Panel Mulls Jesuit Document On Women

By Sandra Howe
Staff Writer

The Society of Jesus' recent document on women - and how it could affect Boston College's spiritual and acadmic character, and serve as a basis for wider social change - was the subject of a panel discussion attended by about 80 administrators, faculty and students on Oct. 23 in Fulton Hall.

Chaplain Kerry Maloney moderated the forum, which consisted of seven panelists who offered their own views of how Boston College could express "Jesuits and the Situation of Women in Church and Civil Society," one of the most widely publicized documents to emerge from last spring's Society of Jesus General Congregation 34. Panelists spoke on increasing opportunities for women to play a stronger role in the Catholic Church, finding ways of talking and thinking about women's issues in the classroom, and addressing discrimination and violence against women.

Other panelists discussed the challenge of representing women's perspectives and experiences in the University's academic forum, such as the undergraduate core curriculum and A&S Honors Program. Members of the audience were given an opportunity to offer questions and comments as well.

Jesuit Institute Director Michael Buckley, SJ, was one of over 220 delegates to the general congregation who dealt with over 700 requests for action, one of which concerned the unjust treatment of women.

The document urges all Jesuits to align themselves in solidarity with women and suggests methods of accomplishing this, such as teaching the equality of women and men in Jesuit ministries, using inclusive language, fostering awareness of violence against women, opposing the exploitation of women, and encouraging women's entry into political and social life.

"The delegates had no illusions," said Fr. Buckley, a panelist, regarding the decision to publish the document. "They saw it as a step we must take, but know there is still much to be done."

Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Carol Hurd Green, a panelist, thought the document was a remarkable starting place for mutuality.

"How do we, as educators who are women, transmit with integrity the values of love and justice to our students within the framework of an institutional Church which is experienced as alienating for large numbers of the world's women?" she asked.

Green said several interdisciplinary offerings on campus, such as Women's Studies, Black Studies, American Studies and the Faith, Peace and Justice Program, reflect the ideals expressed in the Jesuits' document.

The document invites all Jesuits to listen carefully and courageously to the experience of women, Assoc. Prof. Francis Clooney, SJ (Theology), noted in his remarks. "What does it mean to us, as Jesuits, to make this promise?" Before Jesuits listen, he said they must hear not only women, but all people needing support.

"We have to realize all voices mean something if we're going to get anywhere," he said. "And if we're willing to listen, we must say we're willing to change, because people get bored of listening if nothing ever changes."

Prof. Mary Brabeck (SOE) said the University should support efforts of solidarity on campus, including the Boston College Forum on Women, Religion and Spirituality, the Jesuit Institute's series on women Catholic theologians, and the "Making Connections" Conference for women in Catholic higher education to be held at BC in July. The Boston College community could also benefit, she said, from a dialogue on Catholicism and feminism, and a commitment to stop discriminatory harassment and violence on campus and in society.

Mea Quinn '97, one of two students on the panel, said the document left her with more questions than answers. "As a young Catholic woman, I am looking for guidance and this document gives me reassurance, but I want to be part of the decision-making process in the Church and I'm not sure that's possible."

Return to Nov. 2 menu

Return to Chronicle Home Page