French Archbishop Says Council Studying Role of Women, Reform of Curia

A French archbishop disclosed here that women and their role in the Church and in the world are to be considered in two projects put before the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council.

Archbishop Rene L. Stourm of Sens, in a press conference Oct. 5, said the place of women in the Church is discussed in a project on the lay apostolate and their role in the world comes up in a project on the Church in the world.

No further details on the two projects, or schema, were given by the Archbishop. Council schemata have not been made public.

Archbishop Stourm also said that a proposal to admit women as “auditors” to the council has been made to the council Commission on the Lay Apostolate and is still under study.

A group of Catholic laymen recently was admitted to the council.

Archbishop Stourm told newsmen that he rates the present project, “De Ecclesia” (On the Nature of the Church), as “much superior to the original one” presented during the first session of the council.

“All those who have spoken in general on the project have expressed favorable opinions,” the Archbishop noted.

He remarked that journalists and their reading public know this to be true–“since there is nothing bidden from journalists.”

He observed that news of the council this session has been coming out to the world in a greater atmosphere of confidence and collaboration.

Archbishop Stourm also commented on reform in the Church, with special reference to Pope Paul’s call for reform of the curia, the central administrative body of the Church.

“The Church being entrusted to men will always have the need of reform,” he said.

Of the curia, he expressed certainty it will continue to exist and to assist the world’s bishops. Over-centralization, he added, “is not only the fault, as is often affirmed, of the curia.”

“Experience tells us that a central power always has the tendency to increase centralization; but it should be remembered that in many cases, the curia was required to increase its powers to meet deficiencies of the local hierarchies.” Of the power and authority of local bishops, he said it will continue to be necessary not only to coordinate these with the central level of the Church, but he thinks it will have also to be done more on the national level.

“Up to now, in fact according to Church law, every bishop in his diocese has absolute powers dependent only on the pope.

“For a long time, this situation offered notable advantages, but today it cannot be equally so affirmed because many problems overstep the limits of the diocese and can be resolved on a national level, such as freedom of the schools, redistribution of seminaries, of Catholic action and of financial resources.”

In the meantime, three other council Fathers, interviewed by the Divine Word News Service, expressed satisfaction with the progress of the council. Two of the three are from the United States.

Bishop Vincent S. Waters of Raleigh, N.C., said “from the way that the presentation of the discussion moved along during the first few days, it seems that we are going to get something accomplished in a rather businesslike way.”

Bishop Waters said he was hopeful that the material put before the Fathers will be wrapped up by Dec. 4, the day Pope Paul VI has said the council will recess.

Bishop Raymond J. Hunthausen of Helena, Mont., pointed to what he called “much greater freedom of discussion among Council Fathers both inside and outside the council hall.”

The Montana prelate said he thought the experiences of the first session broadened the horizons of the Fathers so they “see the tremendous needs that exist and the opportunities we have to satisfy those needs.”

The third prelate, Archbishop Anibal Muniz Duque of Nueva Pamplona, Colombia, said he thinks the council is “going along a sure path.”

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