A letter by Mrs S. Stapelton (March AD2000) states that the report Woman and Man: One in Christ Jesus is not "a true reflection of the majority of Catholic women's viewpoints, but is indeed the manipulated concoction of the groans and grievances of a minority wishing to hold positions of power in the Queensland/Australian Church." To illustrate this point, she describes her experience at the gathering of women held in Brisbane in 1998.
I wish to correct the misunderstanding that this meeting in Brisbane was connected with the research project related to the participation of women in the Catholic Church in Australia, commissioned by the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference.
On 21 August 1996, Cardinal Clancy launched the national study, which involved a variety of research methods, including public hearings. The public hearings, which took place in 23 centres around Australia, were conducted between 13 May and 24 July 1997; the hearings in Brisbane were held on 5, 6 and 7 June 1997. The hearings consisted of oral presentations by individuals and groups; there were no group discussions as described in Mrs Stapelton's letter. It would appear that Mrs Stapelton is referring to an activity undertaken by the Archdiocese of Brisbane's Women's Taskgroup.
At the conclusion of each day of hearings, a synthesis of the hearing was prepared by the panel members, including the Bishop. Written presentations from people who did not have the opportunity to present at hearings were included in a national synthesis. All points recorded in the synthesis of each hearing were incorporated into the findings of the public hearings.
Expert external evaluators, commissioned by the Bishops, have praised the dedication and professionalism of those involved in the preparation of the Report. For example, the conclusion of one of the evaluations sums up the quality of the Report in the following manner: "The Readers and the Bishops' Committee for Justice, Development and Peace can rest assured that the data presented is a valid and sound reflection of the current attitudes of practising Catholics. The researchers are to be congratulated with some degree of awe at the extent of the comprehensibility of their study. It is bound to be unique of its kind."
MARIE MacDONALD (DR)
"Participation of Women in the Catholic Church in Australia"
North Sydney, NSW