Women Scholars Belong at Synod on the Word

By Houlihan, Rita L. | National Catholic Reporter, April 18, 2008 | Go to article overview

Women Scholars Belong at Synod on the Word


Houlihan, Rita L., National Catholic Reporter


At the beginning of his resurrected life, Jesus chose St. Mary Magdalene to witness and announce his resurrection. Yet, too often, women leaders, biblical and otherwise, are invisible in church preaching and proclamation.

Pope Benedict XVI has called a Worldwide Synod of Bishops on "The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church" for October of this year.

According to synod leaders, the meeting will pay special attention to the Word of God in liturgy, in preaching, in catechesis, in theology, spirituality, public and private meditation, enculturation and ecumenism."

Jesus relied on faithful women and men. Will Benedict and our bishops also? Will they invite women biblical scholars as expert consultants to the synod? Or will they overlook the fact that women have been active ministers of the Word from the start of Christian history and still are today?

Only 14 women were invited as nonvoting observers to the 2005 Synod on the Eucharist. No women theologians were invited as expert consultants, though this would have been a simple way for our bishops to include the perspectives of women. By contrast, 242 bishops attended with full voting privileges.

Currently, 40 percent of the 1,600 members of the Catholic Bible Association are women. These 640 women biblical scholars constitute a rich resource for the synod.

I for one hope and pray and am optimistic that Pope Benedict and the bishop delegates to the synod will correct this painful situation by inviting women, biblical scholars as expert consultants in 2008.

Benedict himself honored first-century women leaders in a February 2007 address, saying, "The story of Christianity would have had a very different trajectory were it not for the generosity brought to it by many women. …

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