Women's Commission (1) (letter)

Women's Commission (1) (letter)

Sr Breda O'Reilly

I am writing in reply to the article by Michael Gilchrist, "Commission for Australian Catholic Women justifies its existence" (October AD2000).

It was with great sadness and some anger that I read the article. From what I read, Mr Gilchrist had obviously doomed the Commission before it even got off the ground (par 3).

For his information, I have been elected by the Bishop, priests and pastoral associates to represent Catholic women in the Diocese of Broome. It is not an easy assignment. Most women would not want it because they feel they would not be supported by the hierarchical Church.

While Mr Gilchrist's article more or less condemns the role of the Commission, I have experienced great support from the Bishop, priests and pastoral associates in this Diocese.

We have also had fantastic gatherings, the majority of the women at these being Indigenous women who are not, in the article's words, a "vocal, influential elite of feminists, bureaucrats and professionals". In fact, they were totally the opposite - women who had supported the Church all their lives in this difficult area of Australia.

What the US Bishops did in 1983-1992 is irrelevant to what the Australian Bishops' Conference has set out to do for women in the Church in Australia.

I can understand in some ways that Mr Gilchrist would have difficulty with the Recommendations because they are written from a female viewpoint. Thank God, however, there are many male supporters around Australia who are happy that at last this important issue of women in the Church is really being addressed.

Mind you, I don't expect any miracles, but I'm impressed that the Australian Bishops have at least given the issue serious consideration and backed it up with financial resources.

Personally I am amazed at the amount of work done for the Church by these intelligent, professional women. Speaking to the women themselves and studying their website gives a clear indication of that. If Mr Gilchrist had read "Voices of Women" by Denise Desmarchelier, I'm sure he would change his mind about his statement that "most church-going Catholics already knew that there was no significant participation problem needing to be addressed."

I just find it unbelievable that someone could write this, for it goes totally against my experience of being a woman in the Church and supporting it faithfully over the past 40 years!

SR BREDA O'REILLY
Cable Beach, WA

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