Alvare Comments in Washington Post Article

Professor Helen Alvaré is quoted in a Washington Post article that considers signals by Pope Francis that the role of women within the Catholic Church and society requires change.

Alvaré addresses the lack of opportunities for leadership roles for women within the church, saying "It's the same reason women weren't the head of Yahoo!" She points out that within both the church and society "there were old ideas about women's intellectual competence, less education among women, less preparation. I don't think it was anything different in the church that was preventing women from leading."

As head of the commission investigating clerical abuse in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Alvaré comments that many of the involved leaders were men who "didn't actually grasp the horror of the sexual vioation of a child or a young adult," adding that "the lack of appropriate horror is not a mistake a woman would have made."

Alvaré also credits a change in the status of women within the church with the possibility of helping women in areas of social change, saying "corporate culture , law, and policy would have to do a whole lot more taking account of motherhood than it does now." 

What Catholic women want, The Washington Post, August 21, 2013. By Elizabeth Tenety.

"The exclusion of women from the priesthood is one highly-cited practice that is often seen, even within the church, as plainly discriminatory, and a 2010 poll by The New York Times/ CBS showed that 59 percent of American Catholics favor the ordination of women. But the church does not operate by popular opinion and the longstanding teaching on the all-male priesthood is one of the oldest traditions of one of the oldest religions in the world. Pope John Paul II said the question of female ordination was not open for debate and said the church “has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women”; Pope Francis, in his news conference, affirmed that teaching. For some Catholics, anything short of ordination means that women will never achieve equal status or influence as men.

"'The church simply refusing [to ordain women] means that women will never exercise authority,' says Nancy Dallavalle, an associate professor of religious studies at Fairfield University. 'They will never shape the institution. They are walled off from shaping' the church.

"Others see nothing unfair about men and women having different roles, and identify huge potential for female leadership in the church, from the parish level all the way to the Vatican.

"The first step is to encourage what is already permissible,' says Walsh. In other words, deepening a theology of women would encourage the church to find ways to get women in positions of greater authority and influence. Catholic women have already proven their ability to lead major organizations like schools and hospitals. Can that authority extend to the Roman Curia?"

Read the article