e-mail us

Inside NCR

In 1992 when the U.S. bishops finally gave up trying to write a pastoral on women, the real tragedy was not the loss of a document -- it was such a mess by that time that the only thing they could have done was dump it. The real tragedy was the very deliberate excising of women’s voices from the bishops’ forum that had occurred well before the document idea was finally pitched.

The symbolic significance was overwhelming and continues to be telling to this day. The first attempt at drafting the document was bold and fresh, alive with the voices of women. It was a document that considered women on their own terms and, often powerfully, in their own words.

Rome would have none of it. Leaders in Rome simply could not stand to hear women address issues of deep concern to women. By the time it was right by standards of the Roman curia, it was worthless to most Catholic women in the United States. Scrubbing their voices from a document, however, did not make women or their concerns disappear.

Their voices and their stories remain, and this issue contains a fascinating range -- from those who struggle to stay in the church despite deeply felt calls to ordination, to those who feel compelled to answer the call elsewhere, to those women who have found their home in the church (see the articles on pages 15 and 22) despite deep reservations about some church rules.

We present these stories and images in the hope, to use Mary Alyce Pearson’s image, that they serve as drops of water wearing away the rock. Some day the Christian community will look back on these stories and images and wonder how they could have been so radically threatening.

Rich Heffern, formerly associate editor of Praying magazine for 14 years and its editor for 6 months, has joined the staff of the National Catholic Reporter. Praying, which ceased publication in 1999, was the NCR Publishing Co.’s bimonthly spirituality magazine.

Heffern is author of two books: Adventures in Simple Living (Crossroad) and Daybreak Within: Living in a Sacred World (Forest of Peace Books). Daybreak Within is a compilation of his Praying columns. He has been a frequent contributor to NCR and writes a monthly column for our sister publication, Celebration. At NCR, he is helping with editing copy, proofreading pages and doing some writing, particularly on environmental issues. He will continue to contribute the occasional column on spirituality.

He is an avid gardener and environmental activist. With his wife, Linda, he frequently flees Kansas City to a small cabin in the Missouri Ozarks where they spend a lot of time quietly sitting on the porch, keeping the hummingbird feeders filled and watching the seasons go by.

-- Tom Roberts

My e-mail address is troberts@natcath.org

National Catholic Reporter, March 9, 2001