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Adobe founder chides bishops on women

NCR Staff

Try as they might to focus on the church of the future, the bishops in Denver could not entirely escape the issues confronting the church of today.

The intrusion came at the end of a presentation by Charles Geschke, president and cofounder of Adobe Systems Incorporated, the world’s leading maker of desktop publishing software. Geschke spoke to the bishops about the impact of the digital revolution on print media.

Geschke’s remarks took an unexpected turn at the end. Saying he had a message to deliver as a Catholic, Geschke told the bishops, “We as a religion have cut ourselves off from 50 percent of the population. I would never do that in running my business. As a Catholic, I want to say this to the hierarchy -- make women much more essential in what you do. It will be essential as we enter the 21st century.”

It was over in a flash, and the discussion quickly returned to matters of technology. But the moment of silence that followed Geschke’s statement indicated he had been heard.

“I thought it was probably the only time in my life I would have a chance to see this incredibly important and significant array of church hierarchy in one place and have a chance to say anything to them,” Geschke told NCR afterwards. “I tried to do it in a way that wouldn’t offend them, but I thought they should hear from a member of the laity who’s maintained a strong religious belief and presence, as well as a person who thinks in business about getting the best people to do the job. I think it’s time the church thought about that, and they should lead rather than being forced into that position.”

Was he talking about women priests? “Absolutely,” he said. “I think women should have a coequal status in the hierarchy of the church with men.”

Geschke is a lifelong Catholic, with two degrees from Xavier University in Cincinnati. He sits on the board of the University of San Francisco, a Jesuit university.

“No one said anything negative to me,” Geschke said about reactions he received immediately after the speech. “At least two people thanked me for having the courage to say it -- both of them were priests.”

Did he mean bishops? “I didn’t pay attention to their rank,” Geschke said.

Approached for a reaction to Geschke’s comments, Archbishop Charles Chaput, cohost of the Denver conference, said, “I fully endorse what he said” -- referring to Geschke’s call to make women essential in the life of the church, rather than the idea of women priests. “The Holy Father is always talking about the importance of women,” Chaput said.

National Catholic Reporter, April 17, 1998