The recommendation of Leo Cardinal Suenens of Malines-Brussels that women be admitted to the ecumenical council as auditors is likely to be put into effect soon.
The Belgian Cardinal’s recommendation is understood to be the result of a joint initiative taken by laymen now auditing council sessions. The auditors officially approached the Cardinal moderators of the council and suggested that the time had come to give serious consideration to the admission of women.
Pope Paul VI is reliably known to have referred to the matter when the first list of lay auditors was submitted for his approval.
Cardinal Suenens then sounded out the feelings of the council Fathers in a speech on Oct. 22.
Since council reaction was favorable — even including applause for the Cardinal’s speech, which is unusual and against council regulations — it is now expected that women prominent in international Catholic organizations will soon be named auditors.
Miss Pilar Bellosino of Madrid, president of the World Union of Catholic Women, was expected in Rome late in October to discuss the matter with council authorities, some of whom believe that admission of women Religious as council auditors would be a problem.
But competent quarters pointed out that as in the case of heads of international lay organizations, heads of groups of major superiors of sisterhoods could be chosen without difficulty. National conferences of major superiors of women’s institutes have been established in three dozen countries in the past decade, and there is now an international union of women superiors general, with headquarters in Rome.
Bishops from Africa and Asia are known to have expressed the desire for representation from their territories among the auditors. The suggestion has also been made that groups such as the medical profession and Catholic labor organizations be invited to designate suitable representatives to serve as auditors later.
Were such suggestions put into effect, the number of auditors presumably would be increased from the present 13 to 30 or 40.
Of the present auditors, six are university professors, two political leaders, two businessmen, one diplomat, one worker and one editor. The editor is Raimondo Manzini of L’Osservatore Romano, Vatican City daily, who is president of the International Catholic Press Union. At 62, Manzini is the oldest of the auditors. The youngest is 37. Eight of the group are married, and seven are fathers of families ranging from two to six children.
There are four Italians, three Frenchmen, one Spaniard, one Belgian, one Pole, one Argentinian, one Greek and one American.
The American is James J. Norris, 56, of Rumson, N.J., assistant to the executive director of the Catholic Relief Services-National Catholic Welfare Conference. He was chosen as an auditor in his capacity as president of the International Catholic Migration Commission.
Father Placid Jordan, O.S.B.
NCWC Rome correspondent