WASHINGTON - The statement, "Toward Strengthening the Bonds of Peace," a document drafted by the U.S. bishops' committee on Women in Society and in the Church, is generating a mixture of skepticism and hope among some women's groups.
Some Catholic women who had celebrated the defeat of the U.S. Catholic bishops' pastoral on women two years ago are now expressing frustration at the thought of still another document on the role of women in the church.
This new statement talks about dialogue, said religious education Professor Mary Jo Weaver of Indiana University, while "women are still being offered an ecclesiastical version of Victorian gender roles that invites us to work for peace, spirituality and healing but says very little about our strengths."
The statement, subtitled, "A Reflection Occasioned by Pope John Paul II's Letter on Priestly Ordination," said that in the wake of the pope's reaffirmation of the ban on ordaining women, "we need to look at alternative ways in which women can exercise leadership in the church." U.S. bishops will vote on the document during their November meeting.
Weaver said it is difficult to advocate shared decision-making in a hierarchical institution. She questioned the document's statement that "women experience pain because of persistent sexism, which at times is unconscious." What other group in the United States, Weaver asked, could state that sexism in the 1990s is "unconscious"?
However, several leaders of national women's groups expressed hope the statement would be received as a gesture of goodwill to women.
"I think this statement …