children with special needs are blessings for their families, in hopes of addressing Catholic medical personnel, administrators, teachers, counselors,  and clergy to help guide them in their ministries to such families.

Our Lord spent the great majority of His life living with his closest family member, the Blessed Mother. She was his first teacher, and set into motion His first public miracle; the changing of water into wine at Cana. May she guide His Body, the Church into accepting women of strong, orthodox beliefs as administrators and advisors to help Holy Mother Church develop her quality of maternal tenderness for all her members.


About Author

Married for 19 years to Francisco, raising three daughters, Gabriela, 17, Isabella, 13 and Christina, 9. It was Christina's Down syndrome inspired Leticia to stop teaching English at a local college to full time freelance writing and media advocacy for children with Down syndrome You can find her work all over the web, and in print in National Catholic Register, Canticle, The Alhambran, National Right to Life News, Celebrate Life, and Faith and Family magazine. Leticia has been a guest on several radio shows and podcasts. She was recently interviewed about her advocacy group KIDS Keep Infants with Down Syndrome on EWTN by Teresa Tomeo at the March for Life and she will be appearing as a guest on their show, "Faith and Culture" shortly. She has contributed stories to "Stories for the Homeschool Heart", "Letters to Priests" and, is about to publish a collection of stories from Catholic Special Need Parents entitled, "A Special Mother is Born" with WestBow Press this spring. She is a popular speaker on family issues and the spiritual life.

  • RoodAwakening

    RE: “Catechism and adult faith formation have been deconstructed….”
    Please, Leticia, can you elaborate on this assertion, a bit? What, precisely, do you mean by “deconstructed”? (I am well aware of the 40+ years of poor catechesis, in general. I just would like a little more detail on your perception of it.) Thanks!

    • I am referring to the Historical Critical method of interpreting Scripture which was used when I was in Catholic high school. Sister said the people in Biblical times were ignorant of science, so we modern readers can explain away the miracles of the Bible as man-made or naturally ocurirng events, thus the parting of the Red Sea was the tide going out, Christ’s feeding of the 5,000 wasn’t a precursor of the Holy Eucharist, but followers of Christ sharing their lunches. Such scholars also assert that Christ had no idea He was God, even during His Passion, thus denying the Incarnation. I know so many Catholics who left the Church after such teaching. “And if Christ be not risen again, your faith is vain, for you are yet in your sins”. I Cor. 15-17

  • Patti

    Great article, Leticia. I once was feminist-minded but now see the light–and wisdom and love within the Catholic Church. The world over rates and misunderstands leadership which is really servant-ship.

  • Tomasso Tesla

    I tremble when I hear Cardinal Sandri talk this way. What we need in the Church today, Your Excellency, is LESS homosexual involvement and more manly behavior by manly priests who respect and honor their vows before God. Live women alone. You are no savior of women’s rights. Do your voting and please, fade away. Go and spend a year or two with Hans Kung.

  • “Women deserve to have more key positions in the Vatican administration
    “where they can make a very important contribution because of their
    qualifications,” Sandri said, adding, “But they must also be
    co-participants in the dialogue and the analysis of the life of the
    Church and in (other) areas, even in the formation of priests, where
    they can play a very, very important role.” When I lived in Rome and would see the l’Osservatore Romano open to the names of those involved in Synods or important conferences at the Vatican, I used to wonder why no women had been invited. Not the radical feminist type but intelligent, faithful women who have much wisdom as well as common sense to offer. God created them ‘male and female’ – in complementarity. It is a rich and beautiful experience to see men and women work together for the good of the Church and her people. Yes, there are wonderful Catholic female writers and workers in the vineyard but we do need more women at Synods and Vatican conferences. I know a Benedictine Abbess, a physician, who is rich in wisdom and knowledge; also women among the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist and the Mercy Sisters of Alma who are brilliant and faithful followers of the Church who would bring so much to Vatican Synods…they already hold key positions in the service of the Vatican. I believe this inclusion of women has been happening and will continue to happen…and all will benefit from this, the Church and the people of God.


    Lectors seems always to be female, extraordinary ministers seem to be always female, altar servers who are female abound, female bookkeepers of parishes abound, coordinators of religious education in parishes seem to be mostly female, the people who participate at mass are majority female. Have I missed anyone?

    • rightactions

      Excellent points all, William Bauer.

      The headline that’s missing is “A Larger Role for Men in the Catholic Church? Yes!”

  • Caroline

    Good!! Yes, catholic Mother’s kids do eventually grow up, leaving time & space to serve in key important roles it the LIFE of the Church.

  • Terri K

    I think worthy women should have an active role in the Church, even at high levels. The problem is two-fold: It’s complicated and near impossible to part the worthy women from the militant feminists. Also, when women take leadership roles in the Church (reference the above comment listing off current ministries in which women participate), it seems men are all too willing to sit on their haunches and let the women quickly dominate. A wise priest told me that women pay more attention to detail and therefore do a better job in a lot of roles (at least in appearance). They take over. He doesn’t allow female altar servers for that reason. When women serve, the Church becomes overly-feminized and it’s a disaster. How many parishes that have girl altar servers have few to none boys left serving on the altar? I’ve seen it happen at more than one parish myself. Eucharistic ministers are mostly women, etc.
    I think the devout contributions of holy women is a good thing, in theory. Welcoming them in practice is another matter.

    • rightactions

      Could you please ask your “wise priest” to visit my parish and shape up the slovenly (at least in appearance) altar server girls here?

  • Mara319

    Coming soon to a synod near you: Cardinal Francesca Immacolata Chaoqui! Duh!