“Catholic women the world over will be delighted to hear of the pronouncements on their behalf by four council Fathers,” said Miss Pilar Bellosillo, president of the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations, whose home is in Madrid and who is here as a woman council auditor.
The union is made up of 115 Catholic women’s organizations in 82 countries and counts a total membership of 36 million.
Miss Bellosillo said in an interview:
“To hear one bishop after another address the council in the course of debate on schema 13, which deals with the position of the Church in the modern world, and take a stand in full recognition of the personal dignity of woman and of her role in the Church, as well as in human society at large, was indeed a joyful experience.”
Which statements specifically did she have in mind, Miss Bellosillo was asked.
“The ones by Bishop Gerard Coderre of Saint-Jean de Quebec, on behalf of 40 Canadian bishops, and by Archbishop Joseph Malula of Leopoldville, the Congo — both of whom spoke on Oct. 28 — and of Auxiliary Bishop Augustin Frotz of Cologne, Germany, and Auxiliary Bishop Santo Quadri of Pinerolo, Italy — both of whom spoke on Oct. 29.
“Just take these key sentences of Bishop Coderre: ‘Man and woman while different in their specific makeups, own human nature in its fullness and integrity. Woman has her own and necessary task to perform in the realization of God’s plans on both the natural and the supernatural level. Without a real contribution of woman, human society, and even the kingdom of God, would not achieve their perfection and their fullness. The Church is duty bound to promote woman’s calling in every possible way.’
“Or hear what Bishop Frotz has to say: ‘Modern women expect to be accepted as equal partners of men in intellectual and cultural life, and the Church should set herself to promote the spiritual interests of woman, in order that she may gain the opportunity to apply her unique gifts to the Church’s apostolate, for the benefit of all society.’
“Archbishop Malula, of course, spoke mainly of African women and condemned in no uncertain terms the slavery of women. Other bishops expressed themselves in similar terms.
“We women auditors, both Religious and lay, were particularly impressed and pleased by these utterances because to our mind schema 13 as now presented does not give sufficient consideration to the equal rights of the sexes which are so firmly stated in Pacem in Terris and other papal documents.”
Miss Bellosillo then spoke of the function of women auditors in the council and said:
“We are not limited to a mere presence in silence. We make our own contribution in various committees where it can truly be effective.”
Will this participation of women in the council have direct practical consequences?
“I certainly hope so,” Miss Bellosillo replied, “for a great deal remains to be done, especially in legislation in various countries, to give proper recognition to woman in society. The Church, too, has so far not always promoted women’s interests sufficiently. We of the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations are trying to exercise our influence in order that these situations may be corrected. It is gratifying that our efforts are now gaining such influential support on the part of council Fathers whose competence ought to impress public opinion.
“These bishops and other council Fathers who have given recognition to women help us greatly in creating a climate which will encourage women to assume greater responsibilities than up to now they were able to assume.
“To my mind, this will at the same time contribute toward a more active participation of women in Catholic activities because they will no longer feel restricted to a merely passive role in the Church.
“As Bishop Frotz aptly expressed it: ‘Times change and women change, too!’ Modern women, he said, especially those who have no families of their own, should be given their proper share in the life of the Church. Then they would see in the Church the true guardian of their personal dignity.”
Father Placed Jordan, O.S.B.
N.C.W.C. News Rome Correspondent