Commission for Australian Catholic Women: Executive members' feminist views

Commission for Australian Catholic Women: Executive members' feminist views

Richard Egan

Speaking at a Women's Dinner organised by Holy Family Parish, Gowrie, ACT, on 23 February 2001, Mrs Geraldine Hawkes, Chairperson of the Commission for Australian Catholic Women, expressed her view on the ordination of women. In answer to Wendy Altamore of Ordination of Catholic Women (OCW), who asked "Do you have a view on the ordination of women?" Mrs Hawkes replied: "Yes, I can't see why women cannot be ordained. I deeply resent that we're forbidden to discuss the matter" (reported in OCW News, Vol 8, no.1, April 2001, p.14).

The Deputy Chair of the Commission, Sr Sonia Wagner, is also on record as supporting women's ordination. In her book Into the Vineyard, she states: "The refusal to admit women to ordination is just one of the symptoms of the disorder that exists in our Church."

Together, Mrs Hawkes, Sr Sonia Wagner and Mrs Therese Vassarotti (who has been appointed as the full-time Executive Officer of the Commission on a salary of $80,000 per annum) make up the Executive of the Commission.

In their Social Justice Sunday statement establishing the Commission, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference granted the Executive the power to authorise the Executive Officer to undertake any action "when it does not seem appropriate for issues to await the next meeting of the Commission".

One of the two purposes of the Commission for Australian Catholic Women is "to assist in the implementation of the decisions and recommendations arising from the Plenary Meeting of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference [ACBC] in May 2000 concerning the participation of women in the Catholic Church in Australia."

In their statement establishing the Commission, the Bishops committed themselves "to draw up policies of care to respond to the pain of people and groups of people within the Church who are struggling with the implications of Church teaching by provision of guidelines to assist in the pastoral care of those who are finding difficulty in understanding and accepting the Church's teaching on the restriction of ordination to males" (Decision 5 (b)).

It is hard to see how the Commission with its present Executive can possibly assist the Bishops to help those who have a problem accepting the Church's teaching on the reservation of ordination to men when the Chairperson "deeply resents" the Pope's ruling that this matter is definitively decided and the Deputy Chairperson sees his teaching as a "symptom of the disorder that exists in our Church".

In response to a letter from concerned Catholic women pointing out some of these facts to the Bishops' Conference, the Secretary of the ACBC claimed that "the Bishops are confident that members [of the Commission] will act within its terms of reference whatever of personal views."

The personal views of some members of the Commission are, however, also being expressed in the prayer rituals used at meetings of the Commission.

New Age spirituality

At their first meeting held on 2 February 2001 at the Centre for Christian Spirituality in Randwick, Sydney, a New Age-feminist poem titled "Tough Spun Web" was recited as part of the "Opening prayer" prepared by the Chairperson, Geraldine Hawkes. (This same poem had been used by the dissenting women protesting at Adelaide's Chrism Mass. It seems to be a favourite among eco-feminists.)

At a subsequent meeting, the New Age spirituality plummeted to even greater depths in a ritual prepared by Commission member, Teresa Lynch.

After mustard seeds were handed out (apparently new supplies had to be bought in Sydney after those being brought by an interstate member were confiscated by airport customs) and participants invited to ask themselves "what you are yearning for through this Commission", the following "Psalm Proclaiming a Vision" was recited:

Prophet, tell me, what do you see?
Will there be a New Creation?
All: I see a new day dawning,
with clean water,
virgin forests,
and fields and fields of grain;
trees are doing a ring dance
in praise of God, in praise of Gaia*;
we are like children
and all of us
are walking in the rain.

* * *

Prophet, tell me, what do you see?
Describe the New Creation.
All: I see a New Age dawning,
when no one will be hungry,
when all will be sheltered
and safe
and secure
and all our work will be done
and all who praise Sophia**
will be sitting in the sun.

* * *

Prophet, tell me, what do you see?
Are we the New Creation?
All: I see a New Beginning
in all who overcome addiction,
in all who will not go to war,
in all those good and generous ones
who witness to compassion,
who struggle to bring about a time
when no one is below another
and no one is above,
when we are all within Shalom,
bonded together in love.

The members of the Commission and their Executive Officer were formally commissioned at a special ceremony held in the Crypt of St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney, on Friday, 15 June, 2001.

* Gaia: The planet earth considered as a Mother Goddess.

** Sophia: the Greek word for wisdom, Sophia is used by feminists to refer to "the Divine One herself" as Sr Joyce Rupp OSM puts it in "Prayers to Sophia".

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.