The last Australian Catholic Bishops Conference before the new millennium was held in late November. One of the more complex matters to be addressed at the conference was the report published earlier in 1999 on the participation of women in the Catholic Church in Australia, titled Woman and Man: One in Christ Jesus.
A media release dated 26 November at the conclusion of the conference indicated the bishops were setting up a committee of six bishops and lay men and women to "prepare a response to Recommendations" drawn from the Woman and Man report.
This may merely delay the inevitable. As the US bishops learned a few years ago, attempting to placate aggressive feminist elements within the Church is futile: the feminists will never be satisfied and attempts to accommodate their demands alienate the orthodox silent majority of women and men who still actively practise the faith.
The Media Officer of the Australian Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes), Sr Patty Fawkner sgs, in a letter to the Summer 1999 edition of Australian Catholics (p. 4), praised Woman and Man for allowing "the voices of women and men to be heard, loudly and passionately, on the barriers to women's participation in the Church, and how things might be improved." Sr Fawkner made no mention of one key finding in the report: that a large majority of Mass-attending Catholics surveyed in the Catholic Church Life Survey experienced no such "barriers."
Given that this group, despite its public dissent from papal teaching on women priests, has been active in all stages of the project, it is to be hoped the bishops' committee gives due weight to the majority views, rather than those of the unrepresentative individuals and groups whose complaints occupied vastly disproportionate space in Woman and Man.
Michael Gilchrist: Editor (E-mail - firstname.lastname@example.org)