Women in the shadows in Vatican 'old boys club' conclave
By Ella Ide ,AFPVATICAN CITY -- As Roman Catholic cardinals prepare a secret conclave in the Vatican to choose a new pope, the only woman seen taking part in the preparations has been the seamstress sewing the ceremonial tablecloths.
March 11, 2013, 12:10 am TWN
The most important decision in the life of the Church is being taken with one half of the Catholic community either looking on or playing an auxiliary role as the male hierarchy deliberates.
“Not hearing the opinions of half of the world is like a slap in the face,” said Janice Sevre-Duszynska, who was excommunicated by the Vatican after her unofficial ordination as a female priest.
The American said the idea that only men should decide on the next pope who will rule over both men and women was “a mockery.”
Sevre-Duszynska was quickly detained by police for demonstrating at the Vatican in her ceremonial robes, with police saying they wanted to check that she had the “right to wear those vestments.”
Benedict XVI cracked down on liberal, “feminist” nuns, but the hope among campaigners now is that the next pope could open the way to dialogue on the role of women in the Church — and possibly even tackle the hot-button issue of women priests.
Vatican observers say that of the 115 cardinal electors who may become pope, none are likely to overturn centuries of ingrained gender bias in the Church, which insists women cannot be priests because Jesus Christ's apostles were all men.
Neither can they be popes: according to legend, a female pope was elected in the Middle Ages, but was caught out when she gave birth.
Once exposed, “Pope Joan” was apparently bound by her feet to a horse tail by outraged cardinals and dragged to death through the streets of Rome.
Campaigners say modern-day scandals — from clerical sex abuse to accusations of fraud at the Vatican bank and bickering in the government — could be tackled by revolutionizing the mediaeval institution and opening its doors to women.
“We need structural reforms across the board. Women can help bring greater transparency,” said theologian Cristiana Simonelli.
“Their exclusion makes it doubly hard, for example, for the Church to address questions of sexuality and abuse,” she said.
The conclave to elect Benedict's successor will meet from Tuesday and many say a voice for women within the Church should be top of the cardinals' list.