Row over Women Speakers for ‘Catholic Voices’

A row has erupted over speakers chosen by ‘Catholic Voices’ for their next training session about Women in the Church. ‘Catholic Voices’ is the lay media mouthpiece of the English and Welsh Catholic Bishops.

The topic has extra relevance right now because the Pope has just parked his tanks on the lawn of USA Catholic women religious leaders who are members of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). This is the USA association of the leaders of congregations of Catholic women religious, Nuns to you and me. It has more than 1500 members, and represents more than 80 percent of the 57,000 women religious in the United States. Founded in 1956, the conference assists its members to collaboratively carry out their service of leadership to further the mission of the Gospel in today’s world.

Advert on London bus calling on Pope to Ordain Women

The Pope detects dissent in LCWR from the patiarchal male views of the Vatican and US hierarchy and all dissent must be snuffed out. He made this very clear at the Mass on Holy Thursday at St Peter’s when he ordered Austrian Catholic Priests to get back into line. Several Irish Priests have also been silenced very recently.

Some commentators have noticed that the timing of the heavy-handed intervention against American Nuns is highly convenient for diverting attention from the major criminal trial in Philadelphia into clerical child sex abuse, bishop cover-ups and their links to Rome.

no dissent, no lesbians, no women priests, no abortion, no contraception 

‘Catholic Voices’, which seeks to promote the official Church view in the media, has recently spoken in the media against legalising gay marriage equality and in favour of teaching school children to campaign against this.

For its next training session it invited Joanna Bogle, a Catholic writer whose recent blog posting dismissed the idea of there ever being any women priests in the early Church, and Sarah de Nordwall, a poet and pro-life campaigner who recently spoke about anti-abortion campaigning on Women’s Hour on BBC Radio 4.

What? No liberal woman Catholic speaker?

But Professor Tina Beattie, Director of the Digby Stuart Research Centre for Catholic Studies at Roehampton University, said these two speakers do not represent a “broad range” of Catholic opinion and called for the inclusion of liberal Catholic views.

Professor Tina BeattieHer background and experience makes her an ideal speaker.

Rather predictably ‘Catholic Voices’ co-ordinator Austen Ivereigh responded by smearing Professor Tina Beattie saying she was making “false accusations out of understandable ignorance”. Austen hasn’t explained how in his view the two chosen speakers do in fact represent a ‘broad range’ of Catholic female opinion, including liberal views.

‘Catholic Voices’ is led by the press officer of Opus Dei and Austen Ivereigh who shares similar, highly orthodox, Vatican-compliant views. It was set up before the Pope’s recent visit to present a polished lay voice to the media selected to represent highly orthodox Catholicism.

Expecting ‘Catholic Voices’ to invite a woman to provide a liberal perspective on women’s role in the Church is a bit like expecting the USA extremist fringe Tea Party movement to invite Karl Marx to speak.

Nor are they at all likely to ever invite a lesbian to offer a lesbian Catholic perspective.

But kudos to Professor Tina Beattie for trying.


More Information

The Tablet

A highly critical account of Bettany Hughes BBC4 documentary called Divine Priestesses

We Are All Nuns – an account and discussion of the background to Vatican’s examination of LCWR

Three commentaries on the Vatican’s LCWR investigation

The Catholic Voices team – a posh crowd

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